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.
Happy 4th of July from Ouray, Colorado!
An awesome sunset and rainbow over Ridgway, Colorado last night.
This morning Parker, Lily, and I went for a hike up into Weehawken Basin, out of Ouray, Colorado. It felt great to get up into the lush, green, forested mountains of the San Juans again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there may be bigger, taller, and more impressive mountains than in Colorado, but nowhere do I know of a paradise like here! In a couple weeks I’d imagine that this scene will be plump full of wildflowers.
Upon reaching the gorgeous Weehawken basin, we felt energized and ready for more hiking, so we decided to go ahead and climb a peak. We headed up the tundra grass towards Mt. Ridgway.
Lily scouts the view, with Potosi Peak (13,786 ft.) behind. By the way, that big couloir on Potosi is #1 on my snowboard descent wish list.
Lily stands on the summit of Mt. Ridgway (13,468 ft.)
There was a plethora of these purple wildflowers on the rocky summit.
It’s good to be back home finally.
I made a quick trip out to San Diego this weekend for an old buddy’s wedding. Being springtime there, everything was green and vibrant and flowering, and my last day there was a gorgeous crystal clear day that made my heart ache for my hometown. I don’t have any photos to show for it, except this snapshot of Mission Beach and Mission Bay from the airplane window.
The weather in Colorado, on the other hand, was up to its usual antics. After being held in a holding pattern over the Front Range for a half hour, we finally started our descent into Denver right under the roof of a dark, ominous thunderhead. As we approached the airport the plane was getting tossed around so badly that the pilot gunned it out of there and we flew another holding pattern for about an hour, circling around the thunderhead and watching the purple lightning bolts flashing through the cloud and zapping the runway. No bueno. My photos unfortunately do not do justice to the scene, but regardless, this is something you normally don’t want to be seeing out of an airplane window.
The thunderhead finally moved away from the runway just far enough for the pilot to make a successful landing, but once we were safely on the runway the entire airport spontaneously combusted into flames – or was that just the trippy refractions of light in raindrops? Perhaps the latter. We then had to wait for another half hour on the runway since the entire ground crew staff had been ordered inside due to the lightning danger, and when we finally got into the airport it was a frantic mess of delayed flights and people running for their connections. Good fun!
I finally made it back to the Montrose airport at 1:30am, only to be almost immediately pulled over and ticketed for doing 50 in a 30 mph zone. Sweet! I swear it was 45 in a 35, but what can you do?
And next on tap: a roadtrip to the Northwest tomorrow for 10 days to hopefully snowboard down some volcanos! My recent life philosophy in tough economic times: when work is slow, play fast! (But don’t drive too fast!) I have a laptop now so perhaps I’ll post some pics during the trip.
In other news, I just realized (after two months) that in addition to the article that Cowboys & Indians magazine published about me and my photography in their March 2010 issue, they also published a web-exclusive interview on their website. Check it out: Jack Brauer: behind the lens.
Kismet from Mt. Sneffels’ Lavendar Col.
Sneffels summit view, May 2010. Had a nice snowboard ride down on firm but smooth snow, through a long curvy couloir off the south side.