Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Long View

I think the the desert or specifically the canyons of Utah really enable us to take a long view.  

Geologically: the view here shows Permian sediments to Tertiary (I will always be using that word) volcanics to Quaternary (there I go old school) debris on the valley floors.

Literally: the view here is long. No biology to interfere with the view.

Environmentally, the area is so fragile, that we can see how a little degradation can end up a problem for decades or even centuries.

Can we as a society take a long view. I wonder sometimes.

Visit the Carnival of the Arid to read more.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Uncompahgre Gorge

On the other side of President Obama's inauguration I was blogging about ice climbing in Ouray's Ice Park. The ice park is situated in a very tight gorge just outside the city. It is perfect for keeping ice because there is very little direct sunlight at anytime of the year.

This time I wanted to show the place in the summer time. It is still chilly at the bottom of he gorge but not nearly as it is in the winter!

This image was taken from the "upper bridge" part of the new Ouray perimeter trail. The canyon is cut into the Precambrian Uncompahgre Formation, a quartzite. You can see it here as the almost vertical relict bedding. The gorge then drops for another couple of hundred feet below this point. The almost horizontal layer on top is the Devonian Elbert Formation, a sandy, shaly limestone (or a shaley, limy sandstone or perhaps a sandy, shaly limy rock) ...anyway
What cool geology just staring you in the face. It is so obvious that I have overheard tourists mention it while taking pictures.

If you are interested, the Ouray Perimeter Trail cuts into a short hard rock tunnel right after leaving the bridge. The bridge is cut through the Uncompahgre Formation and gives a good look at a relatively fresh (the tunnel was cut awhile ago) samples. A fun hike!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Have an Ice Day

So goes the motto of the Ouray Ice Park. Here there are miles of pipes bringing water to the edge of the gorge for the sole purpose of making ice on the canyon walls. Why? So that people can strap sharp objects onto their bodies and climb the frozen water falls. Yes, here I am part way up one of the ice climbing routes in the ice park.

My last post was all about the weathering seen in the San Juan Mountains because of the south facing steep slopes creating many more cycles of freeze-thaw than the more frigid north facing slopes. This is a very tight gorge that sees very little sun. It is very cold belaying on the bottom of the gorge! I must imagine that the extra water being poured on the walls has increase the incidence of rock fall, at least in the spring. I don't know if anyone has done any research.

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.