The snow keeps coming here in Colorado! I’ve been getting after it lately, splitboarding just about every chance I can get. My lack of recent posts here is simply due to a lack of good photos to share; we’ve mostly been skiing in the trees where the avalanche danger isn’t so severe. On tap: more snow, more riding, and perhaps even a hut trip next week! What a great winter so far…
Winter continues to produce here in southwest Colorado; the last series of snowstorms dumped another 3 feet of snow across much of the San Juans! On Friday and Saturday we scored some fantastic powder days at Wolf Creek ski area in what is becoming an annual early season pilgrimage. I could be wrong but I think that right now Wolf Creek and the San Juans have more snow than anywhere else in the country! Pretty awesome for November in Colorado. To see how much more snow there is this year so far, compare these photos to how bare it was at the same time last year!
On Monday the storm broke and we enjoyed a glorious bluebird day up on the pass, where Claudia put all her recent powder training to good use. I continue to be impressed and excited about her skiing progression; she’s definitely getting the hang of skiing powder!
The snowpack is very reactive right now so we chose mellow routes to ski yesterday. Remember, always read (and take heed of) the avalanche reports before venturing into the backcountry.
Dan and I (and his dog) went out this morning to track up some more powder. Another storm should roll through soon… woohoo!
This morning Jeff and I went back out to enjoy some more of the early season powder. The last few days of snowstorms dumped a good amount of new snow in the higher San Juans, and the snowpack is now noticeably deeper than last time we went out.
Full-on winter conditions up high, with a cold wind and poor visibility in the foggy/snowy clouds.
Next step: bootpack up the left side of this mountain.
Upon reaching the top of our line, we waited as long as our patience could stand for the clouds to clear, but it seemed that the cloud was stuck on the mountain top. Finally we just had to go for it despite the poor visibility.
The lower we went, the better the visibility and the deeper the powder! Eventually we were arching high speed carves down the open basin.
Not too shabby for the 1st of November! I hope it keeps snowing until June.
Last night I pulled my splitboard out of the attic in anticipation of the first turns of winter. As we drove up the pass this morning everything was covered in frosty snow… what a glorious morning! I had to pull over and take a snapshot of the frosty aspens.
The snowpack looking a bit dubious on this southern slope on the way up.
Fortunately the north facing slopes were filled in with powder and looking good! Here’s Jeff getting in the groove. We just did one line but damn it was satisfying! I’m hoping for a good winter this season here in the San Juans after the last two crappy ones…
Hungry for an adventure, on Tuesday I hiked up to Blue Lakes in the Sneffels Range to camp out in the snow. Late autumn can be a good time for winter camping – kind of like “diet” winter camping since there’s less snow to deal with and usually less avalanche danger (*depending, of course). Also, road access to most trailheads is still possible, and if you time it right the alpine lakes aren’t frozen yet which can offer some nice photo opportunities.
The weather forecast called for a brief but intense snowstorm, with little or no wind! Perfect time to head out into the mountains. Sure enough, in the late afternoon just as I was setting up the tent the storm clouds rolled into the mountains and it started snowing in earnest. I fell asleep to the sound of snowflakes falling on the tent, cozy in my puffy down cocoon. In the middle of the night, around 2:30am, I woke up and saw moonlight shining on the tent. I poked my head out and saw a dreamlike scene as the storm clouds were lifting off the peaks and the fresh snow glistened in the moonlight. Of course I jumped out of the tent as fast as I could to photograph the moment!
Though the clouds still covered the peaks in the morning, eventually they gave way to crystal clear blue skies.
4th of July, I mean, Oktoberfest! Just like last year, Ouray had leftover fireworks since the 4th of July show was cancelled due to fire danger, so they shot them off for the Oktoberfest party instead.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no place like Ouray to watch (or listen to) fireworks! The booming echoes that reverberate around the mountain walls are incomparable.
Compare this photo with my shot of the fireworks last year, taken from the same perspective but much, much higher up!
Here’s a few photos from a quick drive and hike up Camp Bird Road above Ouray yesterday. So beautiful around here lately…
Unlike other mountain ranges in Colorado, the San Juans have a volcanic history. Around 35 million years ago this region was home to several dozen stratovolcanoes, similar to those in the present day Pacific Northwest. Then, starting about 30 million years ago the volcanism here was characterized more by massive circular calderas. Many of the mountains in the San Juans owe their uniquely rugged shapes to the eroded volcanic ash (tuft) that was deposited by all of this volcanism.
In the Uncompahgre Wilderness, with its craggy peaks rising out of vast tundra-filled basins, one can visualize this volcanic history more than in any other part of the range. While the specific geology is certainly more complicated, it’s easy to imagine Wetterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre Peak as the eroded lava plugs from ancient volcanoes.
14,015 foot tall Wetterhorn Peak feels kind of like a volcano when you’re hiking up it – it towers over the surrounding landscape. Here Claudia ponders geology during the spicy exposed scrambling section towards the summit. Continue reading “Wetterhorn Peak”