Escape to the Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park, Needles District, Utah, Chesler Park
Chesler Park Sunset : Prints Available

An awesome sunset over Chesler Park in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (Sony A7R + Contax/Zeiss 35-70mm)

As winter drags on, there are times when no matter how good the snow is, all I can think about is getting out to the desert for some warm weather backpacking. Such was the case last week when Claudia and I drove over to Utah for four days of backpacking in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park south of Moab. And what a refreshing trip it was, with exciting weather and some fantastic light to photograph.

The trip also provided ample opportunity for me to test out my new Sony A7R 36mp camera matched up with my favorite Canon lenses. Since this is a popular new camera, and my first new professional camera in over four years, I’ll write a brief mini-review at the end of this post.

See LOTS more photos below! Continue reading “Escape to the Canyonlands”

A Winter Night above Ouray

Bridge of Heaven,Colorado,San Juan Mountains,camping,tent, Ouray, February

Eager to test drive a newly purchased camera, I headed out yesterday for a night of winter camping up on the “lower” Bridge of Heaven overlooking the town of Ouray, Colorado. I found a ridiculous spot to pitch my tent, right on the point of a precipitous rock outcropping! This airy perch provided a spectacular scene for tent photos, as well as an island of dry rock amongst the snow to cook and relax in ease.

Bridge of Heaven, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, Ouray, February, night, stars, tent, camping

The evening was calm and quiet at first, but once I got into my sleeping bag the wind whipped up and shook the tent all night long. Though I knew the tent was solidly anchored down with rocks, the unnerving ruckus kept me awake most of night anyways.

Bridge of Heaven,Colorado,San Juan Mountains,camping,tent, Ouray, February, sunrise

The morning brought a colorful sunrise along with a quick morning snowstorm before I packed up and headed back down. Thanks to Steven from Texas whose infectious enthusiasm to get out for some winter hiking ended up inspiring me to get out and make the trip!

February Powder Days

Colorado, Red Mountain Pass, San Juan Mountains, skiing, February, powder
Skier: Dan Chehayl

Are you sick of all the powder shots I keep posting here? I hope not, because here’s a dozen more! With a low workload recently – along with loads of fresh powder in the mountains – I’ve managed to get out on the splitboard/snowboard for 6 of the last 7 days, scoring some of the best turns of the winter so far! LOTS more pow shots below… Continue reading “February Powder Days”

Snow and Stars in Ouray

Ouray, Colorado, San Juan Mountains, stars, panorama, winter
Ouray Starry Night : Prints Available

The lights of Ouray, Colorado illuminate the snow-smothered mountains of the Uncompahgre Gorge, as the stars and Milky Way shine overhead after a heavy winter snowstorm – February.

After nearly two weeks of dry sunny weather, a hefty storm rolled through Colorado on Thursday dumping over two feet of snow in the mountains! I enjoyed a stormy powder day snowboarding at Telluride on Friday, and look forward to getting out for some more powder turns soon. It seems as if the typical January dry spell is over, with several more storms are forecasted for next week!

Last night the storm broke and skies cleared, so at 10:30 I bundled up and drove a little ways up the road above Ouray to shoot some photos of the stars over the snow-smothered town. It was quite a magical scene, with perfectly calm, silent weather and everything sparkling with frosty crystals under the brilliant stars.

Powderfest at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut

Colorado, Fowler Hilliard Hut, Gore Range, January, moonlight, hut. 10th Mountain Division
Fowler Hilliard Moonlight : Prints Available

A full moon shines through breaking snowstorm clouds at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut in the southern Gore Range, Colorado – January.

It had been snowing for nearly three weeks straight in the northern mountains of Colorado. With the northwest storm flow forecasted to dump a few more heavy punches before finally clearing out, last week I checked the 10th Mtn. Division Huts schedule and to my delight I was able to make last minute reservations for three nights at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut, located on a snowy ridge in the mountains north of Leadville, south of Vail. Claudia and I spent a few nights there last spring and had a great time skiing the endless ski terrain around the hut. This trip was shaping up to be even snowier! Continue reading “Powderfest at the Fowler/Hilliard Hut”

Stormy Sunday

Skinning in a snowstorm

Over the last few days a series of northwesterly storms has pushed through Colorado and into northern San Juans. It would have been easy to miss this round, since the weather forecasts underestimated the snowfall amounts and it didn’t snow much at all down in town. But snow it did in the high country, dumping in excess of 20″ of fresh powder on the northern side of the range!

Colorado,San Juan Mountains, skiing
Skier: Don Moden

Yesterday Claudia and I plowed a trail through the deep powder up one of my favored mountains, but after all that work we only had time for one run. So this morning Jeff, Don, and I headed into the howling storm to take advantage of the skin track and lap a couple more lines.

Colorado,San Juan Mountains, skiing
Skier: Jeff Skoloda

Incredible snow… All that fresh powder was pretty reactive, so we stuck to the trees where it’s a bit safer.

Colorado,San Juan Mountains, skiing
Skier: Don Moden

Remember to always check the avalanche report before heading into the backcountry!

Powder Foraging

Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado
Skier: Adam Fisher

During the last several weeks the snowstorms that have been flowing though northern Colorado have barely made it down south to the San Juans, with a few inches here and there, all mixed up by strong winds. The high country is wind blasted, but there’s some good powder stashes to be found in the trees on northern aspects.

Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado

Adam and Parker and I managed to find some good fluffy lines to ride today!

Backcountry skiing in the San Juans, Colorado

2013 in a Nutshell

Ouray, San Juan mountains, Colorado, winter, panorama, dawn, february, lights
Ouray Winter Dawn Panorama : Prints Available

The lights of Main Street after a fresh snowfall in Ouray, Colorado on a clear February morning in the San Juan Mountains. The mountains to the right are illuminated by the setting moon.

As we start a new year, here’s a look back at my most memorable photos and adventures of 2013.

Powder, ski, San Juan Mountains, backcountry, Colorado
February Powder

Dan Chehayl skis deep powder in the San Juan backcountry.

The winter of 2013 ended up being a second disappointing winter season in a row here in the San Juans, with below average snowfall and above average avalanche danger. However, the month of February was an exception, bringing lots of powder with decent-enough stability to ride it.

yurt, stars, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, winter, march, night, snow
Yurt Under the Stars : Prints Available

A cozy backcountry yurt in the snow on a winter night in March – San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

In March Claudia and I went on a couple great backcountry ski trips – one to a friend’s yurt in the San Juans, and another trip in late March to a couple ski huts in the southern Gore Range. Claudia did her first good tree skiing on this trip; it’s been a joy to watch her powder skiing skills progress!

Parsons Landing, campfire, Catalina Island, California
Parsons Landing Campfire

Enjoying the warmth of a campfire on the beach at Parsons Landing – April.

In April we went on a road trip out to California to visit my grandma for her 100th birthday! We continued on to trek the 45-mile Trans Catalina Trail across the entire Catalina Island – a place I loved visiting with my family when I was growing up, and which I was excited to show Claudia. It was quite a novelty for us to backpack on an island and camp on beaches!

slot canyon, Zebra, Escalante National Monument, Utah
Zebra Slot : Prints Available

The famous Zebra Slot – not very deep or long, but one of the most photogenic slot canyons in Utah.

On the way back we spent a long week in the canyons of Utah, mainly in the Escalante and Capitol Reef regions, doing great day hikes every day and camping in our new truck each night. (The month before, I managed to roll our old truck off an icy road – fortunately we weren’t hurt at all, though the truck was totaled).

Owl Creek Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Utah, camping, stars, canyon
Canyon Camping : Prints Available

Camping under the stars in Owl Creek Canyon, Utah.

We returned to Utah in May for a wonderful backpack trip through Fish and Owl Creek canyons in Cedar Mesa.

Mt. Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, sunset, alpenglow
Alpenglow on Mt. Sneffels : Prints Available

Sunset light illuminates the 14,150 ft. summit of Mt. Sneffels, as seen from a high ridgeline in June, San Juan Mountains.

By June the meager snowpack in the San Juans had pretty much already melted out, enabling us to go on a number of high alpine backpacking trips a month earlier than usual (and also enabling huge wildfires to burn much of the southeastern San Juans). We camped up on a high ridge of Mt. Sneffels; summited Whitehouse Mountain, an obscure peak high above Ouray; and climbed Wetterhorn Peak from Wetterhorn Basin.

Allgäuer Alps, Germany, hiking
Mindelheimer Klettersteig Trail

Allgäuer Alps, Germany.

After much preparation and anticipation, in July we flew to Europe for 3 months of vacation. After visiting Claudia’s family in Dresden for a couple weeks, we rode the train down to Oberstdorf in southern Germany and went on an amazing hut trek through the Allgäuer Alps with her friends Susanne and Dominik.

Rappensee, Allgäuer Alps, Germany, wildflowers, sunset, Kleiner Rappenkopf, reflection
Rappensee : Prints Available

Wildflowers and a pleasant sunset at Rappensee, with a reflection of the Kleiner Rappenkopf (2276m). Allgäuer Alps, Germany.

Lechtal Alps, Austria, Dremelspitze, Hanauer Hütte, sunset, reflection
Dremelspitze Reflection : Prints Available

Brilliant sunset light illuminates Dremelspitze (2733m), as seen from above the Hanauer Hütte.

Our next big trek was through the fantastic Lechtal Alps just across the border in Austria. By now I was really enjoying the lightweight hut-to-hut trekking style that is so readily available in the Alps.

Dolomites, Italy, Tre Cime, Lavaredo, Drei Zinnen
Tre Cime Dawn : Prints Available

Dawn glow illuminates Tre Cime di Lavaredo / Drei Zinnen (2998m).

In August we met up with Claudia’s father and brother for a fun-filled week of via ferrata climbing in the spectacular Dolomites in Italy.

Dolomites, Italy, via ferrata, Salvezza, Strada degli Alpini
Salvezza Chasm : Prints Available
Dolomites, Italy, Rosengarten, via ferrata, Laurenzi, Molignon
Laurenzi : Prints Available

Climbing along the ridgeline of Molignon during the Via Ferrata Laurenzi.

Claudia and I spent another week in the Dolomites, trekking through the Rosengarten range with some really challenging via ferrata climbing routes mixed in.

Dolomites, Italy, Vajolet, Torri del Vajolet, Rosengarten, sunset
Vajolet Towers Sunset : Prints Available

Brilliant sunset light illuminates the Vajolet Towers in the Rosengarten as misty clouds swirl off the peaks.

Zugspitze, Wetterstein, Germany, klettersteig
Looking Down Zugspitze

After leaving the Dolomites, we went back to Bavaria to climb Zugspitze, the tallest peak in Germany. We took the classic Höllental route, which gains over 7,200 vertical feet, much of which is a long sustained via ferrata (or klettersteig in German) cabled climbing route.

Zugspitze, Wettersteingebirge, Germany, summit, sunset
Zugspitze Summit Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset light as seen from the summit Zugspitze (2962m), the highest mountain in Germany.

Pic du Midi d'Ossau. Lac Gentau, Refuge d'Ayous, Pyrenees, France
Lac Gentau Reflection : Prints Available

Dusk reflection of Pic du Midi d’Ossau in Lac Gentau near the Refuge d’Ayous in the Pyrenees, France – September.

Our final adventure in Europe was a September trek through the Pyrenees along the border of France and Spain. We intended to hike from hut to hut for three weeks in this range; however, unfortunately after one week Claudia took a scary tumble and broke her sternum, earning us a helicopter ride out and a couple nights in a French hospital. We had big plans to spend the months of October and November trekking in the Himalaya in Nepal, but with Claudia’s injury there was no question that we had to cancel that part of the trip. Although it was a disappointing setback, it’s all good… we hope to go there this next year instead, and I’m just extremely grateful that Claudia is ok (she’s totally healed now).

Blue Lakes, Sneffels, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, winter, camp, tent, snow, moonlight
Blue Lakes Winter Moonlight : Prints Available

Winter camp in the snow above lower Blue Lake, Sneffels Range, Colorado – October.

Back home in southwest Colorado, we have been treated with abundant early season snow, and this winter has already been far superior to the previous two!

skiing, San Juan Mountains, Colorado, December
Bluebird Pow Pow

Skier: Chris Cover

For 2014, I’m hoping that it snows nonstop until May and look forward to lots more splitboarding action, ski hut trips, and probably some winter camping at some point. In the spring I’m sure we’ll get out to the Utah desert for some backpacking and car camping road tripping. For this next summer we are excited that Claudia’s father and family are coming to visit us here, and we’ve also been talking about backpacking in the Cascades in Washington and the Wind Rivers in Wyoming… maybe even work our way up into Canada… who knows… As usual, I’m always dreaming and I want to do it all! In the autumn we are hoping to finally get over to the Himalaya to trek the routes we had planned on doing this last year. 2014 promises to be as adventurous as 2013, maybe even more so!

Finally, I want to give a warm THANK YOU to everybody who reads my blog and who has supported my habits by purchasing my prints and licensing my photos. I truly appreciate it!


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