I just dug up this photo from deep in my archives while searching for a photo request of this mountain. I took this shot way back in October 2003, just over ten years ago! Back then I was in the early stages of being serious about photography. So much has happened in my life and my photography in the decade since then… It almost seems like it should have been 20 years ago, not just ten! It’s so amazing how much life you can fit into ten years. And it makes me wonder what’s in store for the next ten years…
Anyhow, Notch Mountain, in the Sawatch Range just south of Vail, Colorado, has a perfect front-and-center view of Mount of the Holy Cross and its east facing cross couloir, made famous in 1873 by legendary wilderness photographer William H. Jackson. In the early 20th century, the mountain became a destination of Christian pilgrimages, and a rock hut was built on Notch Mountain (very close to where this photo was taken) for shelter during Sunday mass at 13,000 feet. The hut is still there, and back in October ’03 my friend Todd and I backpacked up there and used it for shelter ourselves. This was a memorable trip, so I thought I’d write up a trip report, ten years later. Continue reading “Mount of the Holy Cross”→
This morning Jeff and I went back out to enjoy some more of the early season powder. The last few days of snowstorms dumped a good amount of new snow in the higher San Juans, and the snowpack is now noticeably deeper than last time we went out.
Full-on winter conditions up high, with a cold wind and poor visibility in the foggy/snowy clouds.
Next step: bootpack up the left side of this mountain.
Upon reaching the top of our line, we waited as long as our patience could stand for the clouds to clear, but it seemed that the cloud was stuck on the mountain top. Finally we just had to go for it despite the poor visibility.
The lower we went, the better the visibility and the deeper the powder! Eventually we were arching high speed carves down the open basin.
Not too shabby for the 1st of November! I hope it keeps snowing until June.
Last night I pulled my splitboard out of the attic in anticipation of the first turns of winter. As we drove up the pass this morning everything was covered in frosty snow… what a glorious morning! I had to pull over and take a snapshot of the frosty aspens.
The snowpack looking a bit dubious on this southern slope on the way up.
Fortunately the north facing slopes were filled in with powder and looking good! Here’s Jeff getting in the groove. We just did one line but damn it was satisfying! I’m hoping for a good winter this season here in the San Juans after the last two crappy ones…
Hungry for an adventure, on Tuesday I hiked up to Blue Lakes in the Sneffels Range to camp out in the snow. Late autumn can be a good time for winter camping – kind of like “diet” winter camping since there’s less snow to deal with and usually less avalanche danger (*depending, of course). Also, road access to most trailheads is still possible, and if you time it right the alpine lakes aren’t frozen yet which can offer some nice photo opportunities.
The weather forecast called for a brief but intense snowstorm, with little or no wind! Perfect time to head out into the mountains. Sure enough, in the late afternoon just as I was setting up the tent the storm clouds rolled into the mountains and it started snowing in earnest. I fell asleep to the sound of snowflakes falling on the tent, cozy in my puffy down cocoon. In the middle of the night, around 2:30am, I woke up and saw moonlight shining on the tent. I poked my head out and saw a dreamlike scene as the storm clouds were lifting off the peaks and the fresh snow glistened in the moonlight. Of course I jumped out of the tent as fast as I could to photograph the moment!
Though the clouds still covered the peaks in the morning, eventually they gave way to crystal clear blue skies.
Compared to summer backpacking when you can lay in the meadows and let yourself melt into the scenery, winter camping feels more like being an astronaut. It’s clear that you don’t belong there, and your survival is dependent on the gear you’ve brought with you. Everything is more difficult in the cold and snow – getting water and keeping it from freezing, cooking, keeping your stuff dry, putting your boots on, even just moving around! Add to that a lingering apprehension that if one little thing should go wrong your survival (or at least basic comfort) could be in jeopardy. For those reasons, winter camping is more about the challenge of being out there rather than the pleasure of being out there!
One night in the snow proved to be enough adventure for me and by the second afternoon the thoughts of Claudia and our warm house proved irresistible so I packed up and hiked out. I think it’s time to flee to the desert to find some warmer adventures!
Happy 4th of July, I mean, Oktoberfest! Just like last year, Ouray had leftover fireworks since the 4th of July show was cancelled due to fire danger, so they shot them off for the Oktoberfest party instead.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no place like Ouray to watch (or listen to) fireworks! The booming echoes that reverberate around the mountain walls are incomparable.
I am pleased to announce that several of my prints are on display at the Robert Anderson Gallery in Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado. The gallery is dedicated to photographic arts, both regional and modern, and I am honored to have my prints displayed there. For those of you on the Front Range who would like to see my prints in person, this is a good chance to check them out. (Onceif the rain stops!)
Unlike other mountain ranges in Colorado, the San Juans have a volcanic history. Around 35 million years ago this region was home to several dozen stratovolcanoes, similar to those in the present day Pacific Northwest. Then, starting about 30 million years ago the volcanism here was characterized more by massive circular calderas. Many of the mountains in the San Juans owe their uniquely rugged shapes to the eroded volcanic ash (tuft) that was deposited by all of this volcanism.
In the Uncompahgre Wilderness, with its craggy peaks rising out of vast tundra-filled basins, one can visualize this volcanic history more than in any other part of the range. While the specific geology is certainly more complicated, it’s easy to imagine Wetterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre Peak as the eroded lava plugs from ancient volcanoes.
14,015 foot tall Wetterhorn Peak feels kind of like a volcano when you’re hiking up it – it towers over the surrounding landscape. Here Claudia ponders geology during the spicy exposed scrambling section towards the summit. Continue reading “Wetterhorn Peak”→