Media outlets love to do feature stories on the year end. I guess that makes some sense. There is something within us that makes us look back every once in a while. Whether it is to measure how far we have come, or how far we have fallen, a good look back can serve as a reasonable measuring stick of our progress. When I am climbing up a steep tundra slope in search of the elusive summit of an alpine mountain I will frequently look back from whence I came. My perception of constant progress is an excellent motivator for me to continue the upward path. It is the same way coming back down. My quad muscles scream out each step of the way back down the slope but looking back to see how far I have descended encourages me to persevere onward to the flat land at the bottom.
I have taken photographs of my various adventures in the mountains and elsewhere over the years. I enjoy going back through those photographs at the end of the year in order to relive those enjoyable moments. I thought maybe this year I would share some of them with you. It is in that spirit that I have dedicate today's blog post to my favorite photographs of 2015. These photos do not include all of my favorite moments as, alas, I often fail to capture a wonderful moment as a digital image. And some photographs are too personal to share on a public blog like the Mad Welshman. Nevertheless, these pictures do capture a bit of the enjoyment I have had in the last year. I hope you enjoy them as well. I don't know if it is possible to post a photo to the "comments" section of this blog but if it is and if you have a favorite photo from 2015, won't you put it up?
My first adventure of the year was a March trip to Phoenix where I was able to spend several days getting to the top of several Phoenix area peaks. I chronicled that trip here. One of the peaks I climbed on that trip was Barry Goldwater peak, in the White Tank mountains on the extreme western border of the Phoenix metropolitan area. My friend and climbing partner re-titled Barry Goldwater peak as AuH2O peak. I thought that was appropriate. Although not a particularly striking picture, this one still reminds me of a great day on the trail in the desert on a very warm spring day. This view is from the summit due east, towards the Phoenix metropolitan area:
The summit was covered with a series of radio towers. That explains the presence of a road for the last half mile to the top. The view to the west from here is stark as it reveals a seemingly endless series of remote desert mountain ranges, each calling out for intrepid climbers to explore the hidden crags and distant summits. I hope to get to some of them in future years.
In May I made a trip to Tucson to attempt the long slog up Tanque Verde peak. The standard route up to the summit is 18 miles long, round trip, and includes about 4500 feet of climbing. The trail is good but rocky and somewhat slow. I joined the aforementioned partner on that day and we were treated to various views of the Sonoran desert in bloom. The ocotillo were particularly profuse that day. Here is a shot, looking north to the Santa Catalinas, that shows the beautiful ocotillo:
We didn't make it to the summit that day, coming up two miles shy, as my wintertime training program proved to be less than what was required for such an ambitious spring hike. On the way back down we were treated to this fellow:
July brought a hike up the Herman Gulch trail, near the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70. The wildflowers are always resplendent along this trail and this time was no different. Notice the abundant Colorado columbine:
In August I managed to finally get around to climbing the last official 14er in Colorado. It marked my 60th 14er personally. I was joined by my wife and the aforementioned climbing partner. He snapped this picture of my wife and me as we were nearing the false summit on the north ridge of Culebra Peak in the Sangre de Cristo range. I like it because I rarely get pictures of us together:
From that false summit this view of the true summit, the high point on the left accessed via the ridge on the right, came into view. The north facing cirque on this peak was surprisingly beautiful and only visible to those willing to do the work to get to where we were. On the day we were there no one else was willing to do the work so we had it to ourselves.
On our return to the trailhead we were treated to these gorgeous purple/white gentian flowers (below) and a couple of fluttering butterflies unlike anything I have ever seen before (second below):
In August my church had a church camp trip we attended. We gathered in Taylor Park, a place I had never spent a night in before. I was surprised to discover that the nightly temperature dipped below freezing even though we were only at 9,000 feet. It has to be one of the coldest places in Colorado. Here is a view of Taylor Reservoir, looking north, and the 13er peaks that surround it to the north, east and west. I suspect that is why the place gets so cold.
During the trip we decided to do a hike up a long fishhook valley on the Mt. Tilton trail. I suspected the wildflowers would be in fine form and I was not disappointed. Here is just one tiny portion of what we saw:
We also saw some fine mountains along the trail as this photograph of the rarely climbed Star Peak attests:
I hope to go back and climb Star (on the left end of the above ridge) at some point in the future.
September brought a trip to Silverton with some friends. We did an easy climb of a peak above Animas Forks that gave me an opportunity to snap this photo of a couple of summits I had climbed many years before. The fall colors are in fine form, as you can see:
For those in the know, those summits are California and Hanson peaks.
My wife and I took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in mid-fall to enjoy some hiking among the aspens, as well as a couple of easy peaks. That trip was a total disaster and I chronicled it here. I am continuing to actively suppress that memory and I have no photographs of what happened.
The year ended with a Thanksgiving trip back to Phoenix where a large group of friends joined my wife and me for several easy day hikes. Picacho Peak is a requirement for all climbers. It has a cabled route to the summit that makes it accessible even to non-technical climbers like me. I have been to the top before so I was having a go at its northern sub-peak while my friends went to the top. I snapped this shot of the summit from the north ridge where I was climbing:
I will leave you with a shot of a saguaro cactus I entitled "Exhausted Mother Holding Baby." Do you see it?