With our San Juans still covered in quite a bit of snow up high, earlier this week we drove east for 3 nights of backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where the snow is mostly gone and summer backpacking season is well underway.
We camped the first night up near treeline below Mt. Lindsey, a fourteener I have not yet climbed. Feeling motivated, I set my alarm for 3:00am in order to hike up to the 13,400 foot summit of the “Iron Nipple” (seriously) for sunrise. This rugged peak offered a great vantage point to watch the sunrise light on Blanca Peak, the monarch of this mountain range.
The Great Sand Dunes in southern Colorado are perhaps the most unique landscape in the Rockies, with 700-foot tall sand dunes nestled at the foot of 13,000-foot mountains. Winds that blow across the vast San Luis Valley carry sand grains which become trapped by the towering Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and the streams that flow out of the mountains keep the sand in one place, resulting in the tallest dunes of North America.
Last week we spent 3 days trekking around and through the Great Sand Dunes. Similar to a trek I did back in March 2009, in which I circumnavigated the entire dunefield, we hiked up the Sand Ramp Trail along the east side of the dunes, then this time instead of circling around the entire dunes we cut directly through the dunes from north to south back to our starting point.
My partner for the day was Karl, our new friend from Germany who we randomly met and skied with the previous day. We left the truck at sunrise in order to get up and down the mountain before the hot May sun nuked the snow.
What a glorious day to be up high in the San Juans! There’s no denying by now that Mt. Sneffels has to be one of my favorite peaks in the world.
And there’s no better way to enjoy a favorite peak than to ski/snowboard down it!
Today marks my (and also Charlie’s) seventh day out splitboarding in a row. This last week since the big dump has been one of the best continuous stretches of snowboarding that I can remember… and it’s not over yet!
Today we climbed and rode down another big 13er in the neighborhood.
P e r f e c t snow conditions today – old powder in the transition to pure spring corn snow, soft and smooth for high speed carving.
During yesterday’s splitboard tour, I could see that the big north couloir of Gilpin Peak was in the best shape I’ve ever seen it, full of smooth snow without any chunder. This line has been on my wish list for years, and Charlie, Dan, and I decided to come back today to track it up.