Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Poconip: A photo essay in the ice fog

If you haven’t experienced poconip, or ice fog, at Mono Lake, I recommend it. It usually happens when it’s sunny in most other parts of the Eastern Sierra, and the ground is frozen or snow-covered.

Rime ice in the Lee Vining Creek riparian area.

The fog can be quite thick, and it is very chilly inside the fog layer—keeping temperatures below freezing all day. The poconip creates rime ice on just about any surface, giving a very unusual look to the Mono Basin. We’re in the thick of it so I thought it would be fun to take you on a short photographic tour.

Rime ice, Jeffrey pine needles. 
Sometimes the rime can be very heavy, as seen here on this pinyon pine.
Jeffrey  pine in rime.
A raven through the fog.
Lee Vining Creek.
Looking east on Highway 120 below Tioga Pass.
Jeffrey pine with fog lifting. 
Icicle with rime ice.
Iced cobweb. Photos by Arya Degenhardt.


  1. Very beautiful! Never have seen anything like this.

  2. Nice series of shots. It would be an interesting counterpoint to show a same time view from the Conway Summit overlook. Another aspect of the fog is the limit it places on night time temps. Over the hump in Bridgeport it can drop to 30+ below zero on a night when Lee Vining bottoms out at 15. The only difference is the non freezing lake’s moisture.

  3. Wow! Arya, thank you for the photo essay. Wish I was out there to see the sagebrush covered in rime ice. Thanks again for heading out into the cold icy world with your camera and capturing the beauty of it all, letting frustrated city slickers such as myself live vicariously. The icy cobweb is just incredible!

  4. Arya, Communications Director
    Arya, Communications Director

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone! Today’s update: the sun has broken through! When the fog returns I’ll be sure to get out to Conway Summit and into the sagebrush ocean to get some more shots for you.

  5. The cobweb is amazing!

  6. Love that icicle detail! I’ve always been curious about why the MLC writing, all the way back, spells the Paiute word “poconip,” while the National Weather Service and everyone else, far as I know, spells it with a g, “pogonip.” Of course it is an English attempt at the sound of a Paiute word.

  7. Great photo essay, Arya- thanks! I spent part of 2 days up there last week taking photos-I love it! Glad you got some sun though.

  8. Lovely, Arya! Thank you.

  9. Arya Degenhardt
    Arya Degenhardt

    Dave — I’ve wondered about that … and I’ve always liked that it makes it feel like Mono’s own thing.
    Stephen — I can’t wait to see your images!
    Heidi — thank you!
    Jessina — thank you too!

  10. Gotta love the poconip!! Beautiful!

  11. We were up this past weekend. In all the years we have been visiting this is the first time we have experienced poc(g)onip. It was spectacular! And cold (high 15, low about 8 for 4 days straight). And…kind of dreary. Photo opportunities abounded.
    And poconip somehow sounds much cooler.

  12. Arya, these are B-E-A-Utiful! Looks cold though. Hope to come visit soon!

  13. Terri Middlemiss
    Terri Middlemiss

    Thank You, Arya, so very much for the incredible photos.
    I always want to visit in the winter and this is a warm way to do it.
    I would love to buy a copy of the Lee Vining Creek photo and the Jeffrey pine with fog lifting. Will you be selling any of these?
    The spider web is really a treat. Thank you for the gorgeous photo tour.

  14. Wow Arya, What a nice set of photos. The one of Lee Vining Creek has a special presence about it.

  15. Arya Degenhardt
    Arya Degenhardt

    Thanks for all of the nice notes everyone … this is fun!
    Larry — I’d love to see your shots from South Tufa sometime!
    Erik — yes! Visit! We can take our cameras out.
    Terri — thank you! I’d be happy to send you the photo files.
    Dick — thank you! That means a lot coming from you. The one at Lee Vining Creek was taken when the sun was just starting to break through and everything was extra sparkly.
    And a report from today: no poconip, it’s warm (in the 40s) and everything is dripping … high fog layer and beautiful clouds.

  16. Mary-Lee Gilliland
    Mary-Lee Gilliland

    Incredible photos! I love the ice on icicle -and am amazed that the cobweb isn’t weighted down. In Santa Cruz there is an old defunct polo field/resort called “Pogonip” . Do you think the two words, obviously native Indian, are connected? I’ve never seen rime ice there though.

  17. Darn, I was in Hawaii and missed it.

  18. […] the little town of Lee Vining (click this link for an excellent photo-essay of ice-fog  from the Mono Lake Committee). Historically this name is from the Shoshone Indian Tribe. According to International Word […]

  19. The rime ice happens in the Sacramento valley also, when I was a student at Davis (long ago) we had rime on the trees and bicycles. Wearing dresses was not good , but the dress code required it:)

  20. Arya, all of the comments above pretty much echo my reaction to your gorgeous photos. Thank you very much! Hope you stay well and warm.