MN climber ?s

Colorado 14er peak questions, condition requests and other info.
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MN climber ?s

Postby gonefishing05 » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:15 pm

Hello all,

Little background: Coming out to CO on Dec 27th to do some 14ers. I have not taken avi training and i realize that is not ideal. I was able to get a summit of bierstadt last weekend and am looking for some additional climbs of similar avi risk. i dont have the option of turning around if that conditions are so bad and coming back the following weekend since im from MN. so i am looking for routes that typically dont have much of a risk.

some of the routes ive been looking at are the couloirs on Quandary, sherman SW ridge as well as Dem. Cam. Lin Bross, not necessarily in a row just spending a couple days in that area.

crampons and ice axe will be used. we will also be started 4-6am so the snow is still solid. does anyone have any recommended routes or peaks that would be better options?

also, are these routes typically pretty safe or would doing this be a mistake?

thanks in advance
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Re: MN climber ?s

Postby SkaredShtles » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:47 pm

gonefishing05 wrote:<snip> we will also be started 4-6am so the snow is still solid.

No offense... but jeezus. If your knowledge of snow travel in the mountains in the winter of Colorado is this rudimentary... you may seriously want to reconsider climbing 14'ers in December. It's downright *deadly* out there.
Last edited by SkaredShtles on Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: MN climber ?s

Postby CO Native » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:48 pm

Couloirs are not low avy risk routes. Sticking to ridge routes is the best way to avoid avalanche risk, so long as you keep away from the cornices.

Crampons would not likely be needed on the tamer routes. Micro-spikes would be a better idea.

Don't use the word "safe" when talking about avy conditions on the 14ers in the winter. There are no safe routes, just those with lower risk.

Mount Elbert's East ridge route is good to avoid most avalanche terrain. Quandary's standard route is a fairly low risk route that is often a well beaten trail in winter. However the route is only part of the equation, weather is by far the most important factor when it comes to avalanche risk.

Your start time is not that early, but snow stability isn't as affected by the sun in December. There isn't much of it even on a clear day, and temperatures are plenty cold. Instability this time of year is usually because there hasn't been enough warm temperatures for the snow to consolidate.

You should at least take an awareness class. Do you all have shovels, probes, and beacons? Are you familiar with the CAIC website?

Take any of the harsher worded posts that are sure to come in stride and listen to the advice they have to offer.
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Re: MN climber ?s

Postby JROSKA » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:00 am

gonefishing05 wrote:I have not taken avi training and i realize that is not ideal. . . . i dont have the option of turning around if that conditions are so bad and coming back the following weekend since im from MN.

These two statements - no avalanche training, and the admission that you're not going to want to turn around once you get up there - that's a huge red flag to me that you could put yourself into a very bad situation. As others have said, there is some degree of avalanche risk on almost any 14er and if you are venturing to any area where the risk is not "zero", you need to be able to recognize avalanche terrain and know how to adjust your route, or turn back and call it a day, if you are getting into a "sketchy" area. If you don't have that minimal training, you're not going to be able to make safe decisions. I'd make sure that you have obtained some type of education on avalanches, and bring the proper equipment (beacons, etc.), before venturing too far above tree-line. There are so many interesting places to go winter hiking / snowshoeing out here that are well below the tree-line (i.e., minimal avalanche risk), where you can get out and enjoy the crisp mountain air, take some great pictures, and get a great workout; I'd recommend that for your upcoming visit. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a little more adventurous than that, but it's best to get some training first. I'm sure that others in this forum will tell you the same thing.
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Re: MN climber ?s

Postby midwestcoast » Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:07 am

MN climber ?s

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Re: MN climber ?s

Postby 3rdGenNative » Mon Dec 09, 2013 11:52 am

When you're through reading all of the comments - - go back and re-read CO Native's comments. All of them. At this time of year I'd equate climbing a couloir to climbing up a funnel. It's exactly where you don't want to be, where everything falls into. Travel on the ridges, the inverse of couloirs. They'll be generally windblown and free of snow. Quandary's east ridge is a prime example. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean it's safe. It'll probably be raging cold with blowing snow which can really complicate things. Yeah, I realize that you're coming all the way out from MN to bag a peak but you cannot go into it with the attitude of "I can't turn around". From the limited winter experience that I have on 14ers I can attest to the fact that some days it's just not gonna happen. June thru October, not a problem but winter can be really severe.
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Re: MN climber ?s

Postby Exiled Michigander » Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:06 pm

This website is a great resource, especially for up-to-date avvy forecasts:

But don't rely on it entirely; always make your own assessment based on conditions you encounter.

I agree with all of the posts below. I understand wanting to jump into more serious climbs, but taking baby steps is always the way to go when it comes to winter mountaineering (and mountaineering in general). Wisdom comes from experience. Read the appropriate sections of Freedom of the Hills on ice axe use and practice using your ice axe before you attempt a winter summit. In terms of winter Colorado 14ers, I'd recommend starting with the east ridge of Quandary with an ice axe and microspikes. Then you can move on to the east ridge of Elbert. Both of these routes have low avalanche risk. Those two experiences should give you a good introduction, and then you can try something a little bit more challenging next year.

Don't take offense at any of the comments below--we all just want to make sure you enjoy Colorado safely!
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Re: MN climber ?s

Postby jet » Wed Dec 11, 2013 6:57 am

I would also encourage taking the words of wisdom offered seriously. Dealing with snow and cold is one thing, learning about avalanche risk is a whole different skill set. I have had this discussion with friends here in Mn. When I mention avalanche risk I quite often get an answer such as " I guess I never thought of that". The other temptation is to glissade without practicing self arrest. A friend of mine was very lucky recently when he slipped and couldn't get stopped. I would never hesitate on turning around anytime of year if I felt something would not be safe. Turning around just gives you another excuse to have to go back to Colorado.

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