Andrew Terrill

The outdoor diary of a writer, photographer, and wilderness wanderer

The Perfect ‘Spring’ Camp

A MONTH AGO, on May 11, I set out for a short overnight trip. It was to become one of the most unforgettable ‘spring’ camps I’ve ever made.

tent on mountain in colorado winter camping 2021

Conditions were cold and wet down in Golden, and up in the mountains snow was still piling up. In fact, the snowpack was as deep as it had been all winter. From a slow start it had reached 115% of normal. The forecast called for heavy afternoon and evening snow, possibly thunder, but then clearing clouds after midnight. Arguably, I should have stayed home – my book was nearing publication and I had so much still to do to prepare for it. And the lightning threat was intimidating. But the thought of being camped somewhere high at dawn as the skies cleared was hard to resist.

Plus, if a book about backpacking ever stopped me from actually backpacking, then there was something very very wrong!

So, away I wandered into a snow-bound realm at nearly 12,000-feet. And the extraordinary camp that followed proved I’d made the right choice.

For this blog, instead of writing a long description, I’ll let the photos do the talking. There are enough of them anyway!

I hope you enjoy!

frozen trees on cold snow covered mountain above sea of clouds after sunset in colorado


Once thing, however – I intend to remain vague about the location. The mountain where this camp took place is a fragile environment, with limited trailhead parking, and I would hate to be responsible for sending crowds to it. Too many places have been ruined by over-promotion, by photographers thoughtlessly sharing spectacular images that end up encouraging masses to trample a place to death. I’m a firm believer in ‘leave no trace’. Leaving a place as you found it, or better, is essential for the enjoyment of all visitors and – more importantly – for the sake of the land itself. But in my opinion, leave no trace should also extend to ‘leave no digital trace’ – to not damaging a place after it’s been left by sending thousands of other visitors to it.

Some people will figure out the location from the photos anyway. To you I’ll make a plea: PLEASE step carefully when you go. And please carefully consider how much you, personally, share places like this. There are plenty of locations where camps and hikes like this are possible… or were possible… because in many places such activities have now become restricted because too many people have gone, and too many of them have behaved with no respect for the land. In this instance, ‘where’ is less important than ‘when’ anyway. ‘When’ was at the tail end of a storm, in clearing conditions – conditions that happen more commonly than you might think. For moments of magic like this, timing is the key thing, not the specific location!

I want to encourage people to head outdoors. And I hope these photos do that! The more people there are that get to know the wild the more people there will be to stand up for it. But I ALSO wan to encourage people to go thoughtfully and carefully when they go. Thank you for caring!

snow drift and snow covered pine trees may colorado 2021
When I reached the trailhead, snow was lying impressively deep for May.
footsteps trail in snow through forest in cold snowy weather
Heading in, with snow falling hard, and the threat of thunder in the forecast, was an act of faith.
snow covered pines and clearing clouds in forest
But there was a hint of change in the air…
clearing winter storm and snowy forest colorado
And for a second, the clouds were swept aside.
clearing winter storm clouds and snowy forest colorado
What a moment!
winter camp on snow covered mountain in colorado
I pitched camp lower than I might have in consideration of possible thunder and lightning, but although snow was still falling I had a hunch the storm was winding down.
winter snow on mountains and forests in colorado above clearing storm clouds
And then, suddenly, the fog rolled away for good…
winter wild camping with tent and figure looking at view in snow with clearing storm clouds over rocky mountains in colorado
The storm was supposed to have kept going until midnight. But there were no complaints from me!
winter storm in rocky mountains in colorado may 2021
The views to distant mountains through the last of the falling flakes were mesmerizing.
winter wild camping with tent and figure eating dinner looking at view in snow with clearing storm clouds over rocky mountains in colorado
Dinner with a view!
footprints in snow leading to tent colorado at sunset
After dinner, I set off up the mountain for the summit.
evening light on snow covered pine trees above the clouds in rocky mountains
Conditions were sparkling and pristine.
frozen trees on cold snow covered mountain above sea of clouds after sunset in colorado
It was a cold, frozen world – but heart-breakingly beautiful.
deep snow on mountain after sunset colorado
Up at the summit everything had been smoothed over, cleansed, simplified.
hiker sitting on mountain summit in winter in snow above the clouds
Time to sit and stare…
winter wild camping with glowing tent in snow with clearing storm clouds over rocky mountains in colorado
I settled in happily back at the tent. I think it’s fair to say I’d never had a camp quite like it.
Winter sunrise with snow covered pine trees
After a comfortable night, dawn eventually came…
winter sunrise alpenglow and snow on grays and torreys peak colorado
The new day spilled light across the wintry May world.
winter sunrise with alpenglow snow covered pines and mountains Front Range colorado
The colors, the scent, the quietness, and above all the ‘feeling’ of the morning was extraordinary.
winter sunrise with alpenglow on frosted tent wild camping in colorado
May 12, and a frosty FROSTY morning. But sheer perfection!
Winter front range colorado snow rocky mountains clear creek county morning
As the day advanced, the surrounding Rockies looked as wild and unblemished as they’d ever looked.
clearing storm clouds Longs Peak Rocky Mountain National Park winter snow
Clearing clouds on far-distant Longs Peak.
Winter camping in snow colorado rocky mountains staring at view
Camp in a million!
Winter snow covered trees forests and mountains in colorado rocky mountains
Pikes Peak, far to the south.
North Table Mountain seen from Rocky Mountains in spring
While out over the plains, beyond Golden’s North Table Mountain, fog still lingered.
winter forest and mountains in colorado in deep snow front range
Leaving such a pristine place was a tough task, but I finally managed it, feeling immense gratitude… and taking away everything I’d brought there with me.
tracks in snow through Colorado winter forest
My tracks into the woods.
andrew terrill hiker in forest in snow colorado
A happy hiker, it’s fair to say!
winter wild camping with tent and figure looking at view in snow with clearing storm clouds over rocky mountains in colorado
A camp I’ll never forget!


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