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Colorado Next Week!

Regional discussion and conditions reports for the U.S. Rocky Mountains. Please post partners requests and trip plans in the Colorado Climbing Partners section.
 

Colorado Next Week!

Postby Flattlander » Tue May 10, 2011 6:55 pm

I'm finally visiting Colorado for the first time from 5/16 thru 5/23 and I want to do some hiking. I'm looking for any information on trail conditions on popular mountains such as Quandary, Elbert, and Longs. That or suggestions for lesser-known peaks that don't necessarily break the 14k mark. I'll be going with some friends who live in Denver, but I don't know what their hiking experience is. I'm from New England, and have done plenty of winter hiking in the Whites, plus some ice and gully climbing. I want to do something exciting but not too dangerous, and have had my eye on the Keyhole Route on Longs and the Cristo Couloir on Quandary. Both would be technically easier than stuff I've done, but I'm unfamiliar with the area. Are trails on the popular mountains usually broken out at this time of year? What, if any routefinding problems would I encounter on the eyhole Route? I'm planning on bringing snowshoes--what are snow conditions like in the high mountains? Are any of you locals doing anything in this vein during the week in question and would want to partner up with a Vermonter?
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Buz Groshong » Tue May 10, 2011 8:53 pm

You probably should post this on the "Colorado" board; I'd think you'd get more response there.

Edit: I think one of the elves must be playing games with me! The above was posted on the "General" board when I responded and here my response winds up on the "Colorado" board! WTF?
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby JasonH » Tue May 10, 2011 9:52 pm

Buz Groshong wrote:Edit: I think one of the elves must be playing games with me! The above was posted on the "General" board when I responded and here my response winds up on the "Colorado" board! WTF?


When the topic was moved from General to the Colorado board a shadow thread was left in General. I deleted the Shadow thread, so problem solved.
I have a demon in me - Stu
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Buz Groshong » Tue May 10, 2011 10:18 pm

JasonH wrote:
Buz Groshong wrote:Edit: I think one of the elves must be playing games with me! The above was posted on the "General" board when I responded and here my response winds up on the "Colorado" board! WTF?


When the topic was moved from General to the Colorado board a shadow thread was left in General. I deleted the Shadow thread, so problem solved.


So you were the dude playin' the dude, disguised as another dude that was playin me for some kind of dude playin' a dude who thought he knew what he was doin!
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby JasonH » Wed May 11, 2011 12:18 am

Buz Groshong wrote:
JasonH wrote:
Buz Groshong wrote:Edit: I think one of the elves must be playing games with me! The above was posted on the "General" board when I responded and here my response winds up on the "Colorado" board! WTF?


When the topic was moved from General to the Colorado board a shadow thread was left in General. I deleted the Shadow thread, so problem solved.


So you were the dude playin' the dude, disguised as another dude that was playin me for some kind of dude playin' a dude who thought he knew what he was doin!


I might have. Maybe. Yes.
I have a demon in me - Stu
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Kiefer » Wed May 11, 2011 5:28 am

Flatlander,
Lately, things in the high country have been very see-saw in reagrds to the snowfall and temperatures. Overall, reports from friends about the snowpack have not been encouraging, dangerous in a few occasions. We've had a stretch of very warm weather that's set off a lot of wet slides. However, tomorrow, another 12" of wet snow is expected to fall over most of the northern and central mountains...not sure what the San Juans are expected to receive.
Anything over ~32 degrees of course, even for the first few days of your visit, should probably be treated with extreme caution and suspicion. Just an FYI.

Anyway,
the lower trail (~1.5 miles) of the Long's Peak trail is snow free. Past that, it's packed out. It's an insanely popular winter/spring trail for snowshoers, especially up to Chasm Junction (where the trail splits to Mt. Meeker and Boulderfield). The North Face is generously covered in the white stuff. Storm Peak looks like a massive snowcone. Boulderfield is spotty. Can't say what it's like around the Keyhole. I volunteer for Rocky Mountain National Park and I haven't seen any snow or trail reports come through for the Keyhole. But it is still rated solidily technical. Bring yo crampons, axe of course and one could probably make the case for a short rope but each to their own in regards to experience. I'd expect snow on the south face ledges (narrows) to be spotty and the homestretch to also, be spotty with ice in the morning. I also wouldn't expect any tracks past the keyhole.
This time of year, if Long's is on your radar, I personally wouldn't consider the Keyhole Route. Look at the North Face (Cables), Most people climb that instead. It does have a technical section that WILL require rope and protection and in terms of overall safety and length, it might actually be safer.
Another option is the Trough. The approach is somewhat equal to the standard trail in length (I think) but you'll encounter MUCH more snow. This starts at Glacier Gorge...an equally popular trail. We had a bear spotted up there just a few days ago. So bring a chihuahua to divert the bear from you. :D
With winter/spring climbing on Long's, Cables Route and The Trough are the two main routes of choice.

A HUGE group from 14ers.com was just up attempting Missouri, Mt. Hope and Mt. Belford/Iowa Peak with highly mixed results. Most folks did not summit Missouri due to bad snow conditions. Most of the guys made Mt. Belford and I believe everyone made the summit of Mt. Hope and a few tagged Quail Mtn. on the way out (they share a saddle). They climbed the 'Hopeful Couloir' and a few just took the standard class-2 ridge to the summit. 'Hopeful Couloir' currently has a massive cornice guarding the exit.

Both trails for Quandary and Mt. Elbert are east facing, broad, flat, ridges. Snowshoes would be a very good idea while in the trees. Quandary is stupifingly popular. Expect a packed trail. Elbert not as so but there will be tracks. Things get very windblown past treeline. From there, I don't know. Carry your snowshoes or stash them. Personally, I'd stash them. The Glacier Gorge trail for The Trough on Long's, snowshoes will be a necessity until you reach the base of the couloir.
The northern mountains this year have a mind-boggling amount of snow. The last 'official' measurement at Bear Lake (RMNP) as of April 29th was 84.3". Expect similar up Glacier Gorge.

I'd have some reservations about climbing Cristo on Quandary right now. I don't think it would be the best idea. If you're dead set on it though, make sure you're leaving the summit by 7-8:00am. Cristo does slide regularily.
The Sangre de Cristo's in southern Colorado have the least snowpack at the moment. Fact, most of the south aspects are atypically dry. I had plans to head down there today and climb Mt. Adams and two other low 13ers but settled on cragging/trad. locally instead.

Meander on over to 14ers.com. There's usually a lot of folks over there who put up mountain/snow conditions, pictures, trip reports etc. Very helpful.

For what it's worth, I'm taking an old supervisor of mine up Signal Mountain Saturday 21st. It's just a walk/snowshoe. A 10 mile RT hike. But the guy is still working on loosing weight and getting in shape. So we won't
be setting any speed records.
A buddy and I are considering Little Bear for Friday (20th) though... :wink:

Flattlander wrote:I'm finally visiting Colorado for the first time from 5/16 thru 5/23 and I want to do some hiking. I'm looking for any information on trail conditions on popular mountains such as Quandary, Elbert, and Longs. That or suggestions for lesser-known peaks that don't necessarily break the 14k mark. I'll be going with some friends who live in Denver, but I don't know what their hiking experience is. I'm from New England, and have done plenty of winter hiking in the Whites, plus some ice and gully climbing. I want to do something exciting but not too dangerous, and have had my eye on the Keyhole Route on Longs and the Cristo Couloir on Quandary. Both would be technically easier than stuff I've done, but I'm unfamiliar with the area. Are trails on the popular mountains usually broken out at this time of year? What, if any routefinding problems would I encounter on the eyhole Route? I'm planning on bringing snowshoes--what are snow conditions like in the high mountains? Are any of you locals doing anything in this vein during the week in question and would want to partner up with a Vermonter?
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Pete Castricone » Tue May 17, 2011 8:21 pm

A week ago, we used snowshoes from road to summit and back on Quandary's east ridge, although it is a well-traveled, easy trail/trench and there is a small patch of exposed ridge now. Several feet of snow still at and below treeline. By late morning it all turns to slush due to the warmer weather. Cristo is climbable now but look for suspect snow near the top.
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Flattlander » Sun May 22, 2011 1:38 pm

Thanks for the info. My buddy and I managed to top out on Quandary via the east ridge. Very low visibility, but a great time. I got sunburn even though it was very cloudy. Lesson learned.
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Flattlander » Sun May 22, 2011 1:41 pm

I felt like the clock had been turned back to winter. Beautiful mountains you have here in Colorado.
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Bill Reed » Sun May 22, 2011 3:26 pm

Glad you made it!! Thanks for letting us know how it turned out.
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Re: Colorado Next Week!

Postby Flattlander » Wed May 25, 2011 5:56 am

Thanks Bill. Even though Quandary is considered an easier 14er, the weather made it a challenge. I was actually scared of getting blown off the summit ridge, b/c the wind would be gusting one way, stop, then out of nowhere gust insanely hard from the opposite direction. Sometimes, we'd just have to kneel down and shield our faces from the ice particles, then get up and dash onward when the wind subsided. I literally did some crawling. Descending in a near-whiteout was interesting, too, and would have been frightening without a GPS. Much respect to Colorado hikers/climbers. You guys are right to point out the dangers to people who haven't been to your ranges before, because being that high above treeline is no joke. Without pertinent winter experience in the Whites and the aforementioned GPS, my first "easy" 14er could have been a disaster. I can't wait to come back...maybe when there's less snow. Just getting my rental Kia from Denver to Breckenridge was a freakin adventure.
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