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.

Ice Skating on Ice Lakes

Colorado, Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, ice skate, ice skating, November

Ann and Collett ice skating on Ice Lake, San Juan Mountains, Colorado – November.

Colorado, Ice Lakes, San Juan Mountains, ice skate, ice skating, November

Collette ice skates on Ice Lake.

Yesterday I joined my friend Ann Driggers and her friend Collette to head up to Ice Lakes for a high altitude alpine ice skating session! Though I don’t have ice skates myself (and was quite jealous of them flying around on the turquoise ice), it was still super fun to just shuffle around on the ice in my boots and take photos of them. Ice skating seems like a great silver lining for low snow early winters like it has been in the San Juans so far.

Autumn in the Dolomites

Dolomites, Italy, Monte Civetta, November
Civetta Sunset : Prints Available

A spectacular sunset on Monte Civetta in the Dolomites, Italy.

In late October and early November, Claudia and I traveled to the Dolomites in northern Italy for two weeks of hiking amongst jagged peaks and golden larch trees. I’ve spent time the Dolomites in the summer and winter before but was excited to visit during the autumn when the larch trees turn yellow and orange. Continue reading >>

Valldemossa, Spain

Mallorca, Spain, Valldemossa, October
Cathedral in Valldemossa : Prints Available

Morning light on a cathedral in Valldemossa. Mallorca, Spain.

In mid-October we traveled to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, Spain, for a week of holiday with some of Claudia’s family. Though Mallorca is most known for its beaches, we opted to stay in Valldemossa, a quaint old village full of narrow cobblestoned streets nestled in a valley at the foot of the mountains. Continue reading >>

Autumn in the San Juans

Cimarrons, Colorado, San Juan Mountains, aspens, Courthouse Mountain, Chimney Rock, autumn
Cimarron Light Show : Prints Available

Fantastic sunset light illuminates golden aspens, Chimney Rock, and Courthouse Mountain in the Cimarron Range, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

The fall colors in the San Juan Mountains have been beautiful this season, though the persistent clear blue skies have put somewhat of a damper on the photographic potential. But it’s always glorious to walk through colorful aspen groves regardless of the weather, and we did have a few short windows of more interesting skies and light to enjoy. See my favorite photos from this October in the northern San Juans near Ridgway and Ouray here: See the photos here >>

2 Weeks in Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah, Escalante
Red Swirls : Prints Available

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

In the second half of September we spent two weeks in one of our favorite canyon areas of southern Utah – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. During our first week we hiked through five different slot canyons, some of which were the narrowest slot canyons I’ve ever hiked (or squeezed) through! After that we repeated two of our favorite backpack trips through Coyote Gulch and Death Hollow, each 3-day journeys through magnificent spring fed canyons. See all the photos here >>

Wind River Range West Side Trek

Bridger Wilderness, Dragon Head Peak, Mount Bonneville, Nylon Peak, Pronghorn Peak, Wind River Range, Wyoming
Blue Symmetry : Prints Available

Jagged peaks of the central Wind River Range reflect in a remote, high lake.

In early September I backpacked for 10 days in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. This was my fourth long backpack trip in these fantastic mountains, but this time I did a one-way shuttle trek along the western side of the range through the Bridger Wilderness starting from the Elkhart Park trailhead and ending at Big Sandy to the south. Along the way I was able to visit a number of remote basins that I’ve been wanting to see for many years, but are generally a bit too difficult to get to with a standard loop or out-and-back trip. Continue reading >>

Timmermade Wren False Bottom Sleeping Bag Review

Timmermade Wren Sleeping Bag Top
Timmermade Wren False Bottom sleeping bag custom printed with my Stars Over Wetterhorn photo.

Several years ago my wife and I replaced our two-zippered-together-mummy-bags sleeping bag setup with a Feathered Friends Spoonbill double bag. This was a game changer for our frequent backpacking trips, reducing our sleeping bag weight from over 4 pounds down to an incredible 2.5 lbs with the same or even better warmth. How was this possible? The secret is the false bottom. Since down insulation is mostly compressed (and thus useless) when you’re laying on top of it, you might as well just get rid of it altogether on the bottom! This is what Feathered Friends did with the Spoonbill – the top and sides are full of high loft 950-fill down, while the bottom is simply a thin fabric sheet. The result is a massive weight savings without hardly any warmth penalty (assuming you have a decently warm mattress).

Recently while rethinking my solo backpacking setup, I wondered if I could cut some significant weight with a similar false bottom solo bag, instead of the normal standard mummy bag design I’ve been using for years. After extensive research I stumbled upon the Timmermade Wren false bottom sleeping bag. The specs boasted a 19oz weight for a 20º rated bag – impressive considering my 15º Western Mountaineering Apache bag weighs 33oz! Plus the pricing was competitive with comparable high end sleeping bag brands – also impressive considering that the Timmermades are custom tailored bags. After discussing some questions and options with the owner/maker Dan Timmerman we got the order rolling. What you see here are the results: the Timmermade Wren False Bottom sleeping bag, 20º rated, 950 fill down, 19oz (1lb 3oz), $420, with custom printed fabric.

Read on for my full review and impressions of this unique ultralight sleeping bag. Continue reading “Timmermade Wren False Bottom Sleeping Bag Review”

Smoky Reflections

Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, reflection
Smoky Needles Reflection : Prints Available

A smoky sunset on a warm August evening in the Weminuche Wilderness. The Needle Mountains show through the haze.

It’s been a beautiful summer in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado this year, with a long-melting snowpack, fantastic sunsets, lush greenery, and none of the wildfires and smoke that plagued us during last year’s super dry summer. So while we were camping near a remote lake in the Weminuche Wilderness last week, we were surprised when it got hazy and we started smelling wildfire smoke in the air. My fears of another devastating wildfire were relieved when I found out later on that it was just smoke from a large prescribed burn on the west side of the San Juans. Whew!

While the smoke robbed me of the typically crystal clear scenes, it did provide unique photographic conditions with the hazy light and soft pastel colors at sunset.

Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, reflection
Smoky Needles Dusk : Prints Available

Sunset light on Pigeon and Turret Peaks as seen from a remote lake in the Weminuche Wilderness.

By morning the haze had cleared and interesting cotton candy clouds motivated me to get out my cozy sleeping bag to go shoot sunrise too!

Colorado, Needle Mountains, Pigeon Peak, San Juan Mountains, Turret Peak, Weminuche Wilderness, reflection
Cotton Candy Sunrise Reflection : Prints Available

Cotton candy clouds at sunrise above the Needle Mountains.

Roaming the Uncompahgre

Colorado, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Wetterhorn Basin, Wetterhorn Peak, wildflowers
Wetterhorn in Candyland : Prints Available

Rich sunset light on Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 ft.) amidst a glorious field of Indian Paintbrush wildflowers. San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

Colorado, Dragonsback, San Juan Mountains, Uncompahgre Wilderness
Dragon Dusk : Prints Available

A long 20-second exposure captured the dusk glow on a rugged volcanic spire in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

During the first two weeks of August I revisited several of my favorite backpacking treks in the Uncompahgre Wilderness in the northern San Juan Mountains of Colorado, for a total of 8 days of hiking through a good portion of the wilderness. See all the photos here >>