Grenadiers and Needle Mts Sunset – San Juan Mountains

grenadiers needle's sunset pano -.jpgGarfield Peak Golden Sunset-1522.jpg


This was one of the worst days and best days of my life concerning landscape photography. I ventured out eagerly to capture the fresh snow encapsulating the peaks in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado after a fall storm was moving out of the area. The snow level was over 10k feet so I decided to make a run for one of my favorite overlooks high in the alpine above tree-line. The road only had about 2″ of snow on it so I kept on going despite the steep terrain. Only a mile from my destination I hit the steepest part and decided to make a run at it. This turned out to be a really stupid mistake as I got a few hundred feet up and my tires started to spin. I decided to back down near a pull off to put on some chains. As I was backing down I applied the brakes and immediately started to skid. I let the brakes off and my truck started slowly rolling again in low range. As I neared the pull off I gently applied the brakes again and once again I started to skid. I let the brakes off and realized that I only had 30 feet left before I would slide off a steep embankment which would surely destroy my truck.

I opened my truck door, grabbed my faithful dog by her harness and prepared to jump out of my truck. I gave the brakes one more try but just kept on sliding. Just when I was about to jump out, the truck finally came to a stop just in time. I set the park brake and jumped out with my dog in case it started to slide again. As I hit the ground, I fell flat on my face. I had no idea it was that slick? I made my way over to a clearing where I tied my dog up to keep her out of harm’s way and I spent the next 2 hours hooking my large tie-down straps to a tree and was finally able to winch my truck around without sliding off the hill. I was very fortunate to have three heavy duty straps that reached the only tree close by. This was really important because when I looked in my storage box the chains were nowhere to be found. I went from tree to tree with my straps hooked firmly to my truck as I slowly moved down the hill for a few hundred feet to prevent my truck from sliding off the road. I finally hit a section of the 4×4 road where I felt comfortable and drove off exhausted and bruised up but thankfully relieved.

Though I didn’t deserve it for being so careless, on my way back down, a crazy beautiful sunset broke out on the Grenadier and Needle Mountains that highlighted some of the most gorgeous peaks in the lower 48. I was able to catch a quick shot of Garfield Peak still in the golden stage of the sunset but quickly moved on to find a better position where I could capture a larger portion of the majestic range. By the time I set up, the beautiful pinkish red highlights on the peaks began to fade but the color in the clouds began to intensify. As the picture depicts, it was extremely bright and a joy to look at. I only had time for a quick shot so I made the best of it. I was able to capture from left to right: Knife Point, Sunlight, Monitor, Animas, the tip of Eolus behind Animas, Peak Fifteen, and finally Turret Peak. Unfortunately, I had to leave out Garfield, Electric, Arrow and Vestal peaks but I felt very fortunate to come out of this adventure unharmed and I thanked God for helping me turn a bad situation in something so beautiful.


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