On a Red Hill ridge in north Boulder a breeze blows under an overcast sky, dog barks echo against canyons on both sides, plain views peak around six-mile fold, and ice climber, mountaineer and photographer Darron Jacobs, 49, ticks off his Boulder loves.
As Jacobs notes, he’s less than 10 minutes from foothill hikes, five minutes from flyfishing, within half an hour of ice climbing at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Hidden Falls and within 30 minutes of backcountry skiing in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
“This is paradise,” he concludes. “And I’m still within an hour of the airport.”
Nutshelled, that about sums up Boulder’s charm and why the desirability — and exclusivity — of it and other areas hugging the Front Range within easy DIA access continue to swell.
With a jump of 57.0 percent to $515,000 from June 2012 to June 2017, Boulder County median home prices are by far the region’s most expensive, according to MLS data sourced from Redfin. Compare that with June 2017 median prices of $414,000, $397,000 and $360,000 for Denver, Jefferson and Larimer counties, respectively.
But this isn’t a real estate story (we’ll tell that one later). Jacobs and his photography embody the spirit that pulls so many to Boulder.
Colorado adventure photography. Copyright Darron Jacobs.
A lifetime of climbing, a surprise lay off — and photography — led Jacobs to Boulder last August.
Six years ago, while ice climbing in the San Juan range outside of Ouray he met a fellow climber from Jamestown. They hit it off and he began growing his local climbing network.
When finding himself suddenly free from his job harness last August he thought, “If I don’t go to Colorado now, I’m never going to get there.” He sold his Houston house the next week and was in Boulder soon after.
Jacobs grew up in Exeter, England, where he became climbing buddies with legendary ice climber Tim Emmett when Emmett was still a teenager. “He changed me as a climber,” Jacobs said, adding that he learned to climb from his center of gravity instead of through his limbs.
He nearly missed that opportunity, and everything else.
At age 21 he plummeted over 110 feet while climbing a sea cliff overlooking the English Channel. He split his head open, punctured his lungs and, after a helicopter rescue, recuperated in an induced coma for roughly a week.
Over his parents’ vehement objections, he slowly got back into climbing and mountaineering, eventually training to become a climbing instructor at age 24 and volunteering with the the Dartmoor Rescue Team and the Search and Rescue Dog Association in England.
Upon earning his certification in Quantity Surveying in his mid-20s, he left for the Middle East, where he worked in the steel and cement industry. Eventually, he landed in Houston, where he lived before jumping ship to Boulder last August. He climbed throughout his career, often in Colorado.
Photography = exploration
Jacobs’ passion for photography took root as he honed his mountaineering skills back in England. He tested gear, which involved taking photographs of it with his 35mm Olympus OM10 and sending them to manufacturers for review.
Partially retired from his work as a specialist in assessing construction damages in several industries, Jacobs spends an increasing amount of time on photography, a hobby that he took to the next level when, a few years ago, a friend changed his mind after purchasing a new Nikon D800e.
Left: Barn off Overland Road above Jamestown, Colorado; Right: Lake Isabelle near Nederland, Colorado. Copyright Darron Jacobs.
Jacobs decided to take it, and its 36 megapixel-power, off his hands, and began attending photography classes with master photographers such as Michael Clark, who Jacobs now considers a mentor.
As he gets older and the body creaks increase, photography increasingly becomes his vehicle for exploration. Along with landscape shots, he does adventure photography — capturing climbers, mountain bikers, kayakers, motocross riders and trail runners in their natural habitats.
Jacobs’ photos have won placement in adventure magazines, used in online articles, and he held a show last year at Salto Coffee Works in Nederland.
He’s currently working on a show of classic Front Range views including the Flatirons, Long’s Peak, Lumpy Ridge, Garden of the Gods and Indian Peaks Wilderness, where he’s planning to capture a mountain moonrise shot.