[+] Here’s some photos from a flight today over the Colorado Rockies, from Denver to Montrose. I had a window seat on the south side of the plane, with good views of the Sawatch and Elk Mountains. I noticed that the snow became more and more dusty towards the west side of the mountains; the western-most peaks were completely smothered in orange/brown dirt.
This afternoon I got out for a four hour hike above Ouray. The trails around here are mostly dry, at least on all but the most northerly facing slopes. I did a nice bushwhack hike to the top of a peak that I always see from my house, complete with a slightly hairy scramble to the top of some big outcropped rocks. It felt so good to get out hiking in summer weather, especially after being cooped up at the computer for a few weeks. It always amazes me how much simple exercise improves my mental health.
P.S. – I boosted the contrast on this photo to make it a little more viewable… the camera doesn’t do so well in flat sunny afternoon light like this.
Yesterday I scoped out some nice lines that were still full of all white snow, so this morning Dan and I went up to test it out. The snow was actually surprisingly good, like proper spring corn – fairly soft and smooth.
This morning I got out for some skiing/snowboarding with some visiting German friends of a friend of a friend. There is still a little bit of white snow partially covering up the horrendous Arizona dust that smothered our mountains these last few months, so the riding was still ok. Crossing the zebra patterned snow was pretty funky… the white snow smooth and fast, then the brown snow sticky and slow. At times it felt like riding down sand dunes. I’m afraid that unless we get another late season dump, the ski season here in the San Juans is pretty much done since the dust is already starting to ravage the snowpack.
Corbett covered in fresh snow this evening, as seen from the north end of Ouray, Colorado. Corbett is the eastern-most peak of the Sneffels Range.
It’s been snowing all day today, and the storm broke right before sunset. It almost looked like it would be a spectacular sunset, but the clouds didn’t lift quite enough. Too bad, since I was all set up with the 4×5. Maybe next time.
Paul and I got out this morning for a quick powder sampling. Though only a day old, the powder is firming up fast. This late in the season you’ve got the get the powder while it’s fresh… it doesn’t last long, even on north aspects. But it was still good to ride, despite the fact that I guided us down the wrong chute (the one that had tracks in it already – I hate crossing tracks!)
I’ve been wanting to winter camp up there for almost two years now, but have not had a good opportunity to do it yet. With heavy snows the last two days, and a forecast of clear skies for today, I knew the timing was right to get the shot of Ouray smothered in snow. The fact that I sacrificed two surely epic snowboarding pow days to do this trip shows how much I’ve been wanting to get up there to take these photos. But of course it’s always fun to get out and live in the elements every once in a while too.
Last spring I wrote a post about the snowpack dust pollution that is becoming so common every year in Colorado. As far as I can tell, it’s getting worse and worse. In the last few weeks, we’ve had a good set of storms coming through, bringing much welcome snow to the mountains. Unfortunately, along with the snow has come wave after wave of dust.
Today I noticed an eerie orangish glow from outside, and looking out the window I saw what could easily be mistaken for wildfire smoke. Brown dust-filled clouds are currently streaming in over the mountains. I have never seen anything like this before. It is utterly disgusting. The photo above was taken around 4pm today; the brown color is the color of the clouds – not sunset, not smoke, just clouds full of dirt.
Yet again we can kiss goodbye any chance of a prolonged spring skiing season, as the dust will surely wreak havoc on the late-season sun-baked snowpack.