Rocky Mountain Winter

Got some good hiking in this morning, now working on staying ahead of the curve by getting some more winter pictures done. Have to say, these images of our Mount Elbert winter hike in January of 2016 have to be some of the most memorable shots I have ever taken.

It was a beautiful morning and we were climbing the east face of the mountain with the sun at our backs so the snow and the entire mountain was brightly lit. Those pictures were really nice, I got some good ones of the Mosquito mountains up by Leadville from the mountainside and a few of Twin Lakes far below us. We had a beautiful mountain jay following us part of the way, and then judging by the footprints we also had a mountain lion to contend with. But by that time we were above tree line and could see for miles all around with no lions in sight. Still, a bit unnerving but we forged ahead. We hoped the lion might be more interested in the bighorn sheep we could see far in the distance.Mount Elbert Summit in Winter

The hike was more difficult than we were hoping for, the 14ers.com guide said it would be snow packed all the way and all we would have to do is follow the micro spike tracks. But that turned out to be a bit of an optimistic view as it had snowed a bit the night before and a lot of wind had covered the tracks in some key places. We had a large clearing to cross and it was completely snow covered. We somehow found the trail under the snow and by poking our ski poles around we were mostly able to stay on the trail, but one wrong step and you were buried up to your waist in powder and it was very difficult and time consuming to get back out.

Summit Mount Elbert in WinterThen there were no less than three false summits, so early estimates on a summit time were way off and we were about to give up when all of a sudden we found ourselves on the summit. Very strange… we were just walking along wondering how much further the summit was going to be while discussing turning around and suddenly there was no more mountain in front of us. And it was the most amazing scene before us, nothing but snow covered mountains as far as the eye could see. By that time it was about 2:00 p.m. and the lighting was very strange… At 14,439 feet of elevation the late afternoon light was very bluish and hazy. And totally quiet except for the breeze blowing. I could have used Photoshop to take the blue out of the images, but when it comes to art I am a bit of a Realist and want my pictures to show what it was really like. The temperature wasn’t bad when we first arrived, but about 20 minutes later after we had enjoyed the summit experience for awhile it started getting cold, really cold! It had taken us about eight hours to summit and we only had threeΒ  hours to descend so we thought we had better skeedaddle! It took about an hour for the burning to subside in my fingers and toes from that last few minutes at 14,439 feet.Steve Krull at the summit of Mount Elbert Colorado in January 2015

The full collection of those images, at least all the ones I have done so far can be found in my Rocky Mountain Winter gallery. There are also tons of other images from snowshoe hikes in snowstorms, wildlife in the snow, blizzards and beautiful lighting on Pikes Peak in that gallery. The images can be purchased as glossy wall art on metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, traditional framed prints, and as gift items including coffee mugs, phone cases, greeting cards, t-shirts, household items, lifestyle gifts and more. Commercial stock versions of the art can be purchased by clicking here for the image licensing portal.

 

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

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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

Facing the Fact

Summer is over and the crisp temperatures of fall are settling in all over the high country. I have uploaded a few of my best autumn color pictures to Alamy and Pixels.com but I have to face the fact. My style of imagery sells best on iStock. Despite it’s shortcomings and small commission rates, the bulk of my income comes from there. There isn’t really any other place where IΒ  can reliably place my sports editorial images and with my years of experience there, I have my rejection rate down to zero.

Hikers-1.jpgSo this morning I am finding myself looking over the summer’s images and noticing how many good ones I have yet to upload. Our Mount Massive summit hike is the shoot I am looking at right now. Wow… what a day that was, beautiful weather, good friends, a rugged hike and some of the most magnificent scenery and wildlife I have ever seen were the experience of that day.

Will also never forget the cute lady with the little Pomeranian doggy that was hiking with her. We first saw her coming up behind us and were determined that she was not going to pass us… but youth won out and she eventually caught up with us, so not wanting to let an opportunity for aΒ  photo op pass, I wondered if she would stop and pose for a picture. She graciously did and now I have the memory cast in pixels πŸ™‚Hiking-with-Dog.jpg

We didn’t see any wildlife on the way up and I was a bit disappointed about that, but on the way down we were graced by the presence of a small herd of mountain goats, including this cute baby. This of course was well worth the time taking a break in our hike to capture. I uploaded a small number of the very best ones to my Alamy port, but there are dozens more images from this day that belong on iStock, and that’s the plain truth of it.

Mountain-Goat.jpgThe new policy of no deletions without permission on iStock bothers me a little bit, but if I think about it… I never delete any anyway. I just put them up there for sale and forget about them. Money is short these days and there doesn’t seem to be much under my control that I can do, but I can surely upload these assets to iStock where I know the inspectors will put them up for sale. It’s what I’ve always done and now is not the time to falter 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.

Getting High

Been a busy week getting high… high on elevation that is πŸ™‚ The week started last Friday with a six mile hike through the rugged hills of Section 16 in Colorado Springs with the Pikes Peak Adventures Meetup Group. The trail was great as were occasional views of Red Rock Canyon and the mountains of Southwest Colorado Springs. It was a great group, great trail and a great time!

The next big moment for the week was a visit from my brother Jim and Robin. Haven’t seen Jim for quite a few years and it was great to finally get to meet Robin! Anyway, we got to take a nice hike in Red Rock Canyon, all the way to the top of the south ridge followed by some great brew at the Colorado Mountain Brewery πŸ™‚

Incline

Jim and Steve at the top of the Incline

Then this Wednesday at the last minute we decided to tackle the Manitou Incline. I have been looking at that thing for many years and decided this was the time to do it. It proved to be the hardest mile I have ever hiked. Two thousand feet of elevation gain in one mile, from 6500 feet to 8,500 feet at the top. It was tough, but it looked like every person on it was having a tough time. At the summit we decided that the smart money was on a trip back down the Barr Trail and a pleasant return journey through the Pike National Forest.

Surprisingly I wasn’t completely dead on Thursday, so after checking the weather forecast I decided to try to climb fourteener Mount Yale in the Collegiate Peaks. So Thursday night I packed up my gear, including my water filter in case my supply of liquids proved insufficient. Set the alarm for 4:00 a.m. to give myself plenty of time to have breakfast and to arrive at the trailhead by sunrise. Breakfast was at the only place in Buena Vista open at that time of day, Jan’s Restaurant. Excellent omelets there by the way, and the most fluffy looking hash browns I have ever eaten πŸ™‚

From there, up Cottonwood Pass to the Denny Creek Trailhead. Checked the time and my boots were on the dirt at 7:00 a.m. on the dot. I wasn’t too sure about this endeavor. Five miles one way with 4,300 feet of elevation gain was more than I have tried in many years. So I set my sights on summiting at around noon. Much shy of the summit at that time I determined would be time to rethink my goals for the day.

The trail was steep and rocky, no question about that. I knew it would be dark in the canyons so my strategy was to keep the camera in the pack and refrain from picture taking until after reaching summit. Of course the stray mountain goat or bighorn sheep would have changed those priorities in a heartbeat! But there was no wildlife to be seen on the trail at all. I knew I was making good time and reached the treeline by 9:00. I was starting to get a little more confident that I could conquer this one after all. It didn’t seem that long before I was standing at the base of the giant boulder field with plenty of time before my noon deadline, so I just started climbing.

Summit Yale

Summit of Mount Yale in the Colorado Collegiate Peaks

The boulder field was difficult for me, the worst one I have encountered. The cairns were not always easy to find and the trail at times was indistinguishable. Fortunately I had found a group to negotiate the boulders with, so when one of us got stymied, another managed to find a route. I forgot to look at my watch here, but I’m guessing just the boulder field took an hour to climb. And it was not without casualty. One slip garnered me a bruised rib and another a bruised knee cap. Leather gloves would have saved my hands from a couple of bloody mishaps and I was thankful for my mid height hiking boots which preserved my ankles a couple of times. Near the top the boulders became a bit smaller and easier to negotiate and by 11:30 a.m., I had conquered the summit of Mount Yale, 14,196 feet πŸ™‚

So it was time for a break and some picture taking at the summit. I took shots with both lenses of the 360 degree view before starting back down. The journey back down through the boulders seemed harder than the journey up, but I eventually made it out and was thankful to have my feet back on the dirt. As I looked down the steep switchbacks I could not believe that I had made the climb. From the top, the trail looked like it had been etched into the edge of a cliff. Once on it of course it didn’t seem that bad, but it was still a knee wrecker to get back down.

The sun had of course by this time made it over the peak and the scenery was fantastic. Excellent views of Cottonwood Pass, plus fourteeners Harvard, Columbia and Princeton. The tundra taking on its fall glory, displaying beautiful red and yellow mixed with some of the usual green plants. By the time I had reached treeline again I had managed to snap 264 pictures, hoping that they would be every bit as beautiful as the magnificence I was experiencing with my eyes. Once I descended through the treeline the trees obscured the light and I decided to just get back to the car as quickly as I could. I was out of water and was tempted at several creek crossings to put my filter to use, but didn’t want to take the time. I knew I could make it to the end without water and I had more to drink at the car so I just kept going. At 4:00 my feet were on the pavement in the parking lot and I was just glad to have the mountain behind me. My climbing team that I had befriended had made the parking lot just ahead of me and were happy to offer me a beer to celebrate our victory. I don’t think there is any better way to commemorate an awesome hike, so joined them for a while and toasted some new friends.

Soon the snow will be flying and the high peaks covered in a beautiful but dangerous blanket of snow. My big hikes are probably done for the season, but there are still autumn landscapes to be captured before the winds and storms of winter turn the gold into white. I think I’ll concentrate on capturing as much of that as possible from the car in the little time that remains of a glorious autumn in Colorado. Stay tuned to my Examiner News feed as I provide hiking tips and the specifics on how to reach these trails and complete them.