Monday, January 5, 2009


Happy New Year!

Last weekend I started working off my Christmas poundage by snowshoeing up a steep hill side. The snow this year is fantastic, deep and fluffy and definitely adds to the work out. This image shows an outcrop of Cutler, a fine Permian red bed with an abundance of cobbles in the conglomerate. In the past I have taken students up here (in the summer) just to show this amazing outcrop. You can see the icicles that have formed that indicate that the temperatures have indeed spent a small amount of time above freezing. The San Juan Mountains have such steep slopes that the difference between north and south facing slopes is extreme. It is common to find valleys that are one side free from snow while the other side is waist deep. The lower San Juan valleys (this was taken just outside of Ouray Colorado) are also low enough that is is not uncommon to find daytime temperatures above the freezing mark. These two features ensure that there will be plenty of freeze thaw cycles all year round to provide the muscle to break apart the already fragmented rock. The rock fragments then fall down the mountainside creating talus slopes and in the San Juan Mountains you often see rock glaciers...but that is another story. The mountains here are falling down and with abandon. If anyone wants to see geology happen in front of their eyes, I invite them to travel Red Mountain Pass. We have avalanches close the road in the winter, giant icicles fall onto to the road in the spring, rocks fall all year round and mudslides in the summer...and it all starts with that small icicle ice cracking that rock way up on the hillside.

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