I've consistently found that that by 9 am in July & August & September, if you see the first signs of whispy, stringy, pop up clouds above the range or ranges, by 10 am, you will have a solid cloud formation over the moutains. It happens that fast. On those days, I like to be off exposed areas by 11 am.
So, I guess my point is, I begin to become very aware of the monsoon, thunder, lightening threat as early as 9 am when a clear morning begins to show the infancy of clouds forming. If I'm not at a point where I think I can be back down below exposed rock by 11 am, I know I am pushing it.
Case in point, this past weekend I did Kit Carson. We left Willow Lake at 5 am and I was wishing at the time we would have left at 4 am (knowing that we'd be slow up the North slopes). At 8:30 am on the summit of Challenger, it was nice. At 8:45 a.m. I spotted our first small pop up cloud above the Sangres. My guess was if we summited Kit Carson any later than 10 a.m., we'd be cutting it close. By 9:30 a.m. on the Avenue at the base of the final couloir, it was half cloudy over the Sangres. We knew it was time simply to tag the summit and get out of dodge....which we did. We got back to Willow Lake at Noon, and by then, it thundering and sprinkling. By 1 pm, it was a downpour.
FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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- Phill the Thrill
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My advice to you coming in from out-of-state: Plan for a one or two extra rainy days. I have encountered more rain in the San Juans than anywhere else and the Chicago Basin seems to get a lot of weather . You may wake up for an early start and find it is already raining, and it may continue for the entire day. If you've planned for this then it's not such a big deal to wait till the next day for your summit climb, and if you're blessed with good weather then you have an opportunity to climb a peak you didn't plan on, like Jupiter (if you're in the Chicago Basin) or you can always return a day early, though I would personally never opt for that!
"Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." - Andy Rooney
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