Powder Foraging

Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado
Skier: Adam Fisher

During the last several weeks the snowstorms that have been flowing though northern Colorado have barely made it down south to the San Juans, with a few inches here and there, all mixed up by strong winds. The high country is wind blasted, but there’s some good powder stashes to be found in the trees on northern aspects.

Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado

Adam and Parker and I managed to find some good fluffy lines to ride today!

Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado

2013 in a Nutshell

Ouray, San Juan mountains, Colorado, winter, panorama, dawn, february, lights
Ouray Winter Dawn Panorama : Prints Available

The lights of Main Street after a fresh snowfall in Ouray, Colorado on a clear February morning in the San Juan Mountains. The mountains to the right are illuminated by the setting moon.

As we start a new year, here’s a look back at my most memorable photos and adventures of 2013.

Powder, ski, San Juan Mountains, backcountry, Colorado
February Powder

Dan Chehayl skis deep powder in the San Juan backcountry.

The winter of 2013 ended up being a second disappointing winter season in a row here in the San Juans, with below average snowfall and above average avalanche danger. However, the month of February was an exception, bringing lots of powder with decent-enough stability to ride it.

yurt, stars, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, winter, march, night, snow
Yurt Under the Stars : Prints Available

A cozy backcountry yurt in the snow on a winter night in March – San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

In March Claudia and I went on a couple great backcountry ski trips – one to a friend’s yurt in the San Juans, and another trip in late March to a couple ski huts in the southern Gore Range. Claudia did her first good tree skiing on this trip; it’s been a joy to watch her powder skiing skills progress!

Parsons Landing, campfire, Catalina Island, California
Parsons Landing Campfire

Enjoying the warmth of a campfire on the beach at Parsons Landing – April.

In April we went on a road trip out to California to visit my grandma for her 100th birthday! We continued on to trek the 45-mile Trans Catalina Trail across the entire Catalina Island – a place I loved visiting with my family when I was growing up, and which I was excited to show Claudia. It was quite a novelty for us to backpack on an island and camp on beaches!

slot canyon, Zebra, Escalante National Monument, Utah
Zebra Slot : Prints Available

The famous Zebra Slot – not very deep or long, but one of the most photogenic slot canyons in Utah.

On the way back we spent a long week in the canyons of Utah, mainly in the Escalante and Capitol Reef regions, doing great day hikes every day and camping in our new truck each night. (The month before, I managed to roll our old truck off an icy road – fortunately we weren’t hurt at all, though the truck was totaled).

Owl Creek Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Utah, camping, stars, canyon
Canyon Camping : Prints Available

Camping under the stars in Owl Creek Canyon, Utah.

We returned to Utah in May for a wonderful backpack trip through Fish and Owl Creek canyons in Cedar Mesa.

Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, sunset, alpenglow
Alpenglow on Mt. Sneffels : Prints Available

Sunset light illuminates the 14,150 ft. summit of Mt. Sneffels, as seen from a high ridgeline in June, San Juan Mountains.

By June the meager snowpack in the San Juans had pretty much already melted out, enabling us to go on a number of high alpine backpacking trips a month earlier than usual (and also enabling huge wildfires to burn much of the southeastern San Juans). We camped up on a high ridge of Mt. Sneffels; summited Whitehouse Mountain, an obscure peak high above Ouray; and climbed Wetterhorn Peak from Wetterhorn Basin.

Allgäuer Alps, Germany, hiking
Mindelheimer Klettersteig Trail

Allgäuer Alps, Germany.

After much preparation and anticipation, in July we flew to Europe for 3 months of vacation. After visiting Claudia’s family in Dresden for a couple weeks, we rode the train down to Oberstdorf in southern Germany and went on an amazing hut trek through the Allgäuer Alps with her friends Susanne and Dominik.

Rappensee, Allgäuer Alps, Germany, wildflowers, sunset, Kleiner Rappenkopf, reflection
Rappensee : Prints Available

Wildflowers and a pleasant sunset at Rappensee, with a reflection of the Kleiner Rappenkopf (2276m). Allgäuer Alps, Germany.

Lechtal Alps, Austria, Dremelspitze, Hanauer Hütte, sunset, reflection
Dremelspitze Reflection : Prints Available

Brilliant sunset light illuminates Dremelspitze (2733m), as seen from above the Hanauer Hütte.

Our next big trek was through the fantastic Lechtal Alps just across the border in Austria. By now I was really enjoying the lightweight hut-to-hut trekking style that is so readily available in the Alps.

Dolomites, Italy, Tre Cime, Lavaredo, Drei Zinnen
Tre Cime Dawn : Prints Available

Dawn glow illuminates Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen (2998m).

In August we met up with Claudia’s father and brother for a fun-filled week of via ferrata climbing in the spectacular Dolomites in Italy.

Dolomites, Italy, via ferrata, Salvezza, Strada degli Alpini
Salvezza Chasm : Prints Available
Dolomites, Italy, Rosengarten, via ferrata, Laurenzi, Molignon
Laurenzi : Prints Available

Climbing along the ridgeline of Molignon during the Via Ferrata Laurenzi.

Claudia and I spent another week in the Dolomites, trekking through the Rosengarten range with some really challenging via ferrata climbing routes mixed in.

Dolomites, Italy, Vajolet, Torri del Vajolet, Rosengarten, sunset
Vajolet Towers Sunset : Prints Available

Brilliant sunset light illuminates the Vajolet Towers in the Rosengarten as misty clouds swirl off the peaks.

Zugspitze, Wetterstein, Germany, klettersteig
Looking Down Zugspitze

After leaving the Dolomites, we went back to Bavaria to climb Zugspitze, the tallest peak in Germany. We took the classic Höllental route, which gains over 7,200 vertical feet, much of which is a long sustained via ferrata (or klettersteig in German) cabled climbing route.

Zugspitze, Wettersteingebirge, Germany, summit, sunset
Zugspitze Summit Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset light as seen from the summit Zugspitze (2962m), the highest mountain in Germany.

Pic du Midi d'Ossau. Lac Gentau, Refuge d'Ayous, Pyrenees, France
Lac Gentau Reflection : Prints Available

Dusk reflection of Pic du Midi d’Ossau in Lac Gentau near the Refuge d’Ayous in the Pyrenees, France – September.

Our final adventure in Europe was a September trek through the Pyrenees along the border of France and Spain. We intended to hike from hut to hut for three weeks in this range; however, unfortunately after one week Claudia took a scary tumble and broke her sternum, earning us a helicopter ride out and a couple nights in a French hospital. We had big plans to spend the months of October and November trekking in the Himalaya in Nepal, but with Claudia’s injury there was no question that we had to cancel that part of the trip. Although it was a disappointing setback, it’s all good… we hope to go there this next year instead, and I’m just extremely grateful that Claudia is ok (she’s totally healed now).

Blue Lakes, Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, winter, camp, tent, snow, moonlight
Blue Lakes Winter Moonlight : Prints Available

Winter camp in the snow above lower Blue Lake, Sneffels Range, Colorado – October.

Back home in southwest Colorado, we have been treated with abundant early season snow, and this winter has already been far superior to the previous two!

skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Bluebird Pow Pow

Skier: Chris Cover

For 2014, I’m hoping that it snows nonstop until May and look forward to lots more splitboarding action, ski hut trips, and probably some winter camping at some point. In the spring I’m sure we’ll get out to the Utah desert for some backpacking and car camping road tripping. For this next summer we are excited that Claudia’s father and family are coming to visit us here, and we’ve also been talking about backpacking in the Cascades in Washington and the Wind Rivers in Wyoming… maybe even work our way up into Canada… who knows… As usual, I’m always dreaming and I want to do it all! In the autumn we are hoping to finally get over to the Himalaya to trek the routes we had planned on doing this last year. 2014 promises to be as adventurous as 2013, maybe even more so!

Finally, I want to give a warm THANK YOU to everybody who reads my blog and who has supported my habits by purchasing my prints and licensing my photos. I truly appreciate it!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Blue Lakes Hut

aspen, moonlight, Sneffels Range, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Winter's Breath : Prints Available

On Wednesday Claudia and I skied along snow-covered County Road 7 to the Blue Lakes Hut, one of five huts in the San Juan Huts system here in southwest Colorado. These small but cozy huts provide great winter base camps for exploring the remote northern side of the Sneffels Range.

sunrise at the Blue Lakes Hut
December sunrise at the Blue Lakes Hut, as seen from the outhouse.

The Blue Lakes Hut is situated in small meadow a short distance from the summer Blue Lakes trailhead. From the hut you have a foreshortened view of the summit of Mt. Sneffels (14,150 ft). There are south facing windows that let a good amount of light in, and a wood stove that cranks so hot that we had to open the windows at night!

skiing in front of Mt. Sneffels
Skinning with a great view of Mt. Sneffels.

We had hoped for some decent tree skiing on the slopes above the hut, but unfortunately all we found was impenetrable forest and flat meadows. After two hours of breaking trail through the powder on switchbacking old forest roads with no skiable terrain in sight, we pulled the plug and basically skied back down our skin track with the occasional bushwhack mixed in. A bit frustrating, but once we were back in the hut a hot cup of gluhwein made everything ok! I think there are some worthy ski descents in the area up in the higher peaks, but they are far from the hut and would require a full day tour and stable avalanche conditions.

More Powder Shots

skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Skier: Jeff Skoloda

Here’s some photos from the last several days of playing in the San Juan powder. So nice lately…

skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Skier: Claudia Brauer

Claudia is fast becoming a powder fiend, stepping it up a notch or two every time we go out!

sundog, Red Mountain, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December

A sundog over Red Mountain #3, December.

The storm broke on Monday morning with a glorious sundog to greet the blue skies. This was the first sundog I’ve seen in Colorado! Always an awesome sight…

skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Skier: Chris Cover
skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Skier: Chris Cover
skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Skier: Chris Cover

Remember: don’t forget to study the avy report before heading into the backcountry!

Playing in the Powder

Scott Kennett, skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado
Scott Kennett doing what he does.

The snow keeps coming here in Colorado! I’ve been getting after it lately, splitboarding just about every chance I can get. My lack of recent posts here is simply due to a lack of good photos to share; we’ve mostly been skiing in the trees where the avalanche danger isn’t so severe. On tap: more snow, more riding, and perhaps even a hut trip next week! What a great winter so far…

3 Feet of Powder!

Snowy Trees, Colorado

Winter continues to produce here in southwest Colorado; the last series of snowstorms dumped another 3 feet of snow across much of the San Juans! On Friday and Saturday we scored some fantastic powder days at Wolf Creek ski area in what is becoming an annual early season pilgrimage. I could be wrong but I think that right now Wolf Creek and the San Juans have more snow than anywhere else in the country! Pretty awesome for November in Colorado. To see how much more snow there is this year so far, compare these photos to how bare it was at the same time last year!

Backcountry skiing, San Juans, Colorado

On Monday the storm broke and we enjoyed a glorious bluebird day up on the pass, where Claudia put all her recent powder training to good use. I continue to be impressed and excited about her skiing progression; she’s definitely getting the hang of skiing powder!

Happy skier, Colorado

Stoked!

The snowpack is very reactive right now so we chose mellow routes to ski yesterday. Remember, always read (and take heed of) the avalanche reports before venturing into the backcountry.

A Morning to Remember

I just processed some more panoramas from an epic morning in front of the mighty Fitz Roy in Argentine Patagonia back in December 2011. This was one of the most memorable photo experiences of my life; read about it in my trip report post here. Click on each one to view larger!

Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Argentina, Patagonia, sunrise, panorama, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
Fitz Roy Sunrise Panorama #1 : Prints Available
Fitz Roy, El Chalten, Argentina, Patagonia, sunrise, panorama, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
Fitz Roy Sunrise Panorama #2 : Prints Available
Fitz Roy, El Chaltén, Argentina, Patagonia, sunrise, panorama, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares
Fitz Roy Sunrise Panorama #3 : Prints Available

You can see all my photos from the Fitz Roy range here.

New Gallery Design

Matterhorn, winter, moonlight, Zermatt, Switzerland
Matterhorn Moonlight B/W : Prints Available

Moonlight illuminates the Matterhorn as a winter storm clears. 

After a solid month and a half of development work, I’ve finally launched my new gallery website design! Check it out at www.MountainPhotography.com.

A few notable new features, aside from the new darker design, include the big full-page homepage slideshow and a reworked galleries page that showcases the first six photos of each gallery followed by a link to view them all. The website is also responsive, so the page layouts and images will expand and contract as necessary to fit a variety of screens ranging from cell phones to big screen monitors.

I’ve also reorganized and simplified the galleries. I’ve grouped the photos together into broader categories – still location-based, but more generalized and without so many divided sub-galleries. For example, instead of having separate Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana galleries, I’ve bunched all the photos into a single “Northern Rockies” gallery. Not only does this tactic reduce the amount of clicking around, it also frees me from the feeling that I need to populate all those separate location sub-galleries with “filler” photos.

Despite my best efforts to test the new website on a variety of devices, I’m sure there’s bound to be some issues I missed. So if you see something wonky please let me know! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think of the new website, good or bad.