Colorado in April

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

 
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Colorado in April

by Flattlander » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:46 pm

It looks like I'm going to Denver this spring, probably in April, and I want to do some hiking while I'm out there. I've never been to CO, and I'm excited. What are the mountains like in April out there? From what I gather, it's still more or less winter conditions, which would be cool. It doesn't seem like the ideal time to hike in CO, but I don't know because I've never been there. If not in April, the trip would probably be pushed to late May/early June. Do hiking conditions suck during that time? Is there a nasty mud season in CO as there is here in the Northeast? If so, when? Am I correct in feeling that I should bring my snowshoes, crampons and ax for April? Aside from altitude kicking my ass, what differences should I expect between winter summits in the Northeast, Washington and the like, and the 14ers of CO? What are some really cool hikes that, given one trip to CO, I should absolutely do? If I get to go up two mountains while I'm out there, I'd like to make the first one a walkup and the second one maybe class 3. Nothing crazy. Any CO people out there have any input on this? Random bits of advice? Anyone wanna hike with me? Thanks!

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Re: Colorado in April

by Sierra Ledge Rat » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:15 pm

Expect a lot of snow in April. The passes will still be closed under 20 feet of snow. Bring skis or snowshoes.

There will still be a lot of snow in May/early June. The passes will just be opening. It will be post-hole hell at the lower elevations. I'd still bring snowshoes if you want to hike.

Consider bringing skis instead. When the passes open, it's back country ski heaven. Hike the ridges from the passes, ski down to the road, hitch-hike back up.

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Re: Colorado in April

by Scott » Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:01 am

Is there a nasty mud season in CO as there is here in the Northeast?


Not in April, but maybe late May/early June. April is when the snow is usually deepest in the high mountains:

http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMAIN.pl?cobert

Plan on snowshoes/skis in the high mountains in April. In late May/June snowshoes are sometimes useful, but if you climb in the early morning hours the snow will be nice and frozen for cramponing or to use an ice axe.

If you're not into that, head for the desert. Places like the below are perfect in April:

http://www.summitpost.org/colorado-nati ... ent/565221

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Re: Colorado in April

by seano » Wed Jan 12, 2011 2:42 am

Flattlander wrote:Is there a nasty mud season in CO as there is here in the Northeast? If so, when?

I was in the Sawatch in late May last year, and the terrain below timberline was a flowing bog under slush drifts. Conditions were changing very quickly, though, so it's hard to predict what you would encounter.
Flattlander wrote:Am I correct in feeling that I should bring my snowshoes, crampons and ax for April?

Yes.

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Re: Colorado in April

by Flattlander » Wed Jan 12, 2011 5:57 am

Thank you all for the helpful responses! One thing I'm hearing is, "Rent a 4x4". Keep the info coming!

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Re: Colorado in April

by spiritualspatula » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:46 pm

If you rent a 4x4 don't go and try to be a hero and get all the way to the TH. Stop when you think you should and accept that you may have miles added onto your trip.
If you're staying in the backcountry, our snows that time start to get wetter and heavier, not the fluffy nice champagne stuff, so don't skimp on your tent. I can't imagine it'd be any worse wet-wise than the junk you get in Vermont. Temperatures can swing a lot more drastically as well, so make sure your layers are easily shed. Seriously, the best advice is to just make sure you're in great cardio shape so the climbs aren't death marches.

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Re: Colorado in April

by CSUMarmot » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:53 pm

Do you have any plans yet? Anything?
Dammit kid get off mah lawn!!!
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Re: Colorado in April

by england » Thu Jan 13, 2011 5:21 am

Fletch wrote:Pikes and Longs.

Didn't you just move here(and start complaining about the traffic, and weather reports)??? Now you want to start giving advice about the CO mountains that you haven't climbed.... Try Evan's to start with.

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Re: Colorado in April

by jrbrenvt » Thu Jan 13, 2011 1:55 pm

My 2 cents from someone who lives in the Champlain valley and has made 2 summer trips to Colorado. There is no reason for altitude to kick your ass, just schedule 3-4 acclimatization days and your body will adjust. There is more to Colorado then the 14ers. Look into peaks like Hallett in RMNP for acclimatization, Indian peaks wilderness near Boulder. I would strongly advise against Long's as a first 14er even in summer. The easiest route up is class 3 in good summer conditions with exposure. I made my trips in July with the intent of climbing it, but both times the rangers said the route was technical (still winter conditions, covered in ice & snow). Hence I opted to climb in the Mummy range instead (highly recommended). For 14ers, go to 14ers.com (or get Gerry Roaches book on 14ers and/or 13rs, google it) and look up the peaks with routes of class 1 & 2 and target those to get started. Elbert seems to be a popular winter ascent. I did that one in summer after being acclimatized, and I thought it was easier then many of the eastern hikes. Finally, learn about avalanches, aside from altitude, that is the big thing we really do not have to deal with hear in Vermont. And do a few winter hikes up Sunset Ridge or other exposed route (Presi's, Franconia Ridge) around here to get used to winter travel, or to stay sharp. Cheers.

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Re: Colorado in April

by pyerger » Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:13 pm

Not much for mud season in colorado. At least not like back east. Been up Quandary a few times in the winter/spring, A good first 14er,little avy danger, very straight forword route,short mileage and no need for a 4x4. Its probably about a two hour drive from denver. ski/ or snowshoe

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Re: Colorado in April

by CSUMarmot » Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:38 pm

Fletch wrote: Be careful on Longs, but THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE CLIMB IT EACH YEAR - It's not effing ROCKET SCIENCE!

People who die on the keyhole route are seemingly never from colorado. If say 2000 people climb the KH each year, 25% are probably not from colorado. I dont have exact statistics, but that's probably a safe assumption.
Now in 2010, three people died, 2 on the KH route( one from KS and one from RI) and a CU student died on the Diamond. So 2/3 or 67% of the people who died this year were from out of state and died on the keyhole route. Therefore, 25% of the population accounted for 67% of the deaths this year on Longs Peak.

Yeah, if 2000 people climb the keyhole each year and only two people die, you have a 1/1000 chance of dying on the Keyhole route. But if you're not from Colorado, the probability of dying on Longs Peak is obviously greater.
Should you have suggested longs? Sure, he asked and you answered, but dont try and shake off the fact people die on that mountain regularly
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Re: Colorado in April

by BigMitch » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:23 pm

I second the suggestion of Quandry Peak and the others nearby (Lincoln and Bross). Trailheads near highway and easy snow climbs.

Other mild 14-ers in the Sawatch that you can get to trailheads without a 4X4 include Elbert (eastern approach), Belford (via Missouri gulch), Huron, Yale, and Antero.

IMHO, the best source of information for 14-er snow climbs is Dawson's two books on climbing the 14-ers.

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Re: Colorado in April

by BigMitch » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:28 pm

Long's typically has less snow than the Sawatch at that time of the year.

However, IMHO, the usual Keyhole route and the southern route from Sand Lake (?) should not be attempted at that time of the year by a newbie.

In all of these, bring mountaineering boots and crampons, snowshoes, ski poles, and an ice axe.

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Re: Colorado in April

by BigMitch » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:37 pm

Pikes is ok going up the Barr Trail.

IMHO, the approach from the west via Cragg's campground is just a long and boring slog along the road with significant distance (5-6 miles??) above 13,000 ft.

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Flattlander

 
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Re: Colorado in April

by Flattlander » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:17 am

Getting heated in here. I truly appreciate all the info, and suggestions, and welcome the words of caution as well. All will be taken into consideration. I don't want to get in over my head, so I'll probably go conservative on my route choices on my first trip to CO. I'm considering Mt Elbert as the 'walkup' type of thing. I'll probably skip the Keyhole Route--no need to argue. It would make sense that people from CO, more familiar with the terrain, get into less trouble than people from other places. At the same time, from what I've read, it is a classic route, and thus a good suggestion. It's looking like probably April, so I'll expect lots of snow and some extra mileage due to winter parking. Same deal here in the Northeast--some places you just can't drive to in the winter, so you walk farther. And yes, that "junk we get in Vermont" is piled high, and I slog through it on snowshoes every day, breaking my own little trail system. Luckily, I live in the sticks, and the back yard is like a winter wonderland--except with post-holing and spruce traps. I do not have any definite plans as of yet, but I will be staying active this winter in preparation. In the meantime, keep the knowledge coming.

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