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July 15, 2009
"Geology of the San Juan Mountains
by Paul Bradley, Ph.
finished my goal of climbing all of Colorado's 14,000+ foot mountains.
For this installment, I will talk about the San Juan Mountains of
southwest Colorado. The San Juans boast thirteen fourteeners,
second only to the mighty Sawatch. These mountains are different
from most high peaks in Colorado in that they are almost all volcanic,
and part of a huge Oligocene volcano field. While the geology is
not as varied as other ranges, it is still interesting and the scenery
is spectacular here. This is a magnificent range, and is large enough
that one can see almost endless mountains in every direction at times.
Some of the most beautiful mountain scenery I have seen anywhere is
here, and even if you don't want to climb a mountain, you should check
it out. The San Juans contain some of the easiest climbs that I
can recommend to beginners, but also some very difficult climbs that can
be dangerous. They are also unique in that three of the
fourteeners are best accessed by the narrow gauge train from Durango.
Paul on the summit of Mount Wilson in 2007.
El Diente and the
El Diente to Mount Wilson traverse is in the background.
Paul Bradley received a
BS in Chemical Engineering and MS in Physics from Texas A&M University.
During this time, he rediscovered his scientific love and became an
astronomer, receiving a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in
1993. He came to Los Alamos as a Director's funded postdoc that
Fall. He has been in X-2 (and now X-4 with the latest
reorganization), working on nuclear weapons, inertial confinement
fusion, and astrophysics. His interest in geology picked up in
graduate school and has continued with mineral collecting and observing
geology on the many drives, hikes, climbs, and field trips. Paul
caught the mountain bug on his honeymoon in June 1987 to Colorado and
driving up Pike's Peak (no that didn't count). He started climbing
14'ers in 1996, got serious about it in 2000, and finished them by
summiting Pyramid Peak in September 2007.
Paul during his ascent of Crestone Needle with Blake Wood.