Three Random Pet Peeves, #2

Crowd at Jurassic Park. Cherry Creek Mall, Denver, Colorado, 2016
Crowd at Jurassic Park. Cherry Creek Mall, Denver, Colorado, 2016 (Careful kids, it’s a jungle out there!)


Three more for my ongoing, low-grade feud with the world as I sometimes find it…

1 – Audio ads at the gas pumps. You pull the nozzle to fill your car gas tank and it immediately starts blaring, “Did you know you could save as much as 3% on each fuel purchase if you stand on your head and whistle Dixie?”. I can’t find that damn mute button fast enough.

2 – Cigarette butts on the ground. Since when did cigarette butts get to be an exception to the litter rule? I have even seen them on belay ledges on the Northwest Face of Half Dome…and on backcountry wilderness trails, of all places.

3 – Hard, tasteless fruit at the grocery store. I saw some peaches at the local Queen Poopers advertised as “sweet and juicy” and they were as hard as a Yosemite boulder. To buy them is to take a risk–will they eventually soften? Or will they just turn to rotten mush? Even the softer fruits–blueberries, raspberries, and so on–are often completely tasteless, despite their plump appearance. Please, I don’t care if they look a little battered, just bring back the original taste!

Colorado Summits: Old Baldy, South/North Arapaho Peaks Traverse (Summer)

Classic Colorado. Arapaho Glacier Trail, Colorado, 2016
Classic Colorado. Arapaho Glacier Trail, Colorado, 2016 (Mt. Jasper and Mt. Neva are the two peaks on the right. North and South Arapaho Peaks are behind my right shoulder.)


“I seen prettier places. Not too many.” –Camp Counselor Carl


I can’t believe I have been rooted in Boulder all these years and, until today, had never tread upon the two Arapaho Peaks. Geez, you see them every time you drive west on Arapahoe Road in traffic-choked downtown Boulder, and from most other urban points as well, you’d think I would have hoisted my fanny perpendicular and marched up there much, much sooner!

Apart from their iconic position looming over our town, the entire hike itself is spectacular and I happened to pick a near flawless, “classic Colorado”, summer day to enjoy it (as above). A whole new playground of jagged snow-blotted peaks, high mountain lakes, alpine meadows, and tumbling waterfalls has just been revealed to me–and it is just an hour from home (well, to the trailhead, anyway)!

Ahhh’ll be back!

Some notes:

–Hiking by 3:30a.m., I summited the Sound of Music, meadow-like, Old Baldy for sunrise photos first, then made my way up jagged South Arapaho Peak to meet up with some friendly and buena honda folks who were planning the Traverse (alyssacait23, WishIWasInTheMts, hilo21, and Tornadoman). I big thanks to them for the moral support and the route finding assistance!

–Some hiking times for you–if you move at least at an average speed: Plan on an hour from the Fourth of July Trailhead to the turnoff onto the Arapaho Glacier Trail (at 2 miles), another hour to the saddle between South Arapaho and Old Baldy (Arapaho Glacier viewpoint), then another hour to summit South Arapaho. For bonus points, from the saddle below South Arapaho, a 15-20 minute trip up easy terrain will get you to Old Baldy’s summit just to the east. For the spectacular South-North Arapaho Traverse itself, plan on an hour each way under dry, summer conditions. Once back to South Arapaho Peak, getting down into the thicker air to your vehicle might take 2 1/2 hours or so, depending on how badly you wish to reward your orthopedic specialist.

–See 14ers dot com HERE for more specific beta than you really need. And, I highly recommend bergsteigen’s trip report for some great photos of key areas along the traverse.

Stats: Round trip, to climb South Arapaho, traverse to North, and return, is about 10 miles and involves some 3,300 vertical feet of climb/descent–excellent 14er prep! Add another mile and another 250 vertical feet if you include the Old Baldy option. Key Elevations: Old Baldy is 13,038′, South Arapaho is 13,397′, and North Arapaho measures 13,502′–the latter the highest peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness and the highest point on the Continental Divide north of I-70 (Longs Peak isn’t precisely on the Divide).

–The beautiful: A wonderful, spidery waterfall that crashes across the trail maybe a mile into the hike…the wildflowers that were everywhere at nearly all elevations (mid-July)…green tundra grasses…fat, furry marmots fed by said grasses…at least three semi-frozen alpine lakes (one is below Arapaho Peaks “Glacier”–look closely off to the south for the other two!)…and, of course, the top o’ the Divide views all the way from Pikes Peak and Mt. Evans/Bierstadt to the south, through Longs Peak to the north.

The Traverse: Follow the faded Arne Saknussemm arrows, the rock worn by many boots, and the intermittent packed dirt path whenever it appears. Also, refer to bergsteigen’s excellent report/pictures as mentioned above, along with my images. As others have noted, the slab that gets so much press is indeed a short low Class 4 crux, especially upon return as you have to scoot down to it with some exposure, but I didn’t find it particularly hard or scary. There were two other spots I would say were just as attention-getting…first, a 6-8 foot drop off right on the ridge that might catch you by surprise–just back up 20 feet or so and scramble down some short Class 4 to the west…second, a dirt chute leading up into a final notch before the summit of North Arapaho Peak (although this last can apparently be easily avoided–see notes with pictures below). This adventure would definitely be good prep for some of the Class 3 or 4 14er traverses or routes.

Arapaho Glacier: It is shrinking rapidly. One hundred years ago it was twice the size it is now.

Human beans: I stopped counting beans after I hit one hundred folks while on my way down–grand total was likely around 150. The vast majority were to be found down low in the first 1-2 miles of the hike. Up high on the mountain, as far as I could tell perhaps 20-25 folks did the traverse, or were planning on it, on this day (a Saturday). Eight of us collected at North Arapaho’s summit cairn at once and we were the earliest bunch there at around 9a.m.

–Your vehicle and parking: I saw mostly trucks and Colorado-issue Subarus at the end-of-the-road parking areas, although there were a surprising number of standard 4-door sedans mixed into the crowd. Just go slow and be careful with your Mom’s Honda Civic on the rough road! I had no problem parking right next to the trailhead signs at 3:30a.m., but the lot and the road were packed when I returned later in the day. Maybe try a weekday if you prefer solitude on this route.

Photography: I carried my three Nikkor lenses (14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/4), Nikon D800 body, tripod, and also the small-but-awesome Sony RX100iv–a good 12 pounds of photo gear in all. The idea was to use all the heavy, nice gear for sunrise and up to South Arapaho’s summit. For the traverse, I left my big pack and just carried the small Sony (24-70mm equivalent) around my neck/shoulder and, in a small daypack, the D800 with the 70-200mm attached. Online, you probably can’t tell which images were made with the big Nikon versus the tiny Sony–photo machines are pretty good these days.

For some selected images, with commentary… Click here!

2016 Presidential Election Prediction

Doudy Draw. Boulder, Colorado, 2016 (What the hell path are we on, anyway!?)
Marshall Mesa. Boulder, Colorado, 2016 (What the hell path are we on, anyway!?)


OK, I am going to scoot out on a dry, dead, diseased, and cracked branch here and make some predictions about where that path above might be leading us–knowing full well that some catastrophic world foolishness could toss me miles away from my current observational perch.

Here they are:

#1: Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency in an electoral landslide and by at least 10 points in the popular vote.

#2: Donald Trump wins somewhere between three and ten states.

#3: The Dems regain a majority in the Senate.

#4: The Dems also make gains in the House, but the Republicans retain a solid majority there.

#5: Merrick Garland is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice sometime between November 9, 2016 and January 20, 2017.

I’ll add a P.S. in the November-January time frame once all the manure dust settles.

[November 9, 2016 POSTSCRIPT: Well, I certainly have no career in political prognostication. I was wrong on all counts. See my blog posts of November 8, 2016 and November 9, 2016.]

14er Report #33: Snowmass Mountain and “North Snowmass” (Summer Conditions, East Slopes Route)

The Upper Mountain. Snowmass Mountain, Colorado, 2016 (NEVER put the subject in the center of a picture!)
The Upper Mountain. Snowmass Mountain, Colorado, 2016 (NEVER put the subject in the center of a picture! Or so they say… For the curious, Snowmass Mountain is the second major high point in from the right while North Snowmass is farthest right. We are aiming for the ridge just left of the cliff band in the center of the picture, the standard East Slopes Route.)


“When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men [and women!] spurs them to climb, and to seek the mountain view.”

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)

And what a view it was for our restless souls!

It requires burning a separate mountain of calories, but the joy I feel as I climb above treeline and into the high tundra world of delicate-but-fierce wildflowers, random sculpted boulders, and laced fields of melting snow, is a joy that knows no bounds. The ever-expanding view of a crazy world left behind, the clean and crisp air (albeit with a lower oxygen content!), the warning shriek of the fat and furry marmot, the rivulets of pure mountain ice water…the sharp rocky ridges which seem ever so much sharper and well-defined as they pierce the dark blue, high-altitude, sky…

It all conspires to make the heart sing! (Thus “The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music“, right? Oops, sorry to ruin the mood.)

But it is indeed true–one feels so much more alive and in the moment in such special places!

The objective of this particular trip–beautiful Snowmass Mountain–protects herself quite well from the Vibram soles of us human beans. Off in the middle of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, the peak is not readily seen from any major paved road–you must be prepared to walk a fair (or unfair, depending upon your perspective!) distance if you want the best view of its namesake ramparts.

To climb to the summit via the “normal” route in the typical fashion initially requires just over an 8-mile backpack up to a camp at 11,000′. The next day, to gain the very tippy-top, you’ll have to contend with head-high willows that whip you in the face, bountiful sections of boulder-hopping, slip-sliding away on steep scree, and titillating Class 3 scrambling on loose rock along an airy ridge. The long descent from the top of Snowmass Mountain back to your car is greater than the drop into the bottom of the Grand Canyon…oh, the sore feet!

It is no wonder, then, that Snowmass Mountain is often found somewhere near the top ten on the various lists of the most difficult Colorado 14ers.

For this adventure, and for safety and camaraderie, I teamed up with Frank, a new-found rock climbing buddy, expert skier, Outward Bound instructor, and spouse of a photographer friend. You’ll have to ask Frank, but I think we made a good team!

For the full report, along with a scree pile of images…

…click on, fellow adventurer!

Working the Scene at Boulder Falls

You have arrived on scene at your favorite landscape location. Now what do you do? How do you begin?

So, maybe you start with a typical wide view, taking everything in. After all, that is usually one’s first instinct. The contrast here in this example could have been difficult, though–note the dark rock walls below and the sunlit cliffs and bright clouds above. But, by exposing the highlights properly, then lifting the shadows in post, this example worked out satisfactorily (Nikon D800 file)…

Boulder Falls, #1. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016
Boulder Falls, #1. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016


Then, perhaps you decide to try the same scene in monochrome (and we already know I am always partial to this interpretation)…

Boulder Falls, #1. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016
Boulder Falls, #1. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016


Then you start trying different orientations…maybe a horizontal…

Boulder Falls, #2. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016
Boulder Falls, #2. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016

Next, you start to move in to capture the details with a tighter composition…

Boulder Falls, #4. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016
Boulder Falls, #4. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016


Maybe even a bit closer…

Boulder Falls, #5. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2016
Boulder Falls, #5. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016


Perhaps you even ignore what seems to be the main subject–the falls–and you start looking around for other interesting possibilities…

Boulder Falls, #7. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016
Boulder Falls, #7. Boulder Canyon, Colorado, 2016


Throughout the process, you can also experiment with different shutter speeds to see which might work best with the water–it will depend on the effect you are after, of course. You will also want to hit the shutter button multiple times, even with the exact same composition/settings, as the water will swirl and jump differently in each image. Later, you can select what you think is the best capture.

Very often (but not always), the best images will be the ones you make last. In this particular case, that notion held true–the last two photographs above are the ones I personally liked the most.

Just some thoughts on working a water landscape scene at Boulder Falls, the general principles of which could really apply to working any scene, from landscapes, to cityscapes, to portraits, to street photography.

[NOTE: The short trail to Boulder Falls is still closed pending repairs needed as a result of the 2013 flood.]