Snowpack Dust Pollution

Snowpack with Dust Layer

Today I hiked and snowboarded down Mt. Sneffels (see the riding photos in the next post). Here’s the classic view looking from the summit into Blue Lakes Basin. Notice all the ugly brown snow?

When it’s windy in the western states, dust blows from the deserts and ends up smothering the mountains. It’s a phenomenon that has probably happened naturally through the ages, but has become much worse in recent decades due in part to large scale grazing which erodes the desert soils. I’ve even heard that some of the dust blows all the way across the Pacific from huge dust storms in China!

In any case, the dust has a terrible effect not only on the snowpack but on the entire watershed. The dark dust absorbs much more solar radiation than pure white snow, causing a rapid meltdown of the snowpack. In heavy snow years like this year, it could cause flooding problems. In light snow years, it can cause premature meltdown, leading to drought conditions during the summer.

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Mt. Sneffels Descent

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.

Snowboarding down Sneffels
[+] Parker McAbery snowboards down Mt. Sneffels.

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Memorial Day Ride

Windy and unsettled weather up on the pass today. We did a nice long route that I’ve had in mind for the last few months. The mountains in this area form big broad basins above treeline, offering mellow skinning up above 13,000 feet. We splitboarded up one basin and rode down an entirely different one.

Skinning above treeline
[+] Fortunately the wind was to our backs during the whole hike up.

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Late May Powder Day

Jeff and I were pleasantly surprised to find some fresh powder this morning up in Yankee Boy Basin. Not a whole lot of powder, but powder nonetheless. The surface below was fairly soft and the new 4-5 inches of snow was pretty well bonded, providing some great cruisey late season pow turns.

Camp Bird Road snowpack
[+] Making progress on plowing Camp Bird Road. It’s almost to the spring trailhead now. What a snowpack!

Skiing by Sneffels
[+] Jeff Skoloda skis some powder with Mt. Sneffels behind.

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Skiing Kismet

On Saturday some friends and I skied/snowboarded down Kismet, a 13,694 foot peak neighboring Mt. Sneffels. A solid overnight freeze, bluebird skies, and perfectly smooth snow made for a dreamy high-speed cruiser descent.

Gilpin Peak
[+] Skinning up Kismet, with Gilpin Peak, also 13,694′, in the background.

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Cathedral’s Pearl

On Friday I met my friends to hike and ride the Pearl Couloir on Cathedral Peak, a rugged 13,943 ft. mountain in the Elk Mountains near Aspen, Colorado.

Cathedral Peak, Aspen, Colorado
[+] Approaching the Pearl Couloir, which is the curving chute above Ann’s head in this photo. Though the weather was cloudy and threatening to storm, and we knew the snow conditions wouldn’t be optimal, we decided to head up the couloir anyways.

Pearl Couloir, Cathedral Peak
[+] Bootpacking up the steep Pearl Couloir.

Pearl Couloir, Cathedral Peak
[+] The last section up to the summit ridge was very steep, requiring some nerve-wracking scrambling up rocks and very steep snow.

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Trust for Public Land – Wilson Peak

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, Colorado

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.

You can read the online version of the article here.

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Skiing Abrams Mountain

Abrams Mountain is the big pyramid-shaped peak that you see towering at the head of the Ouray valley as you drive in from the north. Today we skied/snowboarded a fun 3,000-foot line down this mountain. There’s so much snow up in the high country still; we’ll be skiing into July probably. Here’s some pictures.

Hiking Abrams Mountain
[+]

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Skiing the Raggeds

On Sunday we skied/rode a great line in the Ragged Mountains of Colorado. This line provided a healthy 4,000+ vertical feet of skiing/snowboarding, from the summit to the road.
Many of these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Springtime snow hiking
Hiking to the summit, which a big Elk Range backdrop.

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Davenport’s Ski the 14ers book

Ski the 14ers

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.

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