47″ in Crested Butte

Colorado, Crested Butte, Camp 4 Coffee, snow, snowy, December
Snowy Camp 4 : Prints Available

Camp 4 Coffee in Crested Butte, Colorado, smothered in snow during a week-long January storm.

Last week’s snow storms dropped almost four feet of powder on Crested Butte! The official tally at the ski area for the week was 47″, making the Butte the big winner for snowfall amongst all Colorado ski hills for the week. CB oftentimes gets less snow than other areas due to a “donut” effect where the surrounding ranges block some of the storms. But when the storms come in at the perfect west/southwest angle the snow can funnel right into the valley and dump here! Fortunately for us, this happened during the first big storm a few weeks ago, during this last storm, and it looks like it might happen again with another big storm headed this way in a few days. This winter got off to a slow start but has been piling on in December and January!

Suffice it to say, I’ve been out there shredding up as much of this pow as I can, with some great mornings at the Butte and an epic day at Monarch Pass. It would be fine with me if it keeps snowing until June!

UPDATE 1/15: The snow total for CB in the first two weeks of January has grown to 9 FEET! This is a January to remember!

A Sunset at Black Canyon

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado, Gunnison River, Black Canyon, national park, Painted Wall, sunset
Sunset Over the Painted Wall : Prints Available

Sunset over the Painted Wall above the Gunnison River in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado. The Painted Wall is the tallest sheer cliff in Colorado at 2,250 vertical feet (690 m). The Precambrian gneiss and schist that make up the majority of the steep walls of the Black Canyon formed 1.7 billion years ago, though the canyon itself started being carved about 2-3 million years ago. (Source)

On Tuesday I spent a pleasant evening along the North Rim of the Black Canyon. It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been nine years since I’ve been to the North Rim! Last time I was there, in October 2007, I backpacked down S.O.B. Draw and camped on a broad sandy beach along the river right below the Painted Wall, just past where you can see the river in the photo above. I had quite a scare in the middle of the night when a falling rock crashed down on the beach right next to me!

The first sound of rockfall woke me up instantly and in the darkness I immediately knew it was happening somewhere above me. To make matters worse I was camping in a bivy sack and I thrashed around frantically trying to get out of it so I could run closer to some bigger boulders that might help shelter me. Meanwhile I was still hearing the rock crashing closer and closer down towards me, so I gave up trying to shed the bivy bag and just potato-sack hopped towards the boulders. The rock impacted the beach with a dull but loud thud. I spent the rest of the night huddled against the biggest boulder around, too afraid to venture out in the open of the beach again! In the morning I found the rock where it impacted the sand about ten feet from where I’d been sleeping.

On this last trip I was actually planning to spend one night down there again, but as I studied the campsites from the rim and considered how they are positioned right in the gunbarrel of 2,000 feet sheer vertical cliffs, I thought, no, I’ve learned that lesson before!

Back in Colorful Colorado

Colorado, Elk Mountains, Kebler Pass, Marcellina Mtn, October, aspens, autumn, fall
Kebler Autumn Sunset : Prints Available

Golden aspens illuminated by sunset light, with Marcellina Mountain in the distance. Near Kebler Pass in the Elk Mountains, Colorado.

We are finally back home in Crested Butte, Colorado after our big 3.5-month road trip! On our first day back here yesterday I celebrated our return with a hike through the aspens up near Kebler Pass. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for several weeks now and it was nothing short of awesome, with the aspens at peak goldenness.

Colorado, Elk Mountains, Kebler Pass, October, aspens, autumn, fall
Kebler Golden Reflection : Prints Available

Golden aspens reflected in a beaver pond near Kebler Pass.

Colorado, Elk Mountains, Kebler Pass, October, aspens, autumn, fall
Kebler Golden Reflection 2 : Prints Available

The vast fields of aspens up near Kebler are like the redwoods of aspens forests — I know of no other place with such an abundance of pure, large, white aspen boles.

Colorado, Elk Mountains, Kebler Pass, October, aspens, autumn, fall
Golden Kebler : Prints Available

Golden aspens near Kebler Pass.

Walking amongst the golden aspens, I’m filled with an almost tangible feeling of the glory of our Earth, like walking through a cathedral of light. Honestly, I think this is the most beautiful thing to be experienced in nature — more beautiful than wildflowers, than waterfalls, than auroras even.

Colorado, Elk Mountains, Kebler Pass, October, aspens, autumn, fall, trail
Yellow Leaf Road : Prints Available

A trail through the aspens.

I’m so happy to be home, so stoked on Colorado!

Spring Snow in the Ruby Range

Colorado, Crested Butte, Ruby Range, Augusta Mountain, May

Southeast face of Augusta Mountain (12,559 ft.)

The ski area of Crested Butte oftentimes suffers from lower-than-expected snowfall amounts, but just 9 miles to the west/northwest the Ruby Range gets hammered with some of the highest snowfall totals in Colorado. All winter long I’ve gazed wistfully at the snow-smothered Ruby Range peaks, tantalizingly out of reach for those of us without snowmobiles. In late May now that much of the lower access roads have melted out, yesterday I finally had the chance to get out for a spring descent up in these mountains. Daniel and I hiked up and skied/rode down Mineral Point, the prominent pyramid-shaped peak visible up valley as you drive into the town of Crested Butte.

Colorado, Crested Butte, Ruby Range, Purple Mountain, May

The south face of Purple Mountain (12,958 ft.) in late May, begging to be skied.

Later in the afternoon back in town sipping beer in the sun, I gazed up the valley at the peak we just descended, pleased to finally be thinking “I just rode that!” instead of “I wish I could ride that!”

A Night Above Crested Butte

Colorado,Crested Butte,tent, moonlight, Ruby Range, Elk Mountains, dusk
Winter Camp over Crested Butte

Winter camp at dusk above the town of Mount Crested Butte, with moonrise light illuminating the Ruby Range and Elk Mountains – April.

Lately I’ve been itching for a camping adventure but have been too busy to do anything too ambitious or far away. Since we live across the street from Mt. Crested Butte, yesterday I figured what the hell, I might as well just skin up the ski slopes and camp up there for a night! It wasn’t exactly a wilderness experience (I could actually see our condo down below), but it was still nice to spend a quiet evening under the moonlight gazing at the mountains.

Ouray Powder

Colorado,San Juan Mountains,skiing, aspens, powder, January, Don Moden

Skiing deep powder in an aspen forest – January.  Skier: Don Moden.

Colorado, and most of the west for that matter, has been getting pounded by a powerful winter storm these last few days. This last weekend we did a quick trip to Ouray to catch up with some friends and get out for some backcountry powder turns.

Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado
Skier: Claudia Brauer.
Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado
Skier: Don Moden.

Although we were both a bit sad to leave, after two great days of skiing we hightailed it through the blizzard back to Crested Butte, where two feet of powder blanketed the Butte by Monday!

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