Colorado

14er Report #36: Handies Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions–Snow!, East Slopes Route)

Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017
Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017 (Both autumn and winter are approaching at the same time!)
 
Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever.
–Anon

With a pending move to Barcelona this year, I thought I might get motivated and finish the basic list of 58 14ers this year but, alas, ’twas not to be. Rock climbing seemed to be the outdoor priority for me this year. So, I guess I’ll be back from Spain for a month or two next year with the remaining 14ers in my sights! Who wants to join me?

This particular trip up Handies (and the one to follow, up Uncompahgre) was special in that I was able to team up with a very close friend from way, way, waaay back in junior high and high school days–Rik Fritz. In fact, he called me up and got me going back to the big mountains on this trip instead of the local rock climbing crag.

Rik is an amazing guy and really needs to write a book about his exploits with rattlesnakes, on Yosemite big walls, on long, high altitude, cross country flights in his hang glider, and on his seriously salty sailing adventures. He is definitely a man who has lived life to the fullest–and continues to do so. (See my near-death blog post from June 27, 2017, “The Fall” to catch a bit of what I mean.)

It was great to catch up with him and talk about all that “Back In The Day” stuff! Ahhh…the stories…the stories…and all included at least 10% truth!

Our initial goal for the 3-4 days we had available was to haul our fannies up Sneffels, Uncompahgre, and Wetterhorn, starting with the Class 3 scrambling route on this last one, “Weather Peak”. Handies wasn’t even on the list. But, ah, the best laid plans…In mid-to-late September in the Colorado Rockies, weather can be tricky and fickle pickle, as we quickly discovered.

A pounding, hours-long, cold rainstorm the night before–as we camped at the Wetterhorn/Matterhorn Trailhead–made us rethink things. There would surely be snow above and, sure enough, morning revealed a heavy coating on the high peaks tapering off finally at about treeline. Hmmm…best not to do exposed Class 3 scrambling on icy and snowy rock without the proper gear and attitude, we both said. So, instead of Wetterhorn, off to Handies we bounced in our 4×4 pickups–Handies would be a much easier peak, even with a wet, white blanket o’ schnee.

What follows, then, is what eventually transpired, to the best of my sometimes-faulty recollection, along with my usual merry montage of inspiring images…

…Click here for the rest o’ the story!

An iPhone Postcard Landscape

Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017
Ominous Flatirons. Boulder, Colorado, 2017

 

From the sea back to the high mountains… and a local iconic (cliché?) postcard landscape for you from just above the Boulder Bubble, aka The Friendly People’s Republic of Boulder.

With my D800 and my 24-70mm lens off at Nikon for repairs (they were dropped some time ago…both still worked, but were pretty banged up), it is the iPhone that I have with me most often these days.

REPAIR UPDATE: It appears that my D800 is coming back from Nikon as “unrepairable” This means I will have to use the thing sans battery door and with a small pointy object always handy to pry the battery out of its slot each time I need to charge or change it. The camera still makes good images, though, even with the bashed batt compartment.

Heavy Spring Snow on Sugarloaf Mountain!

With the latest storm moving out yesterday, I thought it might be an opportune time to hike up Sugarloaf Mountain. The idea would be to catch sunrise on the Continental Divide, maybe see the trees plastered with snow, and hopefully even get a nice undercast layer of writhing fog fingers caressing the low mountain valleys.

These photo trips never really pan out like you expect, though. On this morning, for example, there was no undercast and the Continental Divide peak tops were mostly obscured by cloud remnants from the recent storm. At least there were lots of snow-laden trees.

What really attracted me, though, were the huge snow sculptures and drifts at the summit–some of them hip deep. The driving wind, and thus blowing snow, helped give the images some unusual movement effects, even if it was difficult to keep the lens relatively spot-free. (Forget trying to actually change lenses!)

The hike up was through a smooth, fluffy coat of shin-deep powder snow.

First tracks are the best!

On to the images…

 

The magic moment. Another day quietly begins with orange plasma on the horizon and light pink on the snow at my feet:

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #2. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #2. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

Then the wind woke up and the early morning went full-on, roaring orange:

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #4. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #4. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #5. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #5. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

This was my favorite photograph of the day, a portrait of Longs Peak as the first rays of the sun hit the mountain. The wind was blowing directly into my lens, which made for some wonderful blurring and subtle colors in the foreground…but the flakes would quickly start filling up the spaces around the inside the lens shade. I cloned out a number of inconvenient spots from flakes that stuck themselves to the glass:

Sugarloaf, April Snow, #3. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, April Snow, #3. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

April in the Colorado High Country

There may be trees blossoming down in Boulder, but it is still looking like winter up above 9,000′ or so.

Here is a block print-like image of Dillon Lake I liked, made just a couple of days ago. It is definitely an experiment with unconventional composition.

Screw the rules (sometimes)!

Dillon Lake, April Contrasts. Dillon, Colorado, 2017
Dillon Lake, April Contrasts. Dillon, Colorado, 2017

 

And a few more monochrome images from the same general area of Colorado, all made during the first few days of April…

 

Island in the Clouds. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017
Island in the Clouds. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017

 

Tenmile Range in Cloud. Near Frisco, Colorado, 2017
Tenmile Range in Cloud. Near Frisco, Colorado, 2017

 

Snow Dunes. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017
Snow Dunes. Near Dillon, Colorado, 2017

 

April Snow. From Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017
April Snowpack. From Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017

 

Making Tracks. Near Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017
Making Tracks. Near Loveland Pass, Colorado, 2017

 

A Skier's Landscape. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017
A Skier’s Landscape. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017

 

Wanderlust. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017
Wanderlust. Breckenridge, Colorado, 2017 (14ers Grays and Torreys Peaks are just under the sign with Keystone ski runs below.)

Changing Colors on Sugarloaf Mountain

It had been too long since I had been up on Sugarloaf Mountain (8,917′), my favorite local golden hour perch.

(My favorite perch? A hearty, “Yep”. Just type “Sugarloaf” into my website SEARCH box to see how many times I have dragged my camera and tripod up there–in all kinds of conditions!)

So, this morning, with the just-past-full Moon setting some 45 minutes or so after sunrise, and a weather service fore-guess that indicated some clouds but not too many, I thought it might be the place to go.

Getting unstuck from the warm bed and into various layers of winter threads was tough, but I was generously rewarded with the following scenes…

 

Approaching sunrise, low fog, and suburban sprawl from Denver on the right to Boulder in the center:

Sugarloaf, #1. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, #1. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

Patterns of purple and pink to the north:

Sugarloaf, #5. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, #5. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

That’s the rounded summit of Mt. Audubon (13,229′) on the left and Longs Peak (14,259′) near the center. The wave clouds indicate high winds aloft, but the low fog contradicts with calm winds below:

Sugarloaf, #7. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, #7. Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017

 

As the Sun lights the snowy Continental Divide on fire, the grand Moon, drops down toward the lenticular clouds behind the two Arapaho Peaks. The taller of the two summits, North Arapaho (13,502′), is under the larger cumulus cloud while South Arapaho (13,397′) is the highest little bump along the ridge to its left. The higher mount on the right is Kiowa Peak (13,276′):

Sugarloaf, #10a. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017
Sugarloaf, #10a. From Sugarloaf Mountain, Colorado, 2017