Before I go full on with our Germany move and the first couple of weeks, it occurs to me that I never posted from an old favorite and new favorite location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado and Charleston, South Carolina. This post will focus on RMNP and Snowmass with Charleston to follow soon.
I make a point whenever I do get home to Littleton, CO to make a trip out through Boulder and Lyons to Estes Park and RMNP. The time of year we visited (end of Feb, early March) precluded any long distance treks out of the car…we had one day after all…because of our lack of proper snow gear. So we were limited to driving and more or less shooting from within a hundred meters of the road or so. Not so bad in the mountains of Colorado!
After a lovely breakfast at Lucile’s in Boulder, we struck out the north end of town heading towards Lyons, and oh, the memories came flooding back! I had a wonderful time at CU Boulder and the road out of North Boulder leads to a favorite road (Trail Ridge Road) and mountain (Longs Peak) as well as some lovely mountain towns. Toni and I attacked Longs twice, once aiming but ultimately failing to summit (too much ice, no ice gear) and once aiming for Chasm Lake and having to turn back because of snow. I did summit with my Dad and friend Phil on a crazy day filled with small, ill advised decisions (not really sleeping the night before and going up the North Face, but descending the Keyhole Route) but culminating with a couple of hours on the huge, flat top. For those who don’t know why the route decision was a bad idea, we had to carry a rope and other safety gear for the North Face and then had to carry that heavy awfulness back down the keyhole route where the additional weight was a hinderance. It was like climbing Fuji-san with an extra 20lbs or so. OK, that’s whiney, but we were running on no sleep (dumb) and had quite a way to go that evening…but I digress. To belatedly shorten the story, I love Longs Peak.
So when Toni and I went for a drive, I somewhat insisted that we had to go see Longs. The weather was lovely and as usual, different from any other time I’ve seen the mountain. The weather is so unpredictable on a mountain so tall and being the only 14,000′ plus peak in RMNP, Longs catches it all. The conditions on the mountain changed several times while we drove around it and really gave some great opportunities for light and texture. We spent several hours in the Estes Park area just puttering around before moving on to Kenosha Pass (where I did winter camping with the Boy Scouts in my youth) to see the wide alpine vistas and finally on to Boulder Canyon. Unfortunately the county put a gate up at Boulder Falls, probably to keep people like us without any ice-appropriate footwear from breaking our necks, so we weren’t able to view that iconic sight. Booo. I understand, but don’t like it.
In any case, here are some photos from that high milage day:
Going back a little, the whole reason for our trip to Colorado was to visit family and friends on our way from Japan to Germany. While we were planning the trip, my folks suggested that we do a ski trip while there…of course we agreed! We eventually settled on Snowmass as our destination and had an absolutely lovely time skiing. The first day out was grey and dismal and about as cold as I’ve experienced in a long time. So, my 5D rig did not come out to play and while I loved the skiing, I was a little disappointed at the lack of photo opportunities. Day two was a totally different story. Beautiful azure sky, clear air and gorgeous snow. After remembering that Pyramid Peak (another 14’er) and the Maroon Bells were in the are, I insisted that we get as absolutely high on the mountain as we could get. And lifts take one only so far. We ditched our skis temporarily at the top of the highest poma lift and hiked boots only through the backcountry gate and up to the stony summit. Totally worth it. While we couldn’t see the Bells or Pyramid because of my lousy reading of maps, we saw into couloirs and over many other peaks and ranges surrounding Snowmass mountain. I love the feeling of being on top of the world and as an aside, I can’t wait to see the Alps here and get my ass in shape to do some serious hiking.
The rest of the day was awesome and the night restful with much great food and drink! In the morning, we left Snowmass and after a more considered map viewing, we drove towards Aspen and made a detour past Buttermilk (ski area) to get an actual view of Pyramid Peak. And success!! We couldn’t get far as the road was closed and we didn’t have a lot of time to hike before Toni and I were expected back in town, but we caught some nice views and as usual, the access valley was just delightful.
Here is a slightly larger selection from the summit of Snowmass and of Pyramid Peak:
I love Colorado and I’m so happy that we had the opportunity to visit before continuing to Texas for Toni’s folks and Atlanta for the rest of my family and the aforementioned trip to Charleston.