2019 Huérfano Basin Avalanches

August 19, with my friends Teresa & Doug Cain. Starting from the trailhead, everything looked its usual glorious self.

First signs of trouble.

Snow-chutes visible on the slope, through dead & living trees.

Yeah, this is trouble.

I wasn’t taking pictures of what it was like getting through this. About a mile of jungle gym, tree sap, sharp points, walking on beds of boughs, boots breaking through. At lunchtime, we talked about turning back, but Teresa went on the scout & came back saying it looked better ahead, maybe we were almost through. So we headed up this next stretch, that climbs briefly above the river, & for a while could actually see the trail.

But we weren’t out of the woods yet.

Bouquets formed around resistant trees, still standing.

At last the reward: headwaters of the Huérfano River, at the foot of Blanca Peak.

The upper basin & its permanent snow field. Waterfalls pour down those crevices, then the water disappears under the massive scree, emerging again at its base to feed the river. More streams flow in from either side, so this spot is like the center-point of a cross. Waist-high flowers fed by the avalanche snows.

These simple water filters take me back to the days when we drank directly from the streams. Just dip, screw on the filtering lid, & drink. Snow-cold, rock water. My boots.

Avalanche damage, old & new.

Freshly topped spruce, their broken trunks glowing like candles. This is zoomed on my phone, so not very sharp.

The living & the dead: drought-&-bug-killed spruce.

Unlike most hikes, heading home was no easier than heading up.

In the foreground, sun-silvered wood of a tree uprooted by avalanche years ago.

New beaver dams on the river. Beaver have been absent here for more than a decade.

From near the trailhead, looking back at Blanca Peak (R) & Iron Nipple (L).