Monday, April 18, 2011

Great Sand Dunes

During the last week we've been on a whirlwind tour of Colorado, somewhat literally.  The wind has been a force to be reckoned with.  But that will all come in the next post.  After leaving Penitente Canyon we decided to stop in the nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park, boasting the tallest dunes in North America.



These dunes are massive, with the tallest hovering around 750 feet.  We decided to hike up to the second tallest, High Dune, distance about 1 mile, height around 650 feet.  Hiking up a 650 feet of sand is not all that easy, so we decided to take a mountaineering strategy and approach via what we dubbed the 'Southeast Ridge'.  This would make the approach longer but less steep, and a bit easier hiking as it turned out.  The sand along the ridges is harder packed that on the steep hills.

Here is Kristal, still pretty much at the base of the dunes, as we were making our way to the base of the ridge.


And here she is starting up the lower sections of the ridge.


Here she is at the top of one of the lesser dunes on the way.  We thought this was the top of High Dune for a while as we were approaching, but it turned out to be a false summit.


After an hour of hiking we finally made it to the top, which boasted some impressive views.


 

Coming down was much easier, and much more fun of course, with us mostly running down the steep hills in a flurry of sand.


As we were descending the wind picked up something fierce, a harbinger for the days to come.

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