After months of planning, I finally made it up to the South Colony Lakes next to rugged fourteeners Crestone Needle and Crestone Mountain. This backpacking trip was fun, but it came with a little sacrifice... 5 miles up through rain and hail (yes, the ground turned white) and my wife waking up to such fierce winds, I thought for a few minutes that I'd see her in our tent rolling across the tundra...

Even still, we saw some incredible sights. At the foot of two fo the most rugged mountains in the state, this is a mecca not just for hikers, but for technical climbers. Most everyone we ran into had helmets and ropes which says a lot about the terrain. And since I consider myself a hiker not a climber, I found myself amazed at the terrain these people took on. The point of light near the bottom right corner comes from some climbers getting into position to "scale the needles" between Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle. Needless to say, I was impressed with anyone heading up that route, but at this hour, I was in awe. To put it into perspective, the route down from Crestone Needle is known as the most difficult descent in Colorado.

This panoramic image (coming from 5 vertical captures) was taken from the trail between upper and lower South Colony Lakes near Westcliffe, Colorado. It's a rare opportunity to be so close to so many big, rugged mountains as this location deep in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I timed the hike and capture (3:37 am) so that the thin moon (13% full) coming up beyond the mountain on the left was just high enough to illuminate the mountains on the right below the milky way. Taken with my new D800, I'll admit I was pretty impressed with the low-light details I was able to capture (even out of the moonlight).

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