Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,Β  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain πŸ™‚ I decided to go further than ever before in the park today, thinking it would be a good stepping stone for my “hoped for” ascent of Mount Quandary this fall. I know,

Band of Brothers Mule Deer Bucks

it’s an easy one… but I’ve never climbed it before and it would be my first 14er in my sixth decade of life on this planet πŸ™‚ Plus it was only a few months ago after surgery it was all I could do to walk a half a block down to the store! So anyway, I was pleased with my progress on this hike and am feeling more confident about a 14er summit this autumn!

As I cleared the top of the ridge I saw a buck mule deer peering through the trees at me so I avoided the trees and took the long way around the dense pines to the other side where I hoped to approach them without scaring them away. This resulted in a tough rocky climb that I had hitherto deemed impossible. I guess it’s true “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”. Had I gone through he woods they would have instantly bolted at the sound of my clodhoppers crashing through the branches. Fortunately they couldn’t see me until I cleared the summit and at the distance I was from them they just looked at me Summit Grouse Mountainwith curiosity. In fact one of the brothers took a few steps toward me to get a better look!

Then I set my sights on the distant peak, the summit of Grouse Mountain. It was actually difficult to tell if that peak was any higher than the one I was on, but I wanted to check out the unobscured view of the Sangre de Cristo. This may be the only place where you can see the entire eastern range without some kind of mountain or trees in the way! When I arrived at the top I took a look back and it was indeed quite a bit higher.

Female Dusky Grouse

Along the traverse I spotted a pretty good sized bird waddling past one of the old mines so I decided to take a break from the climb to see if I could get a picture of this peculiar bird I’d never seen before!Β  Well this one was quite a character, when she noticed me she quickly scampered under the cover of dense trees that had created an oasis of this abandoned mine high on the barren rocky mountain tundra. I quietly approached the mine hoping to get another chance and I saw her trot over to the other side of the mine behind the trees.Β  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I couldΒ  get a decent shot, but wherever I went, she went the other way around the mine, never coming out from the shade of the tall trees 😦 Finally I decided to just shoot through the trees and do the best that I could to get a record of my sighting.Β  I posted the picture but didn’t get an immediate response on the ID of the bird so I downloaded a free app from Cornell Labs called Merlin.Β  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse πŸ™‚ it said that she was an uncommon find in these parts!

Lone Doe in the Pike National Forest

From there it wasn’t far to the summit with the fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo block fault range (above). It was awesome to stand in full view of the mountains from a place I had been eyeing for so many years πŸ™‚ I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade πŸ™‚ I traded out my long lens for a wide angle with a polarizer to cut through the morning haze, and captured a few views of the distant mountain range.

The trip back down was easy with only a small part of it on unfamiliar terrain. There really isn’t a trail most of the way, only the faint wagon tracks left behind by the miners over 100 years ago, most of which I have already explored. This was such an enjoyable hike that I hope to make it once a week to get in shape for the upcoming 14,000 foot climb to the summit of Mount Quandary! I was hoping to see the resident Rough Legged Hawk on the way down, but no such luck. I was privileged to spot this lone doe foraging on the mountain grass! If you look carefully you can see the massive Collegiate Peaks mountain range appearing faintly in the background!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

 

Sometimes I Impress Myself!

Now I was not impressed at all later on in my hike when I discovered that at some point I had inadvertently turned off the Image Stabilization (IS) on my big Canon lens, which sent me from a point of elation to the depths of despair just like that. I really wanted that shot! We had cleared the ridge to find ourselves about 50 yards from a curious trio of deer peering at us from the brush near the summit in perfect morning light. I could not believe my eyes! I fired off a few shots, but as you might imagine the sight of Big Dog was causing quite a bit of consternation in the herd. No matter, I was pretty sure I had nailed the shot and we walked around the other side of the mountain from where the deer had gone in order not to disturb them any further.

Trio of Rocky Mountain Mule Deer

As we strode along I was looking forward to getting on the computer and processing those images and creating a good seller! That is until I noticed that the IS was off. Then I figured it was all over, the likelihood of getting that shot without the IS with a 400mm lens was about as good as threading a needle with a climbing rope. But I consoled myself with the idea that I would probably get a good enough shot to show on my Instagram account.

It was a beautiful morning… there is nothing like a trek through the high country at first light, before anyone else is up, before the wind starts blowing, when the mountain air is still cool and crisp with bright sunshine to warm my old shoulders. It was very quiet this morning too, only the sound of the birds happily chirping, my own breath and the clanking of Big Dog’s harness to break the silence of a perfect mountain morning.

Now back at home in front of the computer is where I am quite impressed with myself πŸ™‚ I did get a salable capture from the set, hand held at 400mm, no IS, 60 years old, heart pounding from the climb, and all while holding on to a very exuberant 90 pound dog who very badly wanted to go play with the deer! I think maybe the shot could have been a little better with the IS turned on, but I am truly amazed that I was able to get this capture πŸ™‚ Of course now in front of the computer, after I have done all my titling and keywording, I see that there is a fourth deer in the image, peeking out from behind one of the others, oh well, the more the merrier!

As always, this shot and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art and tons of cool gift, household and tech items!

Fun in Cripple Creek

A good memory from last year… had to go down to Cripple to look at a house so I went early to get my favorite 50 cent breakfast. I was seated in Bronco Billy’s restaurant by 10 enjoying biscuits and gravy with some scrambled eggs. Granted… that’s technically two 50 cent breakfasts but who is going to quibble πŸ™‚

Then I needed to get the doggies some exercise so we buzzed over to Victor to climb Little Grouse Mountain and take in some scenery. Difficult to make out the Sangre’s today though with all the smoke from the fires but the doggies enjoyed the climb immensely πŸ™‚ During the hike I could hear the mournful sound of the Cripple Creek / Victor narrow gauge railroad which reminded me of how long I have been trying to get a shot of it!

Victor Cripple Creek Train

I was thinking I had seen a good vantage point in Victor for getting a shot of the train, but if there is I could not find it. So back to Cripple we went, in search of the tracks. I could see the railroad bed beside the road for awhile so when I got to town I followed it using some rough dirt roads until I found a place I could park and access the tracks. Then all I had to do was find a comfy spot and wait a short time for one of the trains to go through. I discovered that the track there is a two way so it is a good place to get the train coming one way and then again coming from the other direction. It took me about an hour to gather all the views and angles that I thought I might need.

Sat down in the truck to look at my haul and the breeze was blowing, birds chirping and thunder was beginning to rumble in the distance, perfect recipe for shut eye! I guess the storm must have passed without dumping any rain though because I woke up a while later, boiling in the sun 😦 Still had about an hour though so I took the doggies over to the Double Eagle parking garage out of the sun and had a whirl at the slot machines. Didn’t do too well there, lost my $5 that I put in, but I got a free beer so I’m calling it a break even… close enough anyway πŸ™‚

Checked out the house, which turns out not to be finished yet… no wall sockets or furnace of any kind. I’m suspicious that not everything is being done to code, so we will have to wait and see if there will be any financing available… Honestly I don’t really know why I am continuing to look… It’s been a discouraging 6 months looking for a place to live. Going down to the city is out of the question… so don’t even mention it! I spent my entire life trying to figure out how to get out of the city and now that I’m out I’m not going back! Who knows… maybe this one will work out after all, small but I did kind of like it and the location.

Herd of Elk

Then one final treat as I was on my way home… an elk herd in the high prairie land between Cripple and Divide. Unfortunately I was not able to get very close, but still got some nice ones of the distant herd. I thought of trying to get closer, but there was a fence and as other people began to gather the elk noticed and began to move further away. It’s not likely that I could have gotten closer even if I had tried.

Back home now processing the pictures while listening to the sound of thunder and hail rattling my roof. All in all an excellent day I’d say πŸ™‚

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Signs of Winter

Once the colorful leaves of autumn hit the ground the mountains look kind of drab… kind of just like big jagged rocks. Lol… hence the name Rocky Mountains I guess. However we have been getting some snow here and there and a couple of days ago walking the dogs in the morning I noticed that the high peaks of the Collegiate Peaks and the Sangre Range have been putting on their winter mantle of snow. As the air cools and the fires of summer the distant peaks can be seen with greater clarity.

Snow Capped Sangre De CristoWinter is my favorite time of year to photograph… you could say I specialize in snow, which is probably a good thing given life at 10,000 feet of elevation! So the sight of the new snow got me motivated to get the camera ready and plan a hike to the good views as soon as possible! Well the day came and I eagerly ventured out in the morning to take the puppies for a short walk before hitting the trails with Big Dog. As I ventured out I was hit with disappointment though, gloomy looking clouds and mist 😦

But what the heck, the camera was ready and so was the dog, so off we went. Thought I might get lucky and see some wildlife that might save the day. However as I climbed higher the scene that came into view was magnificent. I couldn’t wait to get to the top before the rising sun had a chance to wash out the scene. Luckily I encountered no problems on the trail and the summit came in time for some great shots. The sun was hitting the distant peaks with just enough light for a beautiful early morning glow and there wasn’t too much haze from the foggy night before.Beautiful Sangre B&W

As I fiddled with the image in Photoshop I finally decided that the one image looked better in black and white. I really like the layers of mountains, the color wasn’t that great to start with and it just all looked more dramatic with a little more contrast that just works better in monochrome.

The hike was great and I had an idea that I wanted to see Phantom Canyon over by Victor so we stopped off at the grocery store in Victor and picked up some water and some Gator Aid for an extended trip. A couple of miles of the washboard dirt road convinced me otherwise though… I don’t need any loose teeth! Maybe another time… maybe another vehicle. Have been wanting a rag top jeep my entire life, maybe now is the time πŸ™‚

Well enough rattling on… these images are now available for sale on my website. Glossy metal and acrylic wall art is available, along with clothing and lots of gift and household items including greeting cards, t-shirts, yoga mats and much much more! Be sure to keep an eye on the website as I get more of these images processed!

The Dilemma

Just when I thought I had found the superhighway to the high peaks of the Ute Pass northern ridge, I find myself thwarted by a gate and a no trespassing sign 😦  I finally got an early enough start in the cool of the day to really take a run at that trail with the doggies. We were making good progress when all of a sudden I saw a fence… then a closed and locked gate followed by the totally rude sign 😦 I had no idea that someone owned that section of the Pike National Forest… How can you own a national forest anyway?

Storm clouds and snow on Pikes Peak Colorado

Storm clouds and snow on Pikes Peak Colorado

Well, back down we went… It was getting hot by the time we reached the bottom anyway. I did notice on the way down however, there is another trail leading southeast. I’m pretty sure it is the one that connects to some other trails that go all over the mountain, including up to Bald Mountain. But, that exploration will have to wait for another day.

Had a nice lunch with my friend while closely watching the temperature and the clouds. Landlord won’t let me leave the doggies at home, not that they would appreciate being home without me anyway.Β  Be that as it may… if it gets too hot I can’t leave them in the truck camper while I work. Even though it is well ventilated it still heats up in the sun when the temperature is over 79. Kind of amazing… 79 is borderline, but 80 or 81 is too hot. Well anyway, the dilemma… work too much and I get too tired to enjoy life and lose money at my photography and writing, work too little and I don’t have enough money to enjoy life or do my photography and writing. So whatta ya do…

Anyway, today it suddenly jumped to 89, a real rarity for the mountains and I can really feel the heat beating down on the roof and south window… Fortunately I had the foresight one summer to install a window air conditioner and I have it and the fan going full blast! And as a sign that the Almighty is watching down on me, I just noticed yesterday that I had made a good print sale to make up for today’s lost wages, a nice winter scene on Pikes Peak πŸ™‚ Reminds me of the Bible verse, “My God shall supply on my needs according to His riches in Glory.”.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Excellent Adventure

Well it appears that I am back in business after a couple of months without my favorite lens, my Canon 70-200 zoom. It finally came back from the Canon repair shop with a broken roller replaced.. whatever that is, and some lubrication, cleaning and refocusing.

mariah-steve-summitI’ve had it back for a little while, but too busy to really test it out on a sustained photo trip. But finally this week I got a chance on an excellent adventure on the Pikes Peak Highway with Miss Mariah. She had never seen the peak and I had never driven the highway, so it was fun for both of us. Well anyway, we wanted to beat the weather so we planned to leave fairly early, about 9:00 a.m. It was clear and chilly in Cascade, so I knew it was going to be frigid on the summit!

It wasn’t long before we had passed the tollgate and were on our way up the curvy and steep heavily forested area at the beginning. We decided to bypass all the points of interest on the way up to just make sure we reached the summit before any weather would have a chance of rolling in, and indeed the peak did look a bit moody. Clouds or fog were streaming over the top at a high rate of speed, so I knew there was going to be a tremendous wind blowing up there!

We passed beautiful Crystal Reservoir and continued onward to tree line. Some of the turns are very tight up there and I found myself shifting into first gear a number of times to just get going again. We made most of the trip in second gear, so you can imagine it’s pretty steep up there! Then near the top we had a moment of concern, frost or snow on the road. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying than starting to slip up there with no guard rails and thousands of feet straight down to regret ever having been on that road in the first place!

Mariah at Pikes PeakBut soon the road made another twist and the short frosty episode was behind us. A few more twists and turns and we were on the summit. I took a chance and shut old faithful off… I have never had my old Dodge pickup above 14,000 feet and wasn’t exactly positive that it was going to start again 😦 I was thinking my two layers of heavy shirts would be enough to stay warm up there, but 28 degrees with a 40 mph wind with fog and clouds convinced me to think otherwise! We snapped a few pictures and another visitor convinced us to climb the frozen peak sign for a picture of the two of us together. I’m glad we took the time, I really like the picture πŸ™‚

The summit house was open so we decided to go inside to have a look. I wish we would have had more time to sit down and eat some of the famous donuts, but the trip was planned at the last minute and I had to be back at work at 2:00 so we just took time to look at some gifts. Much to Mariah’s surprise, the summit of Pikes Peak is apparently the only place on earth where you can buy a bracelet with the name Mariah spelled correctly πŸ™‚

Then back out for a few more pictures… the sun had come out a bit and it didn’t seem nearly as cold as it was at first so we snapped a few more pictures and looked around a bit before getting back in the truck for the trip down. I was pleasantly surprised when the old Dodge fired right up… Now on the way down we would take the time to stop at the overlooks and sight see. I have to say, some of the views of rugged canyons and distant mountains are amazing from there!

Bighorns.jpgBefore we hit tree line we noticed some people parking off to the side and getting out of their cars. Closer examination revealed a small group of animals near the road. Bighorns I surmised… and as we got closer we could tell that it was definitely a small herd of bighorn sheep. Unfortunately as we neared they had started heading away from us, but I got a couple of shots of bighorn butt with my zoom. They disappeared over the embankment, so we got back in the truck and continued on. But much to our surprise, the road made a twist just then and we emerged right in front of the sheep who were headed directly for us. Soon the magnificent animals were only feet from us and I could not believe our good fortune. I was so happy that Mariah got to see some of the wildlife before having to move away from this beautiful place. I told her it would probably take a month for me to wipe the smile off my face… but she accurately predicted that it would probably only last until I got back to work 😦 That turned out to be a pretty much true, but now that I am writing this the smile is back πŸ™‚

Mariah at Pikes PeakOn the way down we visited Crystal Res, and the gift shop there, plus another gift shop at that mine thing that I have never stopped at before. All the gift shops are pretty much the same, so three visits in one day was more than sufficient. The beautiful blue water of the reservoir was amazing as usual and we took quite a few more pictures there before heading back to Woodland for some lunch.

Now that I have the pictures processed I can say that I am very pleased with the performance of my 70-200. I can tell that it is focusing more sharply than it was. After ten years and thousands of captures it was apparently overdue for some fine tuning. It was a beautiful day and now a beautiful memory… I’m sure I’ll never forget our excellent adventure on the Pikes Peak Highway.

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Hiking Mount Harvard Colorado

Wasn’t quite physically ready to climb another 14er just one week after Mount Massive, but I didn’t get the days off I wanted and that’s the way the chips fell. I didn’t want to wait until the 20th to climb another one, so I called Ralph to see if he was ready to give another one a go. It doesn’t take a lot of talking to psyche Ralph up for a climb and a few minutes later the plans for a 14,420 foot Mount Harvard summit were in the works πŸ™‚

WildernessAccording to 14ers.com, the Harvard route we wanted is 12.5 miles long so an early start was in order. We decided on a 3:30 rendezvous in Divide at the usual place, so I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, July 30th. By 3:35 a.m. we were drinking coffee and on the road for Buena Vista. Sunrise came a few minutes later than on our last adventure, so it was still pitch black when we got to BV and we decided on a pit stop at Loaf and Jug for more coffee and power food.. some donuts πŸ™‚ By the time we hit the trail head at about 5:30 there was a hint of light in the eastern sky which illuminated a packed parking lot! We did find a spot however and decided to start the long hike before sunrise.

It wasn’t too long before we were greeted by a beautiful clear Colorado sunrise, and a confused looking guyΒ near a Y in the trail, apparently camping. Friendly fellow though, wanted to know where we were headed. Harvard we responded… and with a slow southern drawl he commented, “Oh, I wasn’t smart enough to get in there.”. As it sank it what he said and occurred to me that he wasn’t joking, I commented to Ralph, “I’m not sure he knows where he’s going?”. Ralph replied, “I’m not sure he knows where he is!”. Well anyway, he wasn’t there on the return trip so he must have figured something out πŸ™‚

As the beautiful morning light began to illuminate the peaks a particularly large monolith came into view on our right. We wondered if that was our summit and after we got tired of discussing it and wondering, Ralph checked the GPS and we determined that one was probably Columbia, which would make it sort of on the way back from Harvard and a candidate for a second 14er in one day, adding only two or three miles to the return trip. Our destination had not yet come into view.

The trail had climbed to about 10,000 feet by the time it was getting light enough for pictures and we found ourselves along a beautiful stream in a high meadow surrounded by rugged peaks. The GPS indicated that Mount Harvard was directly ahead and there was indeed a series of high peaks in the distance, one of which was certainly our summit. We began to encounter other hikers at this point, all hoping to be on right trail to Harvard. We assured them we were hoping for the same πŸ™‚

SummitingFinally the summit became obvious and we whiled away the next hour or so mapping out possible routes the trail might take to the summit. Perhaps up a ridge and around back. The face we were looking at looked way to steep and rocky and there was no discernible trail. But soon we could see a couple of hikers heading right towards the south face and Ralph says, “It looks like it goes right up through the rocks!”and I’m like… “Naaaaaa …”. Well as we got closer we could start to make out the trail, going right exactly where earlier I said, “There’s no way the trail goes through there!”.

And for the last two miles or so, up it went, one of the steepest trails I have been on yet! I couldn’t decide what was going to explode first… my knees or my lungs! But we just kept forging ahead walking when we could, resting when we had to. The boulder field was long, but the trail through it was well defined and relatively easy to follow. The difficulty there is the sheer steepness of it. Finally the summit party came into view so that we could see our exact destination. Up until that point there were several high points that were possibilities for a summit. Suddenly we were there, but the people who were writing the trail reviews that indicated a Class I trail all the way to the summit except for a few rocks at the top,Β  were apparently suffering from oxygen deprivation, the Class I trail disappeared into a steep wall of boulders with some cracks in it, and a pile of trekking poles at the bottom. Ralph abandoned his poles there, and I put my camera in my pack and strapped my monopod onto it’s holder on the back.

Boulder ClimbingThis was my first summit where there were hikers standing around with ten feet left to climb, wondering if they were going to attempt the last ten feet, and some didn’t. Some were content to almost make summit. Ralph was already on his way up and I didn’t stop to look too long or to even think about it. There was no way I was going to come that far and let a couple of boulders stand in the way of making summit, so I just grabbed a hand hold and hoisted myself up. The route through the cracks was fairly obvious, but the hand and footholds not quite as obvious. My arms were tired, but still able to do the job. My new leather gloves I found at Walmart proved invaluable in the last few feet of this climb. The leather protected my hands from the usual beating and bloodying that the boulder fields offer and I noticed my grip was better too. A pair of Wells Lamont gloves with pigskin palms and some sort of breathable backing. $10 at Walmart, one of the best investments I’ve ever made πŸ™‚

Steve at HarvardSoon we were both on the small summit area for the usual selfies and picture taking, lunch and coffee. We made summit in record time for that distance, 6.25 miles in six hours. Ralph has a “Jet Brew” or something like that he makes coffee with and got some water boiling for instant coffee. We also sent out the usual summit texts and calls, Facebook posts and ETA’sΒ  for the arrival back at the bottom. I of course received back the usual encouraging words, like “Glad you are still breathing, lol!”. Ha, well breathing we were, but dark clouds were approaching from the west and a hoard of people from the south. We decided to have an abbreviated summit party and get back through the cracks before the weather and before the traffic jam.

Getting back down through the rocks wasn’t as hard or scary as I thought… There was one place where I couldn’t actually see if my foot was on a foothold, but the guy behind me said I nailed it. Ralph was like, “lol… good thing that guy wasn’t mad at me for some reason!”. Come to think of it, that is a lot of faith to put in someone you have never seen before in your life! Anyway, we were glad to be on our way back down to the trees when the hail hit… Most of it wasn’t too bad, but it was amusing to hear the occasional “ouch”, as nearby hikers were getting hit by a particularly big hailstone. Many were still headed for the summit, but few showed signs of giving up. We did come upon one party who had given up at the bottom of the approach, before any of the steep climbing. Don’t know where they were from, but they were talking about “sea level”. I can imagine 14,000 feet might be a bit rough for someone acclimated to sea level!

The remainder of the hike proceeded without incident and the storms that were threatening to form never really amounted to much. The “death march” to the bottom when you are worn out and all the rocks are jumping at your feet and bashing your toes was actually not as bad as sometimes, and we were back at the truck by 4 p.m., with plenty of time for me to get home and make it to little Charity’s two year birthday party πŸ™‚ followed by the usual monthly Motown dance at the Crystola Bar and Grill with the band Sugar Bear.

I haven’t checked my work schedule yet, but I think I should have August 20th available for another climb with Ralph. We are thinking Columbia looks like a good 14er to climb next!

 

Hiking Mount Massive

The 14,421 foot summit of Mount Massive Colorado was the latest peak to be checked off as done in Ralph’s quest to climb all the 14ers in the state of Colorado. I was glad to be able to participate, completing my sixth 14er on a beautiful Colorado day in the high country. Buddy Bill also joined our little expedition, completing his first 14er in many years. From the looks of his boots, he may have worn the same ones he wore the last time, I think he said 17 years ago πŸ™‚

Untitled-1Well anyway our day started early, 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 23rd at the rendezvous point in Divide, Colorado. It was a warm night in Colorado, even for summertime and I walked out the door in just a short sleeved shirt. No coffee was needed, the adrenaline rush from waking up in the middle of the the night in anticipation of a new adventure is enough of a surge to get out the door! Fortunately though, Ralph brought along a thermos of coffee to keep my heart pumping once the monotony of the two hour road trip in the dark set in. A few minutes later we picked up Bill in Lake George and headed over Wilkerson and into Buena Vista and on to Highway 300 where we turned west to the Halfmoon Road entry into the Mount Elbert / Massive camping areas.Sunrise

Once past the two wheel drive area, the road became pretty rough. I would not recommend driving onto the four wheel drive area without some pretty beefy off road tires. At one point about a half mile from the four wheel drive trailhead we decided to just pull off and hike the remainder of the way to the trailhead on foot. However as morning began to descend upon the forest it became apparent that if we had just gotten over the small rough spot it would have been clear sailing to the parking area at the Half Moon Trailhead.

Massive-SceneryFortunately I had thrown in a sweatshirt at the last minute, because the temp at the trailhead was reading 42 degrees. I always have a wool hat and a pair of gloves in my pack, but it wasn’t quite cold enough to need them. After a quick sign in at the wilderness checkpoint, we were off on the difficult journey to the summit. I initially took the lead, and after about a mile there was a fork in the trail. One way was down and across the creek, away from where we thought the summit should be. The other up over a small rock obstacle that required a short climb onto the main trail towards the summit. After a short debate, we decided on the rocks… going away from the mountain down to the stream didn’t seem right.

The trail soon became steep and rocky. Ralph thought he had read that there were two routes from Half Moon, one steep, the other not as steep but a bit longer. We decided if we were on the easy one we didn’t want to see the difficult one! Minutes turned into hours and the air became thin. Eventually we were getting pretty high, the GPS indicated aboutJoanne.jpg 12,500 feet and although the summit was not yet visible, some interesting features had come into view. There was a saddle on the false summit that looked like it might be the last obstacle to actually being able to see the summit. Below we spotted a young woman carrying two little dogs. We proclaimed that the “girl with the dogs was not going to pass us”. Unfortunately, youth won out and she eventually caught us and left us in the dust, Joanne I think was her name. We let some other youngsters pass as well, just to be polite of course. However that group passed us and promptly sat down on some boulders and we passed them back and never saw the again, at least on the ascent.

Summit.jpgAs we neared the summit, the trail became more crowded. Some people going up, some going down already. As we neared the summit and of course the inevitable onset of “summit fever”, we encountered one group carrying some sort of music device playing some inspiring tunes. Now Bill claims at this point I broke into some sort of thin air induced dance to the music, but there is no record of it on film so I retain plausible deniability πŸ™‚ As we scaled the first hump resembling a summit, the real summit and summit party came into view. Ralph actually ran a few steps toward the summit at this point, but soon discovered that running at 14,400 feet is a poor idea and abandoned the idea of a sprint finish πŸ™‚

_MG_0966-Team.jpgSoon the rocks became too treacherous for me to want to continue with my camera swinging around at my side so I stopped and packed it away along with my trekking pole so that I would have both hands free to scale the rocks. Eventually we all made summit and reconvened at the top. It was a magnificent day so we spent more than an hour at the summit taking pictures of the stunning scenery, eating and drinking, and Ralph even heated up some coffee with his portable burner.

Mountain-GoatEventually we had to start the trip back down the mountain so we packed up and began the painful steep descent. Five hours to the summit, so I estimated three hours back down. Some people still on their ascent mentioned that there were some mountain goats ahead, so I took off my pack and got my camera back out. Also decided at this point to attach my good zoom lens, an F4L 70-200 so as to get the highest quality captures of the elusive four footed climbers. The effort paid off as a small herd of the critters, including a couple of really cute mountain goat toddlers came into view and allowed us to hang with them for a while.Baby-Mountain-Goat.jpg

The descent was brutal… it was hot and there was no relief from the high elevation sun. I knew the trail was rocky from our experience on the ascent, but it seemed all the rockier on the way back down. I can’t tell how many times I stubbed my toe and rolled my ankles on loose rocks. Marmot sightings broke up the arduous journey however, and we even saw a rare white colored marmot who seemed quite curious about the camera. Most of the marmots scampered away when they heard the gyro motor stabilizer in the lens come on, but the white one was fearless and just struck a few poses for me πŸ™‚

MarmotMy estimate of a three hour descent proved fairly accurate, so we were back at the truck by about 3:45 p.m., well ahead of any lightning storms that may have been forming behind the mountain. The Mount Massive summit is one of the most interesting peaks that I’ve seen, and well worth the effort to climb it.Β  For anyone wanting to bag this summit, I recommend first scoping it out on 14ers.com.

IΒ  also recommend plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, rain gear and some good boots! There were a couple of spots where snow runoff was available, so a filter pump could help reduce your liquids load. Bill doesn’t look too confident about wanting to do another 14er in the near future, but Ralph and I are thinking Mt. Harvard looks like a good possibility for my next Saturday off work in a couple of weeks. Someone once said about these adventures, “You gotta love the pain!”. Perhaps he was right and Bill doesn’t love the pain quite as much as some πŸ™‚ Or maybe after a couple of days he will find he is addicted to the adventure of it all… Stay tuned!

 

Sports and Recreation

InclineYesterday started out too cold and sloppy to immediately run out and enjoy the first clear skies in what seems like forever, so I continued to ponder ways of making my pages and sites easier to negotiate. I noticed right away that my main photography page still has way too many non-photography related posts, mostly regarding sports.

Earlier in the year I had created special pages for wedding and model and portrait photography as well as a page for wildlife advocacy. Now it seems is a good time to have a special page for the growing number of posts about all the outdoor sports and recreation activities I continually find fascinating!

So yesterday was the day that S. W. Krull Sports was born! I’m very excited about the possibilities for this community page as it will provide a place for friends and fans of sports to interact and talk about their favorite events and accomplishments! The page participation is growing quickly with already over 50 likes in one day and I’m looking forward to a bright future for all the amazing activities available under the sun for energetic outdoor loving people and athletes!

Changing Seasons

So I put the COMPLETE stamp on summer by finishing my Intemann Trail article for the Examiner. It was quite an adventure that took pretty much all summer, starting with a two and a half hour “short cut” from Red Rock Canyon over to Manitou Springs in quest of my press pass for the Pikes Peak Ascent.

Goats

Mountain Goats on Mount Bierstadt

It was a great summer that included a bunch of things I have been meaning to do for years, the whitewater festivals, visiting the wolves in Guffy, the mountain goats on Mount Evans, climbing 14ers Bierstadt and Yale, climbing the Manitou Incline with my brother and meeting Robin and best of all meeting new friends in person that I had only known through Facebook prior to this summer.

The fall colors come early in the Colorado high country, in fact it still feels like summer in the lower elevations when it is time to go up for the fall pictures. Fall felt like it officially started yesterday with the running of the annual Pikes Peak Road Runners Fall Series I race in Bear Creek Park down in the Springs.

I have to say I am not looking forward to the short days and long hours of darkness but the summer has left me with a bounty of over six thousand pictures to work with over the cold months. I am also looking forward to working on some new projects, including the re-start of my portrait photography services and a new line of T-Shirts now available on my Fine Art website along with many other products that are available there.

So anyway, have a great autumn everyone, I am certainly planning to πŸ™‚