Monument Valley is part of the Colorado Plateau, formed in the distant geologic past by uplifting of the sedimentary rock. The mountain building, or orogenic, events that formed the mountains that we see today were caused by the subduction of oceanic plates beneath the less dense continental plate. The collision of these plates resulted in the crumpling and uplifting of the earth's surface, forming our mountains and plateaus. Over time, the Colorado Plateau and has undergone many changes, with the forces of earth altering the complexion of this vast landscape.
The many buttes and other rock formations seen in Monument Valley are remnants left from eons of erosion of the relatively soft sedimentary rock surrounding them. The Totem Pole is one such formation. The Totem Pole is the eroded remains of a butte, becoming a much more slender rock spire as a result of wind and water that have gradually peeled away its shell as the rock cycle marches on. This formation is off the beaten path, and only accessible on guided tours. But it's a stop not to be missed.
In 1975, the opening sequence of the lesser-known, and perhaps under appreciated, film The Eiger Sanction was shot at the Totem Pole. The movie shows a young Clint Eastwood climbing this formation, meeting George Kennedy at the summit. The Totem Pole is sacred to the Navajo people, but an agreement was made to allow filming in exchange for removing pitons that had accumulated by climbers over the years. Eastwood, who reportedly performed his own stunts and trained for months, was the last person allowed to climb this spire (at least legally).
I really like the color version of this image, but thought why not try it in black and white. Now I'm not so sure which I like best...
More to come….