Inspired by my friend Todd Caudle’s recent photographic odyssey on Mount Evans, I decided to go get some
of my own. Unfortunately, that meant leaving on July 3d, which I soon learned is probably the busiest travel day of the summer in eastern Colorado! The trip from Pueblo to Idaho Springs ordinarily takes me less than two hours, but this time I sat, and sat, and sat, in traffic that would put Los Angeles to shame. At one point, I crawled for an hour to gain the final ten miles to the Idaho Springs exit, and the start of the drive to Mount Evans, a 14,264 foot mountain that has the highest paved road leading almost to the summit.
It was now late afternoon, and the thunderstorms were in full swing over the peaks. It was clear in town, but as I drove up the Mount Evans Highway the clouds opened and I was in a heavy downpour as I navigated the narrow, winding road that leads up the peak. At 12,000 feet, I started to notice bits of ice in the big drops hitting my windshield, and I knew what lay ahead. By 13,000 feet, the rain turned to driving wet snow, big wet flakes driven by strong winds. It was a full-fledged blizzard, and at one point I nearly turned around, but I knew the pavement was warm enough to keep the road mainly ice-free, and I expected the storm to clear by sunset.
Finally, I reach the observatory below the summit. One other photographer was there, flaying with his Goretex, and he shouted to me through the 50 mile-per-hour winds that he was canceling his plan to hike to the summit for sunset.
A wise decision, since the snow was about an inch deep but the wind was ferocious, and it was crazy cold for July 3d!
I waited a bit for the snow squalls to slow down, and as they moved to the south side of the peak and started pushing away from the summit, I grabbed a shot of the squalls below me, and one of the road switchbacks. With partial clearing around the summit, I started hopping boulders and took a shortcut to the west side of the summit block, a spot I had scouted in previous trips that has good views to the west. No great sunset this time, but enough clearing to make out the distant peaks. I hoped for better luck at sunrise.
Snow squalls hit the Mount Evans Highway
View at sunset from the summit block of Mt Evans
I decided to focus my sunrise plans on one of my favorite spots in Colorado to take in a sunrise, the Chicago Basin on the north side of the peak. The basin holds a number of lakes and is carpeted in flowers this time of year. The trailhead for an overlook of the basin begins at Summit Lake at 12,000 feet elevation. It was still a cold, raw morning, with thin layers of ice covering some of the tarns, but the skies were clear enough for a good sunrise. I hiked the short trip to the overlook of the basin, then hopped some more boulders to descend onto some of the flowery meadows that rise up from the lakes. I took a sequence of shots with my Canon, using my 24mm tilt-shift lens to compose larger photos of the basin. The first is about 20 minutes before sunrise, the second at peak color, then sunrise, and finally 20 minutes after sunrise. I chatted with another photographer who was taking in the spectacle, then made a dash back up to Summit Lake and grabbed some shots of the tarns, and wildflowers. A great sunrise, and a great way to spend the July 4th morning!
Twenty minutes before sunrise, overlooking the Chicago Lakes Basin on Mount Evans.
Colorful sunrise from an overlook on the slopes of Mount Evans.
Tarns reflect the morning sky.