As is usual in late winter, Claudia and I have been itching for some desert hiking and backpacking time, so this March we spent three weeks camping and backpacking in various mountain ranges and wilderness areas in the Mojave Desert in Nevada, California, and Arizona.
There are many wild, rugged, and seldom-visited mountain ranges in the Mojave, making it a prime area for exploratory missions. I appreciate that there are still places like this out there where we can explore on our own with little to no guiding information, and find little or no evidence of previous human visitation when we’re there. Continue reading >>
With fresh snow in the San Juan Mountains and dreams of winter I couldn’t resist heading up high for a quick early season winter camp at Ice Lakes Basin near Silverton. I got a little more than I bargained for with two feet of fresh powder and knee-deep postholing through a snowstorm up there! In the morning I was treated to some fiery light for a few moments at sunrise, for a different kind of autumn color. Continue reading >>
In mid-September after our treks in the Bernina Range and Val Masino in southeast Switzerland and north Italy, Claudia and I traveled north to the famous Jungfrau region near Interlaken in Switzerland. I’ve visited these mountains in the winter and spring, but this would be the first time I’ve been hiking here in the summer season. We opted to hike a 5-day hut-to-hut circuit along the mountains surrounding the town of Grindelwald, via the Faulhorn, Gleckstein, and Bäregg huts, to Kleine Scheidegg, and ending in the Lauterbrunnen valley. Continue reading >>
Eight days into our trek around the Bernina Range, we took a little train and bus detour and visited Val Masino in Italy on the southern end of the same greater range. The mountains around here are sometimes referred to as the Val Masino Alps, or the backside of the Bergell or Bregaglia Range. Renowned in climbing circles, Val Masino is a unique and spectacular valley surrounded by soaring vertical granite peaks. We spent a couple nights in San Martino, the village at the heart of Val Masino, then hiked up to Rifugio Gianetti for a night, then over a pass and down Val Codera. Continue reading >>
In early September we flew to Zurich, Switzerland, took a train to St. Moritz, then embarked on a 9-day trek around the Bernina Range in the Rhaetian Alps. Named after the tallest peak in the range, Piz Bernina, the Bernina Range is a rugged and heavily glaciated mountain range along the border of southeast Switzerland and Italy. Our clockwise route took us across into Italy then back to Switzerland again, staying in alpine huts every night along the way. Continue reading >>
In mid-August Claudia and I backpacked for eight days into the Needle Mountains in the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. This was I think the sixth or seventh time I’ve done a week-long trek in this particular range, but I was still able to find some new routes to take and new places to camp and photograph along with some old favorites. These mountains never fail to challenge and inspire! Continue reading >>
On Monday morning my alarm woke me at 2:00am in my tent at Navajo Lake in the San Miguel Range near Telluride, Colorado. Groggy after only four hours of sleep, I started trudging up towards Mount Wilson under the light of the waning full moon. I could smell wildfire smoke in the air, and the stars were quite dim, but I didn’t think too much of it and continued on my mission to get to the summit for sunrise. Three or so hours later, after much rock hopping and a bit of airy scrambling, I stood on the 14,246-foot summit of Mount Wilson… disappointed with the view. My hopes of a glorious clear Colorado sunrise were crushed by the sight of thick smoke filling the valleys and shrouding the mountains. As I sat on the summit waiting for morning, I knew that my sunrise photo was toast and felt like my whole endeavor was a collosal waste of effort.
But then the sun rose as a red orb filtered through the haze like a lunar eclipse, becoming oranger as it rose higher and casting a warm glow over the smoky landscape. The surreal and somewhat apocalyptic scene wasn’t what I expected but it made for a unique photo opportunity after all!
I learned later that all the smoke came from an 800-acre wildfire west of Montrose. As luck would have it, the wind was blowing due south pushing all the smoke right into the San Juans. That’s a lot of smoke for a relatively small 800-acre fire!
In late July we went on a 6-day backpack trek in and around the rugged Grenadier Range in the Weminuche Wilderness of the central San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Along the way we scrambled up several 13ers, hiked over numerous high passes, and visited some gorgeous remote alpine lakes. Continue reading >>
After returning home to Colorado at the end of June we did a quick one-night backpack trip in the Uncompahgre Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. That evening we hiked up to a high ridgeline to watch the full moon rise behind Wetterhorn Peak at sunset. It’s nice to be back in beautiful Colorado!
In June after our Salkantay trek to Macchu Picchu, our next big Peruvian adventure was a 7-day trek around Nevado Ausangate, a giant 20945 ft (6384m) peak in the Cordillera Vilcanota south of Cusco. This is a high mountain range – almost the entire trek is over 14,000 ft elevation, the majority of hiking and camping is over 15,000 ft (4500m) elevation, and the highest pass tops out at about 16,750 ft (5100m). Although the month of June is typically the dry season in the Peruvian Andes, this trek turned out to be more like winter camping with all kinds of wild weather including blizzards, howling winds, and near-constant cold temperatures. Continue reading >>