It is already autumn in the land of granite and glaciers.
The sky is cobalt and the cold landscape seems lifeless, more than two miles above sea level. But sparse life does exist -- elegantly adapted to this alpine wilderness.
And it already is hunkering down for a long winter.
Killing frosts become frequent in September above 12,000 feet in the Sierra. The wind blows more consistently. Blizzards are only weeks away.
The Sierra crest in September is as far as you get from California's profile of surf, sun and sand. It is a place most tourists will never see. In fact, most Californians will never see this up close.
When the alpine winter arrives -- sometimes as early as October -- no deep snow drifts accumulate on the very peak of Mount Mendel, which rises to 13,710 feet.
Why? The wind averages 50 to 75 miles per hour in winter storms, scouring snow from such tall peaks.
"It's one of the harshest environments in California," says William Tweed, author, naturalist and retired staff member at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Read the full story at fresnobee.com.