Flagstaff’s February weather has been very active with rain and/or snow recorded on seven days out of the first fifteen. Several days of snow on the Kachina Peaks covered the trees with a thick coating of rime ice and lots of new snow on the slopes.
And then we had an “atmospheric river” that produced a significant amount of winter rain with about 1.5 inches falling in the Flagstaff area. The runoff in Oak Creek and its tributaries was impressive.
And the forecast for the next week or so is a continuation of stormy weather with lots of snow for the higher elevations. I believe the long-anticipated El Niño has finally arrived.
Some years it’s easy to get great photographs of the changing colors of aspen leaves in northern Arizona. The weather is good, the timing is right, you’re in the perfect place. It all comes together.
That wasn’t this year.
We set out several times on the mountain bikes to see and enjoy the color. First we were too early; then we were too late. We were out of town on a long-planned trip and the peak color season occurred while we were gone. It happens.
Not that I’m complaining. I’ve been able to get good photographs many times in the past and there will be opportunities again in coming years.
So here is a collection of pre-season photos, post-season photos, and a few from several years ago comparing colors in the Inner Basin on similar dates but different years.
Based on previous years, I thought we might still find some great color in the Inner Basin this late in the season. We certainly did in 2014—but not 2017.
And here are a couple from 2015—another good year for aspen photography.
An early snowfall on the higher summits juxtaposed with the aspen almost at their peak made an interesting composition. Getting this view required more hiking and climbing that anticipated—but ultimately worth it.
The last major snow event around here was a multi-day storm from January 19–25 that put down about 36″ of snow in town. The Kachina Peaks received anywhere from 5 to 7 FEET of snow. Since then, the weather has been pretty quiet with no storms. The snow in town had melted away and the snowpack in the mountains had melted/sublimated substantially.
Finally, however, another snow storm moved across the area earlier this week bringing about 16″ in two days to Flagstaff and about 18–24″ across the peaks. Time to hit the slopes.
Our original destination was the area known as Allison Clay but that idea was abandoned because of the amount of trail breaking required to get there. Instead, we went for the nearer destination known as Flying Dutchman. A few skiers had already broken a trail to the top of the area so we had an easy climb. Thanks, guys!
Here are a few images from the downhill runs.
Will this be the last chance for good skiing? Or will we see another big event in March?
We had a nice snow storm earlier this week that brought a bit less than a foot of new snow to Flagstaff—but more than two feet in the mountains. Time to get out and ski some deep powder!
So off we went to ski the backcountry. Our destination was the area known as “Allison Clay” on the west face of Humphreys Peak. Getting there is not straightforward as there is no trail. One has to bushwack their way from the lower sections of the Humphreys Peak trail around a portion of the mountain before reaching the open slopes. Nonetheless, the trek can be quite beautiful when there is a lot of fresh snow on the trees.
Along the way we stopped at “Flying Dutchman” to survey the conditions. The old snow had settled so much in the past few weeks that the new snow was insufficient to completely cover the rocks and many were poking through the powder. After a quick stop, it was time to continue to our main destination.
Normally setting a trail through the forest and finding Allison Clay is not that difficult—but on this outing I aimed too low and we ended up below the normal ski zone. Not a problem! As it turned out, we found another nice gully with deep, untracked powder. Up we climbed—determined that we would return through this gully on our way back. Higher up, we broke out into the open and began the moderately steep climb up the west face of the mountain. Then it was time to convert all that potential energy into kinetic energy—in other words, let gravity do its thing.
And, oh, it was GOOD—especially the powder-filled gully! By this time, however, we were getting tired since we had to break a lot of trail through deep snow just to get here.
Next morning—same thing. We did all the work yesterday breaking trail so today would be easier. Unfortunately, winds had increased overnight and the avalanche danger began to increase so we chose to ski through the trees and away from the open slope. That turned out to be even better because the powder in the trees was simply marvelous.