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:
I just unearthed this photo taken back in February 2006. This is the view of Mt. Massive (center) and the Sawatch Range, as seen from the 14,440 foot summit of Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado.
I had hiked up Mount Elbert in the afternoon, knowing that the clear skies and full moon would provide plenty of light to make my way down at night. The evening turned out to be one of my most memorable summit experiences ever; the air was perfectly calm, I had warm clothes on, and I spent over three peaceful hours relaxing on the summit in the twilight and moonlight. During my time up there I also took what is perhaps my favorite photo to date, “Elbert’s Moonshadow”.
Both photos were taken with the 4×5 camera, with Provia film.
Mt. Sneffels shadow, Teakettle on the right, Cirque Mountain in the center.
With warm September temperatures and a gorgeous clear blue sky, yesterday afternoon I hiked up Mt. Sneffels to watch the sunset from the 14,156 ft. summit. Though I could have driven my truck to the upper trailhead, I decided to start from the lower trailhead because there was no hurry and I needed the exercise anyways. I hiked up to Blue Lakes Pass then took the southwestern ridge route to the summit, a fun scrambly route that I’d never done before. I relaxed for a couple hours up on top, had fun taking photos of the sunset and the post-sunset glow, then made my way down the standard route via headlamp and a quarter-moon.
This was the fourth time I’ve summited Sneffels, but it was the first time I’ve seen the sunset up there, and the first time I’ve hiked it without crampons and a springtime snowpack.
Here’s a link to some photos from a previous hike I did up Sneffels for the sunrise, via moonlight.
This weekend I went on a little road trip to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe, Colorado, to meet up with a friend for some camping and hiking around South Colony Lakes. The lakes are situated at the foot of three 14ers, making them a perfect basecamp for several days worth of hiking.
The weather was grim during our first two days, with rain, hail, lightning, thunder, and relentless Patagonia-esque winds. On the third day, however, I woke up at 2:30am to clear starry skies, so I jumped out my sleeping bag, got my stuff together, and started hiking via headlamp up to Broken Hand Peak, hoping to get a sunrise shot of the Crestone Needle fourteener from the neighboring summit. After some tricky routefinding around some cliffs and up some snowfields, I made it to the summit at about 5:00, and witnessed a spectacular sunrise from the top.
After the Broken Hand Peak hike, I made my way back down to the lake where my friend was hanging out, and since the morning was still showing great blue-sky weather, we decided to hike up Humboldt Peak, another nearby 14er. Having just climbed one mountain, I wasn’t expecting to immediately go do another one, but I was feeling good and perhaps still had some more pent-up energy after the two previous stormy days. The weather held out, and we got to the summit around 11:30am along with about 20 other happy hikers.
On Saturday I camped up in Blaine Basin, with Mt. Sneffels towering above. That evening, I hiked up to the summit of Peak 12,910, which has an incredible vantage point directly facing the rugged north face of Sneffels. I’ve hiked to many different vantages around Mt. Sneffels, and I think this one is the best!
What an amazing hike this morning! After catching a few ZZZs, I woke up and got out of bed at 1am, hiked up Mt. Sneffels under a brilliant full moon, and topped out on the 14,156′ summit at 4:15am. The air was really calm and not that cold, and I had plenty of time to relax on the summit before the dawn light, enjoying the massive vista of moonlit peaks. Once the sun started rising, the photography was fast and furious, and I got some good large format shots with the 4×5. Now I’m off to Boulder for my friends Santos and Jill’s wedding.
This morning my friends Parker and Aimee and I hiked up and snowboarded down Mt. Sneffels, the iconic fourteener above Ridgway and Ouray. Oddly, this was only my second time on this local 14er; the first time was way back in June 2005 when I rode down a different line, also with Parker and Aimee.
I am pleased that the Trust for Public Land recently published a magazine article about Wilson Peak featuring one of my photos of this iconic mountain near Telluride. I am even more pleased that access to Wilson Peak has been secured by the Trust for Public Land after years of being blocked by a Texan developer.
Wilson Peak is one of Colorado’s most beautiful and most recognized peaks, and in 2007 a Texan real estate developer who owned some mining claims below the mountain closed access to the standard hiking route (all other routes involve much more dangerous mountaineering). After negotiations with the National Forest Service made no progress, The Trust for Public Land stepped in and was able to purchase critical portions of the property in order to reopen and protect public access.
In 2006 – 2007, within the span of one year, Aspen skiier Chris Davenport skied down ALL of Colorado’s 54 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet). You can read all about this epic project on Chris’s website: SkiThe14ers.com.
Chris had a bunch of filmers and photographers join him for many of the climbs and descents, and they made a 42 minute movie about the quest. Unfortunately the US Forest Service won’t let him release the movie because of some technicalities about filming permits.
So, I was super excited last week to hear that Chris published a coffee table book about the project, and I bought it soon thereafter. I knew this book would not only get me pumped on the spring riding season which is pretty much upon us; but it would also provide me with some inspiration for ski photography. Indeed, the book is full of amazing ski photography by Christian Pondella and Ted Mahon, among others. It’s also got a good amount of text to read about Chris’s experiences on each mountain.