Mixed Feelings

Lately, I’ve not been taking advantage of the playground in my backyard enough, Rocky Mountain National Park. When Tyler Kempney asked if I wanted to climb Mixed Emotions, M5- WI4 (or Mixed Feelings – the name seems to be a bit interchangeable) I said yes. Although I prefer sticking my tools in ice, I haven’t mixed climb in a while.

After an hour and a half detour (we took the wrong trail), we made it to the Loch Vale cragging area. There was a guided group on Mixed Feelings, so we each got a lap on Crystal Meth, a dirty looking WI4. The guided group didn’t do the mixed line, so the hanging dagger looked untouched.

Tyler led through the dry traverse, climbing on the rock with his gloved hands and placing cams in the horizontal crack. There’s a fixed pin with an old sling right below the curtain that he tried to back up with a marginal #1 cam. The ice didn’t inspire confidence, looking quite dry and in need of refreshing, and Tyler tested a couple of different entry points.

Once established on the ice above the dagger we all relaxed a bit. I was unsure of whether the dagger would hold. I kept telling myself, “If the dagger breaks, keep shooting!”

It’s a fun classic. Great job Alex Lowe!

I need to get out on some more adventures. Hit me up with ideas!

Birthday in the Sand Dunes

Melissa had always told me how much she wanted to go to a hot springs and Great Sand Dunes National Park. Labor day was her birthday, so we took off to southern Colorado to climb and explore. We climbed for a day in Shelf Road, then made our way to the San Luis Valley. We found an awesome open camping spot on BLM land, then soaked in Joyful Journeys Hotsprings.







Sunday, we moved our campsite to Zapata Falls. We stopped in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo mountains to take some photos, then I missed the road to the falls and found these awesome wildish horses and a buffalo…

The road to Zapata Falls is 3.5 miles up a mountain gravel road that is in desperate need of grating. Even in Melissa’s jeep, it was a jarring road that we had to drive four times. “Oh, my poor car!” But the camping up there is great, and even on Labor Day weekend, we found a great spot.


The falls was incredibly crowded but worth going to see. We happened to be there for the 20 minutes or so that the sunlight streams down through the canyon, highlighting the falls’ mist.


Also, as expected, the Sand Dunes were overrun with tourists, so we drove down the 4WD road to a small parking lot. Luckily we got to right as someone was leaving, so we secured a spot. We took a nap under some trees, being rudely interrupted by a family of deer that came stomping through right next to us and loudly chewing leaves off the bushes all around us.

It was my 5th time at the dunes, but it never disappoints. Actually, with the smoke from the western forest fires, the light was absolutely incredible.








I’ve never seen the dunes with this much vegetation! It must have been a very wet August.










A couple came through, setting up camp and getting a front row seat to nature’s fireworks.




My friend, Dan Lehman, created these awesome La Croix seltzer water inspired tights that say “La Crushin It”. They’re sweet!

I couldn’t stop taking photos, the light was too good!




Right place at the right time!

Another couple joined us on our vantage point.




If you get the chance, it’s definitely worth while to watch the sunset from the interior of the sand dunes. I give it an A+.

After a lazy morning cleaning up at Zapata Falls Campground, we made our way down the mountain. We stopped at San Luis State Park to see if there was anything interesting. It was pretty barren accept for these sweet sun shades that litter the park.





The San Luis Valley, and everything east got smokier and smokier as we drove home. We went through the South Platte to avoid traffic, and it was almost impossible to see the climbing areas from the road. I couldn’t take it anymore and stopped on 93 to capture the epic sun, and of course my favorite tree. I love that you can see the sun spots on the sun!


This was a fun weekend for me shooting a ton of landscapes, I hope Melissa had fun for her birthday!

Laura and her horse, Sam

I’ve been wanting to add some composite work to my portfolio, and when I got the opportunity to shoot Laura Suslavich jumping her horse Sam, I knew it was going to be great. When we got to the horse barns, the sun was far too hot, so we shot some lifestyle work first.





Laura took Sam on a few warm up laps, kept asking her fiance to lift the barrier higher. After only a few jumps we got exactly the shot I was imagining!

It’s always great working with passionate people! Thank you, Laura and Joel, for spending a Friday with the Scotts (Scott Homan with the assist). Oh! Can’t forget to thank Joel for finding my keys I dropped in the field. Would have made for a long walk home!

Sunday Morning Motorcycle Ride

On Sunday, while hanging out the back of my car, I shot Dan Lehman riding his motorcycle up Flagstaff Mountain. With the back hatch open and my feet securely bracing against my bike rack, I was able to get the angles I wanted with Dan following super close. Dan’s friend, Samantha, held onto my Flashpoint Streaklight 360 (my favorite portable strobe!) completely safely held in by a makeshift seatbelt made from Alpine Draws. Had a lot of fun playing around and definitely learned a thing or two about what I’d do different next time.






This was one of those happy accidents. Camera got stuck in a weird mode, dragging the shutter for .3 seconds.





For this last shot, I was stationary and had Dan ride past me a few times. Melissa is hiding on the other side of the curve with the Streaklight.

 

I love doing personal work like this, playing around to see what works.

The Stars from Escalante

Colorado has some incredible and unique landscapes. Many are slammed with tourists, but there are some that are much less known. Escalante Canyon is one of those. Similar rock to the Westgate Sandstone Cracks of Indian Creek, this canyon attracts trad climbers, hikers, and ATV-ers.



I didn’t shoot any climbing because I was too busy climbing! Can’t wait to get back there!

Spring Snow Day

Saturday morning Boulder woke up to almost a foot of snow. Spring storms happen every year, but it’s a bit of shock after 70º pre-summer bluebird days. I made my adventure soul happy skiing two feet of powder at Berthoud Pass, but on the drive home I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera. I dropped off my buddy, and picked up my girlfriend and camera, hoping the light, snow, and fog would not change too much by the time I got back to the scenes I drove past on the way home.

I drive past this tree every time I go to my girlfriend’s house, and I think, “I should take a photo of that some day.” So, it was a natural first stop.

If you have followed me for a while, you know I have a favorite tree on the drive down CO 93 to Golden. I couldn’t help but capture it in beautiful fog and snow.







We drove a new road home, winding our way through the rolling hills southeast of Boulder. We found ourselves looking at a giant horse statue wearing hazmat suit and gas mask, which memorializes the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Production Plant. You can see the horse on my Instagram.

Across the road was this perfect abandoned Country Store overlooking the former site of the Nuclear Weapons Plant.

I have a bad habit of not shooting enough around where I live. I like breaking through that habit and exploring with a freshly inspired eye, seeing what stands out to me. Snow always helps with this inspiration.

Climbing the East Face of Notch Top with Skis

I was supposed to be in Indian Creek, but scheduling got a bit messed up. So I was unexpectedly in Boulder for the weekend. My buddy Eric Poore hit me up and asked if I wanted to ski the East Face of Notch Top in Rocky Mountain National Park. I didn’t really know what that entailed, but I said sure.


The East Face of Notch Top

The trail to the base of Notchtop is relatively flat, but skinning over the iced over bootpacks was less than enjoyable. I decided I didn’t really want to do the traverse back.


Eric gearing up to lead a short rock pitch before gaining the snow climb










Eric races skimo, meaning he skis uphill really fast, skis down really fast, and repeats. He’s fit. He absolutely destroyed me on the bootpack. I asked him to stop so I’d have something to take photos of.


Photo Credit: Eric Poore. Fully loaded, climbing styrafoam ice with non-existent gear. The nut on my left was just good enough to stay in un-weighted.




Eric just below the 3rd pitch of ice. Most of the bottom section disintegrated as I kicked in.



Photo Credit: Eric Poore. Me slogging my way up the last pitch of snow to the ridgeline where we dropped into Notchtop Spire Couloir.
The giant cornice over the East Face. We tried to stay out from under it as much as possible.
View down Notchtop Spire Couloir and across to Flattop and Flattop Gully, which we climbed to get out of Odessa Gorge
The sun had been hitting the east and south faces pretty hard, and the conditions were pretty soft. We elected not to ski the East Face, but down the Spire Couloir, which skied pretty fantastically.




Eric looking back at what we just skied
Getting out of Odessa Gorge we decided to not climb the easy way out, the slope above us, but the “S” couloir of Flattop Gully. It was a bit longer, definitely steeper, but maybe more entertaining?
View from Flattop Gully of Notchtop.

The last climb out spent the last of my energy. The snow wasn’t being cooperative, and I kept sinking back with every step. Within 100 feet of the summit I decided to try mix climbing the rocks instead. I got stumped by a featureless bulge and was about to head back to the snow when I found a small crack seam that took me in the direction I wanted to go. Laying back on the seam, yarding on my ice tools, I got myself probably 30 or 40 feet above my starting point. The crack petered out and I had to do some balancy slab climbing moves, scary in crampons. Getting locked into another crack system I made my way to the summit, glad that scaring myself drytooling didn’t turn out badly. As soon as I reached the summit I found out that I barely had control of my legs on flat ground. They were exhausted. Apparently I need to train for Skimo races with Eric.

The walk across the snowless summit of Flattop took me far too long. We decided to drop into Tyndall Gorge via the Tyndall Headwall, which was incredibly steep. It skied pretty well, but soon all of Tyndall Gorge was in shadow and the sun softened snow hardened immediately.

Without full control of my legs and wretched snow conditions, I felt like I’d never skied before. Thankfully, Eric was waiting patiently for me at Emerald Lake. I’d asked for a big day, and he had delivered. I haven’t been that tired in a while.