On Saturday I went on a quick overnight backpacking trip to Blue Lakes, under Mt. Sneffels. I’ve been to Blue Lakes before in May, with the peaks and lake smothered in snow, and I’ve been there in the summer, with the wildflower fields and lush green tundra. But I’ve never been there in September, and I was amazed at the beauty of the multicolored autumn tundra.
It was also great to get back up into the San Juans again after my last few weeks of laziness (and after my six weeks abroad before that). There’s something indescribable about these mountains that I just love so much. It’s hard to put my thumb on any one thing, it’s more just a feeling I get when I’m here. Perhaps I’ll try to explain this in some future rambling post.
After a fun evening of photography, I was then treated to an freakish all-night-long thunderstorm. The photo above is a stacked exposure of six shots, taken during five minutes at sunset. This same storm moved up into the mountains around my camp soon afterwards; imagine the nearly constant bolts like in this photo, but all around me in the high mountain basin! I didn’t sleep hardly a wink, but it certainly made for a memorable night!
I was fortunate to be able to squeeze in one last backpacking trip this week before I take off for Norway on Saturday. I camped up at Columbine Lake, a high alpine lake situated at 12,685 feet elevation, among the rolling tundra in the mountains between Silverton and Telluride. Though just a quick one-night trip, I had a lot of fun shooting photos and I think I came away some good ones.
I am getting really excited for my trip to Norway, but it’s still tough to leave Colorado right as it’s getting into the beautiful summer primetime here.
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.
[+] Aerial photo of Telluride, Colorado, from 37,000 feet.
I made sure to get a seat on the righthand side of the plane today for my flight from San Diego to Denver. Having flown this route many times, I knew that the south side of the plane always gets a great view of the northern San Juans, including Ouray and Telluride. Especially in the LARGER VERSION of the above photo you can see the town of Telluride nestled in its box canyon. You can see the slopes of the ski area above town, and Mt. Sneffels (14,156 feet) is the peak at lower left bottom.
[+] Shortly after the previous shot, I took this one, looking directly south up the Uncompahgre Valley, which cuts into the heart of the San Juan Mountains. The town of Ouray is deep in the center of this valley, though it’s too much in shadow to be seen clearly here. Red Mountain Pass curves up towards the right to Silverton and eventually to Durango. The Needle Mountains are the rugged and slightly snow-capped peaks way off in the distance. This photo, especially the LARGER VERSION shows what an immense ocean of mountains the San Juans are.
This morning I went for a hike to a somewhat random spot called Silver Basin, off Camp Bird Road near Ouray. I followed some snow-covered jeep roads through the forest to treeline, then straight-lined it up a steep tundra slope to a high ridgeline with a nice view of the south side of the Sneffels Range. It’s a good thing I got out this morning; now it’s pouring rain again down here in Seattle… uh, I mean Ouray.
Illuminescent plant. It looks like a flower, but really it’s a green plant. I couldn’t resist inverting the colors in Photoshop!
[+] Looking up the upper Camp Bird Road and the south side of the Sneffels Range. From left to right: Gilpin Peak, Mt. Sneffels, Cirque Mountain, Teakettle Mountain, and Potosi Peak.
Today I hiked to the top of the Bridge of Heaven, a high ridgeline over 4,000 feet above the town of Ouray. This is my favorite trail in the Ouray area, with breathtaking vistas of all the mountains and valleys surrounding Ouray. The weather was threatening to storm all day, but nothing ever came of it except of bit of chilly wind and a few stray snowflakes. Here’s a couple photos from the hike.
The tundra around 12,000 feet still needs some time before it turns green; the snow is melting fast though. Sneffels Range in the background.
I had fun playing around with the Olympus 7-14mm lens. I look forward to experimenting more with these kinds of close-up, ultra-wide perspectives. This image was shot at 7mm, f/18, and the front of the lens was probably only an inch or so from the leaves.