The moon shines through some funky clouds above Hayden Peak, as seen from my front door in Ouray, Colorado.
During the last three days, I bushwhacked through the Cow Creek valley, a rugged and remote mountain valley in the Uncompahgre Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains east of Ridgway. My original plan was to hike through the valley and continue up to the high alpine zone, where I would hike a high loop route around to Wetterhorn Basin and then take a trail back to my truck. However this plan was thwarted by geography – the Cow Creek valley is absolutely impassible six miles up, forcing me to turn around and bushwhack all the way back out the way I came.
This photo shows a sample of the kind of terrain and bushwhacking I was dealing with the entire time. There are many obstacles along the river which forced me to constantly hike up and down through thick bush and forest and along steep, loose, rocky slopes. Over the three days, I spent 23 hours of tough hiking to cover a mere 12 miles round trip, for an average of about 0.5 miles/hour! I can think of a few words to describe this bushwhack; it was brutal, tedious, frustrating, demoralizing, maddening, hellish, unrewarding, exhausting, etc, etc.
Below are some more photos from this fruitless exploration.
[+] Dusk in Ouray, Colorado as seen from the Sutton Mine Trail.
[+] Sunset behind Potosi Peak, 13,786 ft., as seen from the Hayden Trail above Ouray, Colorado. Although it’s only the fourth tallest peak in the Sneffels Range, Potosi dominates the southern side of the range, soaring 5,000 vertical feet above Canyon Creek and Camp Bird Road. It’s a forbidding seldom-climbed peak, surrounded by sheer cliffs and rugged canyons. Read more about Potosi Peak on SummitPost.org.
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.
Sunset light in the pines near the Portland Trail overlook above Ouray, Colorado.
Just got back from a three day rafting and fly fishing trip through the Gunnison Gorge, a 14 mile stretch of the Gunnison River downstream of the famous Black Canyon in Colorado. Due to this winter’s record snowfalls, the river was flowing at more than double the normal flow, and the normally emerald green water was a murky brown color full of silt. Also, we were too early for the famous stonefly hatch, which is unusually late this year. Unfortunately, these abnormal conditions put a serious damper on the fishing action. Despite the slow fishing, the trip was still fun just to raft through this spectacular canyon and to camp along the river with my dad and our buddies, with the deluxe camps provided by Rigs.
See many more photos from our trip below.
[+] Sunrise alpenglow on the peaks above Yankee Boy Basin, San Juan Mountains, Colorado.
This last Monday I woke up at 2am, drove up to Yankee Boy Basin, and hiked in the dark via headlamp up to the ridgeline of Cirque Mountain, a 13-thousand footer with a nice view of neighboring Mount Sneffels. With a solid overnight freeze, the snowpack was hard as a rock and the hiking was easy with my crampons. Dawn was just starting to break when I got to my destination, so I put on all my layers, put the hand warmers in my gloves, and hunkered down behind a big rock out of the chilly wind while I waited for the sunrise.
Here’s a few digital shots of the sunrise. You can see my large format shot here.
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.