Weminuche Loop Trek

Flint Lake, Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

Last week I went on a five day backpacking loop hike in a remote area of the Weminuche Wilderness. Some highlights of the trip: hiking up an unknown knife-ridge in the pre-dawn darkness, enduring a lightning storm from a dubious treeline campsite near Rock Lake, being frightened by a possible (probably not) bigfoot footprint in the mud, seeing a group of horse riders dressed in full retro Daniel-Boone-style gear with muskets, and generally getting used to the monkishness of solo backpacking again.

>> SEE MY PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP HERE <<

Quilcayhuanca/Cojup Loop

After our big Cordillera Huayhuash trek, followed by a rest day in Huaraz, four of us headed out into the Cordillera Blanca near Huaraz for a three day hike up the Quilcayhuanca valley, over a high pass, and down the Cojup valley. This time we would not have burros to carry our gear for us! Also unlike the Huayhuash trek, we would have some challenging weather this time.

Tullparaju Moonlight Campfire

It rained for the last several hours of our hike in towards Laguna Tullpacocha, and we got a bit off track from the “trail”. But we found a nice hidden campsite and managed to get a good bonfire going despite the wet wood. Once the clouds cleared that evening, the glaciated peaks surrounding us shone in the bright moonlight, and we slept under the stars that night (along with a local cow who had been trying to enjoy our campfire with us).

hiking in the cordillera blanca

The next day we had to hike over a ~5100m (16,732 ft.) pass. Turns out that this is much harder to do without burros carrying half your stuff. But Erik was still stylin in his city jeans, with Nevado Pucaranra behind (6156m).

nevado san juan

Claudia keeps going. In the background is (I believe) Nevado San Juan (5843m).

Ranrapalca

From the top of the pass, the view of the massive Nevado Ranrapalca (6162m, 20,217 ft.) was impressive. Notice how easy it is to see how the glaciers have recently receded.

Moonlight camping in Cojup valley

Just as we got down off the pass and arrived in the Cojup valley, the clouds unleashed with pelting hail. We set up our camp and made dinner in the freezing cold. Nevado Palcaraju (6110m) shines in the moonlight during a break in the clouds. Notice the huge glacial moraines in the center of the valley below the glaciers.

After a lazy morning start, and a somewhat confused hike out the valley, we were eventually all back in Huaraz again that night to celebrate with fine Peruvian wine and food!

Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit

A few weeks ago I fulfilled one of my dreams – to trek around the remote and rugged Cordillera Huayhuash mountain range in Peru. In the city of Huaraz, the base for most of the expeditions in the Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash, I signed on to a 10 day trek with burros to carry all our camping gear, an arriero (burro driver), a guide, and a cook for all our meals! Deluxe! Not only that, but our random assortment of people turned out to be a good group and we all had a great time together. Below are a bunch of snapshots from the trek, in chronological order.

You can also see my gallery of landscape photos from the Huayhuash here.

Huayhuash burros

An arriero guides his burros over our first pass in the Cordillera Huayhash.

Janca camp with Jirishanca

Our second camp, at Janca. Jirishanca towers behind.

Jirishanca Ridge Hike

Hiking a beautiful knife ridge with a spectacular view of Jirishanca.

Lots more photos below the fold… don’t miss it!
Continue reading “Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit”

Two Weeks in the Canyons

Happy Canyon slot

I just posted a bunch of photos from my trip in Utah! Though I was only out there for two weeks total, it truly felt like a full month. It always amazes me how time slows down when I travel. I think that is the secret of living longer… to travel a lot! In that regard, I suppose it’s not all about how long you live, but how well you spend your time while you’re here. (I say that after having the last three days fly by while working on the computer again).

Anyhow, now I’m back home in Ouray, Colorado. It feels great to finally be back home. I’m really looking forward to summer.

>> Check out my new Utah photos here.

Lunar Alpenglow at Ice Lakes Basin

lunar alpenglow, moonlight, Ice Lakes Basin, Colorado, alpenglow, stars
Lunar Alpenglow : Prints Available

The rising moon casts lunar alpenglow on the peaks of Ice Lakes Basin in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado on this chilly November night.  The 30-second, high ISO exposure enhanced the light and stars beyond what our eyes could see. 

On Thursday I headed out backpacking to Ice Lakes Basin, near Silverton, Colorado. This previous week there has been a high pressure system over Colorado, with warm temps and clear skies, so I figured it would be a good time to head up into the high country for a quick overnight trip. The trail up to Ice Lakes Basin generally faces south, and I enjoyed a dry trail most of the way to the lower basin, and even after that the snow was only shin deep at most. With no snowshoes or snow-boots required it was like winter camping but easier! I found a nice little flat spot near the lake and set up my tent.

I knew the post-full moon would be rising an hour and half after sunset, so I hiked around looking for a good vantage point of the basin, set up my camera, and waited in the dark. While I was waiting I was having fun experimenting with my new camera setup – a Canon 5D2 with tilt/shift lenses. This camera has better high ISO performance than any other camera I’ve used, so it was fun to be able to take photo of the stars and the Milky Way. The moon rose on time, providing some nice lunar alpenglow on the peaks with the stars above. The photo above was a 30 second exposure at f/4 and ISO 2000, with the 24mm t/s lens.

Winter tent at night in the mountains

Here’s the obligatory illuminated tent shot! Even though I was warm and cozy inside in my -30º sleeping bag, I hardly slept a wink due to the erratic gusty winds all night. The wind must have been coming in pulses, or else it was swirling around like mad in the basin, because it would be calm and quiet, then a blast of wind would pound my tent, over and over again every 30 seconds or so for the whole night. I knew the tent was fine, but still the noise was disconcerting enough to keep up awake most of the night.

Ice Lakes Basin, sunrise, San Juan Mountains, Colorado
Icy Ice Lakes Sunrise : Prints Available

A gorgeous sunrise over snowy Ice Lakes Basin, November.

This was right before sunrise. I was stoked to see clouds in the sky after a week of bluebird days.

As for the new camera, so far so good! Everything seems to be laid out nicely, and it seems to do what I expect it to do. But most of all, the lenses I got are sweet. I’ve said it before on this blog, but I am a sucker for good lenses, and the whole reason I decided to get into the Canon system was for their new tilt/shift lenses. Being able to carefully shoot a full-frame dSLR with lens movements makes it feel much more like shooting the 4×5 field camera; I can be ultra precise with the focussing from near to far in the scene. Also, I can easily make two-frame panos by taking two exposures with the lens shifted to either side; then the two exposures can be placed together almost perfectly, with no software stitching required. The first shot above, in fact, was made with two exposures with the lens shifted vertically. Anyhow, I’m sure I’ll write more about this camera setup later on when I know it better, but for now I can say I’m happy with it and will probably be using it for a while.

Grand Gulch Loop Hike

Cedar Mesa Kiva

Over three days and two nights this last weekend I went on a ~25 mile loop hike from Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. I hiked down Todie Canyon, to Grand Gulch, then out Bullet Canyon. Most of the way the hike passes through dramatic canyon scenery with vertical cliffs and dramatic rock formations. But the highlights were without doubt the numerous ancient ruins and pictographs along the way.

Check out all the photos from the Grand Gulch trek on my gallery site.

Lightning Overdose at Blue Lakes

Blue Lakes and Mt. Sneffels

On Saturday I went on a quick overnight backpacking trip to Blue Lakes, under Mt. Sneffels. I’ve been to Blue Lakes before in May, with the peaks and lake smothered in snow, and I’ve been there in the summer, with the wildflower fields and lush green tundra. But I’ve never been there in September, and I was amazed at the beauty of the multicolored autumn tundra.

It was also great to get back up into the San Juans again after my last few weeks of laziness (and after my six weeks abroad before that). There’s something indescribable about these mountains that I just love so much. It’s hard to put my thumb on any one thing, it’s more just a feeling I get when I’m here. Perhaps I’ll try to explain this in some future rambling post.

Lightning in Colorado

After a fun evening of photography, I was then treated to an freakish all-night-long thunderstorm. The photo above is a stacked exposure of six shots, taken during five minutes at sunset. This same storm moved up into the mountains around my camp soon afterwards; imagine the nearly constant bolts like in this photo, but all around me in the high mountain basin! I didn’t sleep hardly a wink, but it certainly made for a memorable night!

>>See my photos and read more about the trip here.<<

Columbine Lake Overnighter

Columbine Lake Moonlight

I was fortunate to be able to squeeze in one last backpacking trip this week before I take off for Norway on Saturday. I camped up at Columbine Lake, a high alpine lake situated at 12,685 feet elevation, among the rolling tundra in the mountains between Silverton and Telluride. Though just a quick one-night trip, I had a lot of fun shooting photos and I think I came away some good ones.

I am getting really excited for my trip to Norway, but it’s still tough to leave Colorado right as it’s getting into the beautiful summer primetime here.

>>See more photos from the Columbine Lake camping trip here!

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