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1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby LU09 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:49 am

So I'm on the east coast but would love to get my first 14er in this year. However the only chance I'll have at getting out west will be 1st or 2nd week of December. I'm young and hike plenty out here but we obviously don't have anything to compare to 14k and in Virginia we don't really have winter compared to Colorado. I'd really like to get in a 14er between a few days of skiing. So two questions…

1) How crazy is it to get your first 14er in December?

2) Where would you start?

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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby Scott P » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:57 am

1) How crazy is it to get your first 14er in December?


Depends on your experience level. There are 14ers routes with no technical difficulty and little avalanche danger that time of year. On the other hand, even those routes require route finding ability and experience with the cold as well as proper gear and clothing. I'd suggest going with someone experienced and having all the proper gear (have someone check it).

2) Where would you start?


Quandary, Bierstadt (length depends on road closure though), or the East Ridge of Elbert. The East Ridge of Elbert is longer than the other two, but since it's very safe from avy danger (which is almost 0 as long as you stay on route), it's still a good one for beginners whom have endurance.

PS, I'd invite you to go do one, but I'm already booked up the first weekend of December and after that I'll be in the Himalayas for a month.

If you want to do some peaks ~12,000 feet you can join us since we have a reservation at Chucks Cabin (near Vail Pass) November 30-December 1. If it doesn't have to be a 14er, it's a good place to start. Excellent views of the Gore Range, Holy Cross, etc and the views are as good as most of the 14ers.
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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby BenfromtheEast » Thu Jul 26, 2012 9:58 am

Scott beat me to it, but here's what I was going to say:

1) It's not all that crazy. Give yourself a day or two to get used to the altitude. It would be great if you're staying in the mountains to ski. Quandary's a good choice, especially if you'll be in Summit County. You'll need some good layers, footwear, and gaitors. Microspikes (made by Kahtoola) will probably be helpful, but maybe not mandatory. Snowshoes might be necessary if there's been recent snow. You could rent some equipment once you get here. Get on the forum a week or two beforehand and see if you can round up a partner, or at least some recent conditions updates for possible avalanche danger. Pick a day with a really good forecast. Hydrate.

2) I'd start from the trailhead. 8)

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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby peter303 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:06 am

Plus gear for -20F windchills. Heavy gloves with wind barriers. Face masks. Wool socks. Wind jacket and pants on top of thermal layers.

Weather is highly variable. The sun could be out and the wind stop blowing and it could feel 40 on some parts of your hike. Then you may want to strip to a single long sleeve shirt.

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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby LU09 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:29 am

BenfromtheEast wrote:2) I'd start from the trailhead. 8)

a funny guy :lol:


I appreciate the responses...

I feel good about the route picking normally but hiking in snow and avoiding avalanaches is all new. So that would involve some new equipment.

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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby GregMiller » Thu Jul 26, 2012 10:45 am

Really, if you just get your hands on some microspikes and/or snowshoes, you should be all right as far as the snow itself. I'd definitely stick to a ridgeline hike, like those suggested - snow isn't going to avalanche uphill to you. If you want, when the time comes, keep an eye on the Colorado Avalanche Information Center - http://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php - it'll let you know what the general danger is, and if you'll want to avoid certain areas of the state. To do more than ridgeline hikes, you'd want to have more gear and take some classes, which take time and money, in order to be able to identify the risk for yourself.
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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby metalmountain » Thu Jul 26, 2012 11:19 am

LU09 wrote:So I'm on the east coast but would love to get my first 14er in this year. However the only chance I'll have at getting out west will be 1st or 2nd week of December. I'm young and hike plenty out here but we obviously don't have anything to compare to 14k and in Virginia we don't really have winter compared to Colorado. I'd really like to get in a 14er between a few days of skiing. So two questions…

1) How crazy is it to get your first 14er in December?

2) Where would you start?



I took my friend from Oklahoma up his first 14er (Bierstadt) last December. Bierstadt's standard route is about as avy safe as it can get, relatively speaking. The standard route stays pretty wind scoured for the most part. My friend had a long day when we did it, and he said it was one of the toughest things he has ever done. We had good conditions (relatively calm winds until the summit ridge when the hurricane kicked up), and started at sun up. Of course that can always change depending on conditions. So just keep an eye on the weather and the peak updates here on 14ers. I would definitely try to go with someone else though. Even on a simple route like Bierstadt things can go wrong real fast in the winter. Depending on the day you may not see anyone else all day long, and a storm up there could put you in a bad spot real fast.

With all that being said, it is completely doable for a reasonably in shape person with enough gear to stay warm. With a route like Bierstadt or something similar you don't generally need any special equipment. Microspikes can help, but it really does depend on the conditions. Just make sure you don't get cold. The winds up high in the winter are something else haha, it can get real cold real fast. But I would definitely emphasize that you should take someone with you, and even better someone who has been up the route before. If you post on the forum asking for a hiking partner when the time comes you could probably find someone. As mentioned before, if you stick to ridge hikes you would be safer. But you still have to watch out, these hikes are a different animal in the winter and shoulder seasons.
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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby Tim A » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:15 pm

I hiked Quandary's east ridge as my first 14er this past March and I had a blast, though it was the toughest experience of my life. What most on this site complain about as a dull and crowded hike during the summer months can be a real challenge in the winter, but that made it much more enjoyable for myself. I went fully prepared: trekking poles, snowshoes, microspikes, etc, as well as multiple layers of synthetic clothing to keep me warm. I ran into only five people the whole day, and had the summit all to myself when I made it, which made for a very enjoyable first 14er experience. I'd highly recommend it! While you may not need the gear on a particular day in December, better to get there and not need it than come across deep snowfields and have to turn back.

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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby GregMiller » Thu Jul 26, 2012 12:20 pm

It was the same way for me summiting Elbert in May 2011 - 60mph winds and blowing snow about 12,500 made it the hardest 14er I've ever done. Both my buddy and I ended up with every stitch of clothing that we brought with us on our bodies, and of 6 people on the mountain we were the only ones to summit, mainly due to a lack of gear on the part of the other 4. The only way we knew we were on the summit was that the ground suddenly sloped down all around us, and the GPS said we were when we checked.
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Looks like between 'em they done Tried to make me
Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'-- But I don't care! I'm still here!
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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby Jim Davies » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:06 pm

Instead you could climb Sniktau from Loveland Pass. It's "only" a 13er, but you'll get an interesting alpine experience with less risk. It also has the advantage of being a total ridge route, so that you won't need to wade through powder along the way.
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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby Dex » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:00 pm

LU09 wrote:So I'm on the east coast but would love to get my first 14er in this year. However the only chance I'll have at getting out west will be 1st or 2nd week of December. I'm young and hike plenty out here but we obviously don't have anything to compare to 14k and in Virginia we don't really have winter compared to Colorado. I'd really like to get in a 14er between a few days of skiing. So two questions…

1) How crazy is it to get your first 14er in December?

2) Where would you start?


Are you prepared for below zero temperatures?
Do you have safety equipment - PLB, survive in cold for 1 night?

It is not something I would recommend for the first time.

http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USCO0235

You could estimate a range of temp of between -8 to 16 on the peak - excluding wind chill in Dec.
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Re: 1st 14er 1st-2nd wk of Dec

Postby Scott P » Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:36 pm

http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USCO0235

You could estimate a range of temp of between -8 to 16 on the peak - excluding wind chill in Dec.


For closer to the conditions rather than Leadville, here are the average temps for Pikes Peak summit (one of the warmer 14ers):

http://www.summitpost.org/pikes-peak-weather-statistics/337874

Average windchill would be -27F in the morning and -8F in the afternoon.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anyway to LU09, if you did want to climb Shrine Mountain and the Wingle Ridge (just below 12K), we will be staying at Chucks Cabin November 30-December 1:

http://www.huts.org/The_Huts/shrine.html

It's $30 per person and would be a good climb to start out with.

Here are some photos from our last trip:

Image

Image

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Image

Something like that would be good to start with since the trail is usually packed to the cabin and the cabin provides close by shelter when climbing the peaks (which still have great scenery). It would make a good warm up/practice trip for a 14er (or a good one in itself) and a good way to test gear out without getting into something more strenuous/remote/cold.

If you climb a 14er without a practice trip, make sure to go with someone experienced that can check your gear.
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