On Saturday morning, we woke up really early and hiked to to Sloan Lake at 13,000', at the very top of American Basin. We found the lake still partially covered in ice. Liz made some oatmeal, which was a welcome warm breakfast on a cold alpine morning. This is one of our favorite places on earth to watch the sunrise and even with the lack of clouds, it did not disappoint. We had been worried that we might get skunked given the heavy fog that had descended the night before, but it turned out to be a perfectly clear morning.
The alpenglow on two prominent unnamed peaks reflects into the shallows of a lake deep in the heart of the lesser-visited San Juans.
Ever since I read the fabulous "Ghost Grizzlies" by Doug Pederson, Beartown has been a place of wonder for me. Getting to Beartown (one of the most isolated trailheads into the Weminuche Wilderness) played a large motivating factor in trading in the efficient Subaru for the gas-guzzling but off-road capable 4Runner. Even with the 4Runner, the Road to Beartown's reputation had intimidated me. Finally, this year we took the plunge and forced ourselves to Beartown/Kite Lake. The 4Runner was certainly pushed hard, but it came through!
On our final morning at Kite Lake, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and hiked up a steep ridge towards the continental divide above Kite Lake. Reviewing some maps the night before, I found a small, off-trail ridge along the divide that would in theory allow me to spy sunrise over Storm King Mountain, Mt. Silex, and the Guardian, aka the Storm Factory in the wild heart of the Weminuche Wilderness. I dream of a bigger trip one day focused on the lakes around these mountains.
It had been a stormy evening, and I was a bit nervous about heading well above tree line, partially off trail, and by myself (Liz slept in). But the effort was worth it, as I had one of those almost spiritual mornings deep in the mountains. I just barely reached my destination up the ridge, across alpine tundra, to the western flank of Hunchback Mountain at 12,800" in time for the light show above the Storm Factory. I quickly found the best composition I could find among the scree of the continental divide. The wind whipped the flowers as I shot them. No matter though, because the sunrise provided one of the absolute best displays of pink sky I've ever seen. And like its name suggests, the clouds above the storm factory quickly coalesced within 30-minutes of sunrise into a threatening looking storm that eventually dropped some rain on me as I high-tailed across high tundra and eventually back down to Kite Lake. Thankfully, there was no signs of lightening. It was a magical experience that will linger with me a long time.