Mt. Sneffels shadow, Teakettle on the right, Cirque Mountain in the center.
With warm September temperatures and a gorgeous clear blue sky, yesterday afternoon I hiked up Mt. Sneffels to watch the sunset from the 14,156 ft. summit. Though I could have driven my truck to the upper trailhead, I decided to start from the lower trailhead because there was no hurry and I needed the exercise anyways. I hiked up to Blue Lakes Pass then took the southwestern ridge route to the summit, a fun scrambly route that I’d never done before. I relaxed for a couple hours up on top, had fun taking photos of the sunset and the post-sunset glow, then made my way down the standard route via headlamp and a quarter-moon.
This was the fourth time I’ve summited Sneffels, but it was the first time I’ve seen the sunset up there, and the first time I’ve hiked it without crampons and a springtime snowpack.
Here’s a link to some photos from a previous hike I did up Sneffels for the sunrise, via moonlight.
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!
[+] 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.
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.
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.