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Favorite routes of the Sawatch

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Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby Tonka » Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:33 pm

Just booked another trip to CO for a few days May 12th and I've decided that we will be spending it in the Sawatch.....somewhere. I know this is a big area but with some local input I'm sure we can narrow my options down to a few dozen routes :) We're looking for anything up to a very long day, class 3 and heavy milage not an issue. I'll be coming in on a Thursday so I was hoping to do an easy hike on Friday (maybe 3 - 5 hours) and do our big day on Sat. I've been looking at all the clasic routes and peaks in the area and it becomes overwhelming.
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby JHH60 » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:03 pm

I did a 30 day Outward Bound class in the Sawatch back in the late 70s and one of the climbs we did that stands out in my memory was the Mt. of the Holy Cross, mostly because the surrounding area was really beautiul and relatively pristine. The other one that stands out was Mt. Massive, because we climbed it in a day that involved 20 miles of backpacking in addition to the ascent, and the mountain was, well, really massive! Even though I was an energetic young teen I was completely spanked after that one. :)
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby chicagotransplant » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:22 pm

That time of year Holy Cross is not really that accessible, the main access road (Tigiwon) is gated 8 miles below the trailhead for Elk Calving and migration until June 20th. Although the Cross Couloir or Angelica Couloir would be great spring routes!

May is a good time for snow climbs, and a few that were particularly memorable would be the north face couloirs on Missouri (the main one in the center tops out like 20 feet from the summit), Hopeful on Hope, the Refrigerator on Ice Mountain, Grizzly Couloir on Grizzy and the Angel of Shavano on, you guess it, Shavano. Similarly to Holy Cross, Grizzly would probably be out that early due to the road. Access is via the road to Independence Pass off a side road, Lincoln Creek. Neither road is likely to be open before Memorial Day, especially Lincoln Creek. Refrigerator is the best of the bunch, but also may have complications, the road may not be melted out past Winfield, and the class 3-4 ridge you use to descend is going to be tricky with snow, as we found out a couple of years ago.

I would say the Missouri and Hope routes would offer you the best lines that time of year for access and snow conditions. Shavano melts out early and may be too dry then, and Ice, Grizzly and Holy Cross will have access issues that early in the season. Hope that helps! See you at the SP gathering again this year?
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Postby MtnHermit » Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:01 am

You're kidding yourself considering the Sawatch in mid-May. You'll be in deep rotten snow whenever you're in the trees, that will make a mile like ten. Check the Snotel sites if you need to know snow depths.

Something to consider, across the valley, the Mosquito Range has had a light snow year. In mid-May a couple of years ago I did a loop around the Buffalo Peaks, route tops out at 11,300', ~27 miles around, chance to summit both 13,300 peaks. While you'll cross a few roads, most are closed until Memorial Day weekend. I saw two people, trip report over at 14er.com.
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Re:

Postby Tonka » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:19 am

MtnHermit wrote:You're kidding yourself considering the Sawatch in mid-May. You'll be in deep rotten snow whenever you're in the trees, that will make a mile like ten. Check the Snotel sites if you need to know snow depths.

Something to consider, across the valley, the Mosquito Range has had a light snow year. In mid-May a couple of years ago I did a loop around the Buffalo Peaks, route tops out at 11,300', ~27 miles around, chance to summit both 13,300 peaks. While you'll cross a few roads, most are closed until Memorial Day weekend. I saw two people, trip report over at 14er.com.


I hear ya. We may have to stay lower or look at other options but that's fine. I kinda knew we'd be squirting the snow after this year. We are not bringing winter gear (or a lot) :evil:
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby chicagotransplant » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:54 pm

If you don't want snow at all, go south instead. The Sangres have been pretty dry all year. I'm heading that way April 30/May 1 and will let you know what I find.

While every year is different, and some parts of the state had big snow years this year, I have had luck in the Collegiate Peaks area and southward in the Sawatch that time of year in avoiding snow if I wanted to. I think you would be able to find peaks with minimal snow issues this (or any really) May, particularly south or west facing ridge routes in the southern Sawatch and Sangre de Cristo range. Especially if you can minimize your time below treeline. Try and find routes that utilize roads for the approach, even if snow covered they are usually more packed out because people snowmobile on them during the winter. It will help reduce your postholing. They can get you tree line with less postholing then you can go up a south facing route that has melted off.
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby Tonka » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:37 pm

chicagotransplant wrote:If you don't want snow at all, go south instead. The Sangres have been pretty dry all year. I'm heading that way April 30/May 1 and will let you know what I find.

While every year is different, and some parts of the state had big snow years this year, I have had luck in the Collegiate Peaks area and southward in the Sawatch that time of year in avoiding snow if I wanted to. I think you would be able to find peaks with minimal snow issues this (or any really) May, particularly south or west facing ridge routes in the southern Sawatch and Sangre de Cristo range. Especially if you can minimize your time below treeline. Try and find routes that utilize roads for the approach, even if snow covered they are usually more packed out because people snowmobile on them during the winter. It will help reduce your postholing. They can get you tree line with less postholing then you can go up a south facing route that has melted off.


Thanks Chicago. Mid May should be late enough to find something and I figured I'd be dealing with some snow. We had a brutal winter here and the girlfriend and I did our fair share of winter stuff this year so we are done with it. It's this trip to kick off the summer and then the Grand Canyon first week of June.

Let me know about the Sangres. Little further than I want to drive but I liked the area last time I was there. What are you climbing?
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby chicagotransplant » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:53 pm

I'm not sure yet if I am solo or with a partner, so it may change, but looking at the area around Electric or Rito Alto if I am solo. There is a chance at a partner that we could set up a car shuttle and run Hunts to Bushnell.
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby Sarah Simon » Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:26 pm

Hey, Tonka, when are you and the 'ole lady just going to move here to Colorado? You know a bunch of us would welcome you guys with open arms. :)

+1 on what Mike has to say about the Sangres. They are your best bet this year if you don't like wallowing ass-deep in rotten spring snow in the trees.

Ya'll have fun.

Sarah
Go climb a mountain
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby Kane » Tue Apr 26, 2011 3:47 am

To be more specific, a west side approach to the Sangres is in order for you.
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby chicagotransplant » Fri May 06, 2011 11:02 pm

Sorry, forgot to get back to you on the Sangre recon... Unfortunately we didn't end up going. The weather last weekend was iffy so I did some 9er/10ers near BV instead. I could see a good amount of snow on the northern Sangres from where I was, but for all I know it was from the previous week seeing as it had been a wet week. Sorry not to be more helpful, but I didn't want to leave you hanging!
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby Tonka » Mon May 09, 2011 11:10 pm

Thanks Mike. I still think we are going to stay North. Buena, Fairplay area. I checked some things in the Mosquito range and also looking at the Lost Creek wilderness. Don't think snow will be an issue in Lost creek and I hear there are some good loop options. By the info I'm getting snow will still be a big issue in the Sherman, Dyer area. Looks like some good ridges around there.
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby MtnHermit » Thu May 12, 2011 2:56 am

Tonka wrote:Thanks Mike. I still think we are going to stay North. Buena, Fairplay area.

Double Good Luck!!!

I live ~4-miles NE of BV and it snowed 6" today at my elevation. I'm sure the numbers will vary across the region. Anything over 9000' and you're looking at serious snow.

Want a guaranteed snow-free backpack, head to the Gila Wilderness like I did 2-weeks ago. Got to 9400', didn't see even a snow patch. Amazing place.

2 cents. :)
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Re: Favorite routes of the Sawatch

Postby chicagotransplant » Thu May 12, 2011 11:59 pm

Depending on how fast it melts off, all of the stuff east of BV was pretty dry recently. Got up on a few high 10k peaks that were dry and Cameron (10,993') only had very thin snow the last 200-300' below the summit on April 30th and did three 9ers last Sunday that were completely dry.

Of course no winter snow doesn't mean no May snow with the weather we had yesterday, but there are (were?) dry areas to be found if you don't mind "low" peaks :D
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