I spent four days this week hiking around in the Elk Mountains, where I photographed the rugged and mighty Capitol Peak for three sunsets in a row, from various vantage points. Read more and see LOTS of photos here!
I just posted some photos from a 3-day loop hike starting and ending in Ouray, Colorado, passing through the vast tundra of the Uncompahgre Wilderness along the way. The spectacular sunsets of this summer keep on coming!
This last week we went on a 7-day backpacking trek through the Needle Mountains and Grenadier Range, the most rugged portions of the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado. Here are some snapshots from the trip. See my gallery of photos from the trip here.
The route we took passes through four rugged valleys and over three high passes. This is a strenuous wilderness route, seldom travelled, with slight unmarked trails for only about half the way. The rest of the way requires good map reading, terrain intuition, some bushwhacking, and lots of trial and error. This is the third time I’ve done a long high route in the Needle Mountains, and every time I get a bit lost at some point(s)!
Here I am with the camera.
After over a week of nonstop rainy weather, we finally got out for two nights of camping at Blue Lakes, in the Sneffels Range of Colorado. Though still rainy, the weather broke enough to get out for some nice hikes, including a killer sunrise at the middle Blue Lake.
On Sunday I hiked into Wetterhorn Basin, in the Uncompahgre Wilderness east of Ridgway, Colorado. With all the stormy monsoon weather and fantastic sunsets we’ve been having in the San Juans lately, I had hopes of catching another great sunset in the mountains. I arrived in Wetterhorn Basin just in time to hunker down in the forest as the lightning and thunder rolled through. After an hour or so the storm cleared just as the sun began to dip into a gap on the horizon, lighting up the mountains with spectacular alpenglow!
That night I woke up at 1:40am, and under the full moonlight I climbed up Wetterhorn Peak, the rugged 14,015 ft. mountain that dominates the scene. I’d climbed up the peak once before four years ago, so I kind of remembered how to climb the scrambly exposed route to the summit in the dark. I relaxed up there by myself for four hours, enjoying the sunrise, soaking up the views, and looking at all the other places I’ve hiked around there and would like to hike in the future.
After downclimbing the peak later that morning and strolling back to my campsite, I relaxed for the rest of the day, waiting for the afternoon storm which never seemed to materialize. That night, however, the sky finally unleashed and dumped rain for hours, with lightning and cracking thunder trying to keep me awake. But I was pretty exhausted after my hike that morning, so I managed to sleep like a baby through the storm. The next morning I had a leisurely hike out amongst the wildflowers, wrapping up another nice trip in the wilderness.
POSTSCRIPT: When I was on the summit of Wetterhorn, in the early dawn darkness, I could see another headlamp on the high ridgeline to the north. I just KNEW that it must be Jody Grigg, a fellow Colorado photographer, because A) I had seen his name on the trailhead register, B) only a photographer would be on that remote ridgeline for the sunrise, and C) Jody’s one of the few photographers I know who would actually make it up there! Sure enough, a few days after this trip, I got this photo from Jody in my email:
This weekend I went on an overnight backpacking trip to Ice Lakes Basin, in the San Juans of Colorado, along with fellow photographer Aleks Kozakowski and about 200-300 other hikers. I’ve never seen so many people in the San Juans! I guess this is the “go to” place around here now. Anyhow, no problem, the basin is big enough for everyone. The wildflowers were great, and the clouds kept rolling through offering nice lighting conditions most of the time.
I just “found” this photo from back in July 2006, when some friends and I hiked a circumnavigational route around Wetterhorn Peak, a 14er in the Uncompahgre Wilderness of the San Juans in southwest Colorado. For a portion of this day, smoke from a nearby forest fire filled the high alpine basin, obscuring the view of Wetterhorn in a blue haze.
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.
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.
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).
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).
Claudia keeps going. In the background is (I believe) Nevado San Juan (5843m).
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.
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!
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.
An arriero guides his burros over our first pass in the Cordillera Huayhash.
Our second camp, at Janca. Jirishanca towers behind.
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”