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Sunrise from Grays Peak

Sunrise from Grays Peak, Arapaho National Forest, Colorado

Sunrise from Grays Peak, Arapaho National Forest, Colorado

For many people, Grays Peak is their first Fourteener. Located just off I-70 near Georgetown, it has easy access from Front Range cities and a well-built trail, courtesy of hard-working volunteers from the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. I chose to photograph sunrise from the summit in late June, when the sun rises at a compass bearing of about 60 degrees ‒ as far to the north of east as it will for the entire year. That sunrise angle meant the sun would come up over the lowest possible obstacle, allowing the largest possible portion of the east face of Torreys Peak, the rugged Fourteener just north of Grays, to be bathed in reddish sunrise light. In late June the sun comes up over Ganley Mountain, 12,902 feet. On a clear morning, the top 1,300 feet of Torreys gets moment-of-sunrise light. In mid-winter, the sun comes up over Mt. Edwards, 13,850 feet, so only the very tip of Torreys, the last 400 feet or so, catches red alpenglow.

In late June, of course, much of the north face of Grays is still snow-covered, so I brought crampons and an ice ax in case the snow was frozen hard at 4 a.m. Fortunately, the snow, while firm, was still soft enough to allow good step-kicking. I summited well before sunrise and set up first looking east over the foothills at the golden glow at the horizon. Then I turned my attention to Torreys Peak and the image I thought would be the strongest of the trip. Unfortunately, clouds at the horizon dulled the sunrise light, and the light show was disappointing, with only weak pink light on Torreys Peak and the wind-sculpted snow that I chose as my foreground. The image that best captured the beauty of the morning proved to be the very first one I shot, the view looking east towards Denver.

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