From the Vault: Mount Sneffels Dusk Panorama

Colorado, Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Sneffels Range, panorama
Mount Sneffels Dusk Panorama : Prints Available

Mount Sneffels (14,150 ft.) towering over its surroundings at dusk in early June. San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

Like many other landscape photographers grounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions, I have resorted to browsing through my photo archives as I dream of outdoor adventures. During one such hard drive foray I found some old unstitched panorama images and thought I’d work on putting them together finally. This photo was from a 2015 photo mission when I stayed up here well into the night to photograph the Milky Way over Mount Sneffels.

I wish you health, safety, and sanity during these uncertain times.

Planet B

Planet B

Planet B, an ice-laden bonfire sculpture by Jeff Skoloda in Ouray, Colorado.

Colorado, Ouray
Planet B #2

Planet B, a melting globe. Sculpture by Jeff Skoloda

Behold the most amazing bonfire I’ve ever seen – a giant sculpture of metal and the elements of fire and ice, titled “Planet B” by Jeff Skoloda in Ouray, Colorado. The sculpture consists of an outer globe shrouded in ice (handiwork of the Ouray Ice Park ice farmers), with a smaller inner sphere filled with firewood set ablaze. Despite the intense heat of the fire, the ice clung on for hours as we watched it slowly melt and fall off in chunks.

Only in Ouray.

(I composited the stars into the second photo for a more cosmic effect).

Courthouse on Fire

Cimarrons, Colorado, Courthouse Mountain, San Juan Mountains, sunset
Courthouse Blues : Prints Available

Evening light creeps up towards Courthouse Mountain, shrouded in a winter snowstorm.

Tonight’s sunset was a stunner in Ridgway, Colorado. It was so good I actually motivated to put a jacket on and step out to my porch with my telephoto lens. We see a lot of fine sunsets from our east-facing house, so I tend to get a bit jaded about photographing them unless there’s an exceptional light show like this evening’s!

Cimarrons, Colorado, Chimney Rock, San Juan Mountains, sunset
Chimney Rock Light : Prints Available

Sunset light on the Cimarrons and Chimney Rock, February.

Cimarrons, Colorado, Courthouse Mountain, San Juan Mountains, sunset
Courthouse on Fire : Prints Available

Brilliant sunset light on Courthouse Mountain in the Cimarrons, as seen from the town of Ridgway, Colorado.

A Hair-Raising New Years in Ouray

Colorado, Ouray, San Juan Mountains, fireworks, new years
Ouray New Years Fireworks : Prints Available

New Years 2020 fireworks celebration over the town of Ouray, Colorado, with Mount Abrams and the San Juan Mountains towering behind.

My last hours of 2019 ended with quite a hair-raising experience, and I have a crazy story to tell you from my outings last night to photograph the New Years fireworks.

I had an idea last night to snowshoe up to a cliff overlooking town to gain a unique perspective of the fireworks over the valley, so at 10:30pm I bundled up, strapped on my snowshoes and headlamp, and started trudging up through knee deep powder towards my destination. When I was only about ten minutes up from the road, I was alarmed when I saw three or four pairs of orange eyes reflecting at me from behind some bushes up ahead. My first thought was that they were probably just deer. But I was a bit concerned that the eyes were orange; typically I remember all the deer I’ve seen at night having greenish colored eyes in light of my headlamp. Even more alarming, though, was the fact that the eyes had a certain calm and confidence to them – the animals clearly were not afraid of me and had no intention of fleeing like deer normally would.

About 20-30 feet from the “eyes”, I could see that one of the animals was standing up while the other two or three were sitting or laying down. I took a few more steps closer to get a closer look when I got a clear view of the one that was standing. It was a massive mountain lion staring right at me! Along with two or three of his buddies* (I was too focussed on the big guy to count the others). Holy shit. I quietly turned around and retreated back down through the snow, trying not to seem panicked or rushed like prey, but constantly glancing over my shoulder while trying not to trip over my snowshoes. I got back to my truck without incident, got in as fast as I could, and got the hell out of there, with a bit of adrenaline pumping through my veins!

So, although I was scared away from my intended photo destination, at least I got a story to tell! I had enough time to drive to an old standby vantage point and take the photo above as a consolation shot.

Happy New Year! I hope 2020 is full of more excitement and adventure, though preferrably not involving close encounters with mountains lion gangs!

* P.S. – It’s possible it was a momma lion with her teenage cubs; I didn’t get a good look at the others, just the big one standing in front.

December to Remember

Rolling Mountain, Colorado
Looking towards Rolling Mountain in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

It’s been a fun December here in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, with roughly 120% of average snowfall so far and many powder days on the splitboard! Here’s a few snapshots from the last 6 days of splitboarding in a row.

Tom Kelly skis deep powder.
Tom Kelly skis deep powder.

Continue reading “December to Remember”

Making Turns Again

Skiing near the Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
Skiing near the Mount Hayden Backcountry Lodge in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado – early December 2019.

This week Claudia and I have been getting out for some backcountry skiing/splitboarding action here in the San Juans. It’s been a slow start to the season, but there’s finally enough snow to make some turns. Sketchy avalanche conditions out there, as usual, so we’ll have to keep things low angled and tame for the foreseeable future.