After extensive puzzle solving and backup planning, we finally scored backpacking permits for a 5-day trek in Glacier NP! As I mentioned before, it’s not easy getting these permits since half of the campsites are already reserved and the others fill up quickly each day. And of course, as with most national parks you have to camp in the designated campsites when backpacking. So after repeatedly getting denied, I was stoked when I showed up at the ranger station promptly at 7:00am and the ranger said that we got our desired itinerary!
Glacier had an above-average winter snowpack this year, so unfortunately most of the high treks we wanted to do were still closed – but we managed to figure out a nice route for our trek anyways. We started from the Chief Mountain TH, just yards from the Canadian border, and hiked up the Belly River valley. We spent the first night at Elizabeth Lake, in the valley to the left of the mountain in the photo above. We then backtracked and hiked up the Mokowanis River valley – the valley to the right side.
Our first backpack trip in Glacier National Park was a one-nighter to Cracker Lake, in the Many Glacier area. This is easily one of the most spectacular mountain cirques I’ve ever had the pleasure of camping in, with a 3-4,000 foot sheer vertical wall encircling the milky turquoise glacial lake and green grass meadow slopes. And the mountains here have such an intriguing character, which their complex patterns in the eroded sedimentary rock.
July 26: We are finally back home in Ouray after our month on the road! Now that I’m back at my real computer monitor, I’m starting to go through all my photos and over the next few days I’ll post blog posts from each of our adventures during our trip.
Our first stop on our road trip was Jackson, Wyoming, my stomping grounds during the winter of 2009-10. I was happy to see my old friends there again, and to check out the scene for the 4th of July. Though the fireworks were cancelled due to the dangerous drought conditions, we enjoyed the long parade through town in the morning, followed by a day hike up Snowking Mountain above town.
We then took off for a couple nights in the Tetons, backpacking to a lesser-known lake right beneath the Grand Teton. We brought our crampons and ice axes along with big ideas to climb a nearby peak, but we ended up just lounging around like lazy marmots, laying in the sun by the lake the whole time with the spectacular views overhead. A secret campsite hidden in the shadow of an enormous boulder allowed us to sleep in until 10:00 or 11:00 each morning! (Of course I managed to crawl out of the tent for sunrise shots before hitting the sack again).
On the first evening an afternoon thunderstorm cleared up right at sunset. Unfortunately for the photography, the clouds didn’t quite clear until right after the sunset light, but it was still quite a sight to behold to see the misty clouds swirling around and rising off of the Grand.
The next morning was totally clear and calm.
But below us, the Jackson Hole valley was blanketed in inversion clouds!
This last weekend we went on a little road trip to the Great Sand Dunes, followed by a couple nights of camping and hiking in the Sangre de Cristos. We arrived at the dunes in the afternoon on Friday and started the hike into the dunes under a sky full of wild ominous clouds, along with sandblasting winds.
With the heavy clouds above and a clear horizon to the west, I knew that we were in store for a special sunset. I was not disappointed! We found a high west facing dune with a nice vista over the ocean of sand, and waited in the wind until the sun dipped below the clouds and illuminated the scene with intense sunset light. Pretty freaking amazing…
After sunset the clouds cleared and the wind calmed down enough for us to stroll around under the moonlight and enjoy our bottle of wine! Not the best night of sleep, though, with sand blowing in our sleeping bags for most of the night. But it’s hard to beat waking up in the middle of the dunes on a glorious bluebird morning!
Hiking out in the morning. I was excited to show Claudia the Great Sand Dunes, one of my favorite places on the planet. She was impressed, and is already looking forward to our next visit.
After our trip in Robbers Roost Canyon, we headed to Escalante for another backpacking trip into one of my favorite canyons of all – Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It’s been about 12 years or so since I’ve been here, but I still remembered how awesome it was.
Last week we went back out to Utah for a couple backpacking trips – the first was a two nighter in Robbers Roost Canyon in the Robbers Roost country along the Dirty Devil River east of the town of Hanksville. This little known and seldom visited area is full of wonderful sandstone canyons reminiscent of the Escalante area further southwest.
Last week Claudia and I and took a zodiac boat ride from Ushuaia to Isla Navarino, an island that is actually in Chile even though it’s right across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia and Argentina. So, coming and going, four more stamps in our passports, which are nearly full of Chile and Argentina stamps after three months of border crossings between the two countries. By now, the amount of stamping and filling out of immigration forms has reached a certain level of inanity to us.
But I digress… our reason for heading to Isla Navarino was to trek around the Dientes de Navarino, a small but rugged mountain range on the island. We spent five days out there on this wild and adventurous route, enduring a full range of extreme weather and trekking through some spectacular scenery. See lots more photos from the trek below! Continue reading “Dientes de Navarino”→
We’ve just returned to civilization after 8 days camped out in the mighty Fitz Roy range near El Chaltén in Argentine Patagonia. One of my main goals of this return trip to El Chaltén was to capture a photo that I have been dreaming about since my last trip to Patagonia four years ago. I was prepared to spend a week or more waiting for the perfect opportunity to accomplish this photo, and to repeat the efforts with stubborn determination until I did it. I want to talk a bit more about my experience behind this “dream shot” since it epitomizes everything I love about mountain photography!
Last week we spent 10 days hiking the popular “W” Circuit in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. These spectacular mountains rise abruptly 3000 vertical meters (almost 10,000 feet) above a series of huge turquoise lakes. Although the finest views of the range are actually seen from further away across the lakes (like this), the W Circuit offers the opportunities to experience the three main valleys and highlights within the range: the Glaciar Grey, the Valle Frances, and Las Torres lake. Although most people hike this route in about 5 days or so, we took 10 days so that we could spend extra time in each valley along the way.
After waiting in the rain in Puerto Varas for a week, we finally got a better weather forecast and headed out for a six day backpacking trip to the impressive Cochamó valley in Chile. We might have jumped the gun by a day or two, since it rained the entire way up; the ten mile hike was totally wet and muddy, with countless bogs and knee deep creeks to cross.