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Winter 14er suggestions

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Winter 14er suggestions

Postby cscoclimb » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:43 pm

My dad and I are trying to find some good 14ers to climb in the winter. Were looking for around a 40-50 degree slope. Any suggestions would be great!

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby dpage » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:52 pm

I thought winter was ridge route time in general and that 40-50 degree slopes would put you in avalanche terrain. Somewhere I learned 38 degrees was the mean angle for avalanches. Snow climbing those angles in spring sound pretty nice to me though.

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby John Landers » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:21 pm

cscoclimb wrote:My dad and I are trying to find some good 14ers to climb in the winter. Were looking for around a 40-50 degree slope. Any suggestions would be great!



Would you elaborate on your thinking for the 40-50 degree slope in your criteria?

What do you view as a "good" 14er?

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby mcquentin » Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:32 am

Hi John;

I assume you want to climb with ice axes and crampons? Or are you looking to hike / skin up and ski down?

'Winter' usually means fresh or unstable snow. Snowpacked slopes and avalanche danger are influenced by the weather throughout the winter with the sun's warming affects during the day and the freezing temperatures at night. These highs and lows cause hard layers to form upon which new snow lies. Further warming can cause snow on top of a hard layer to melt, drip to the hard layer and freeze into 'ball bearing' on top of it. Wind also influences a snowpack's density and weight. A wet snowfall also loads a slope with more weight.

A lot of the time a slope steeper than 50 degrees sluffs off by itself quickly so the avalanche danger may be reduced. It is the more gentle slopes (25 to 45 degrees) that often need a trigger - like a hiker / climber / snowshoer / skier, snowmobiler or helicopter flying by - or just the sheer buildup of weight. I was skiing down the east side of Elbert in March, 1992 when the entire slope when UMPF! right under me. It was about a 25 degree slope and did not slide, but I didn't waste any time heading for the side of the slope and thinner snow immediately after that.

A lot of 45 to 50 degree winter routes are up a couloir and not a broad slope. Climbing slopes / couloirs is usually best later in the season after the snow has settled and become stable. I will probably climb the Crestones on Thursday after the snow tomorrow and Wednesday. I am not anticipating a lot of snow depth this early in the year, but I am very aware the snow will be fresh and not stable, so I will be sticking to the ridges or areas where the snow has been blown away or made thinner by the wind. There could already be cornices forming at higher elevations off the ridges too.

A fun climb / ski for you might be Shavano. A nice axe and crampon climb might be Conundrum.

I climbed with an axe and crampons up Maroon Peak to ski the Bell Cord in June this year, but the snow became very soft and dangerous after sunrise - indicating I left it too late in the season for optimal conditions. Same for the Railroad and Y couloirs on Pikes Peak, but we had a lot of late snow this Spring coupled with some warm sunny days. It's different every year.

Dawson's (Louis W. Dawson) Guide to Colorado Fourteeners, Vol.'s 1 and 2 (1999) do a great job of providing winter route information. Chris Davenport's Ski the 14ers (2007) is also great. Also check the trip reports here for the latest on route conditions, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center for backcountry forecasts, before you go.

Hope this gives you the information you were looking for.

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby LadyClimber » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:06 pm

cscoclimb wrote:My dad and I are trying to find some good 14ers to climb in the winter. Were looking for around a 40-50 degree slope. Any suggestions would be great!



If you want to climb in the winter or early spring conditions you need to take an Avi 1 course (not just an "avalanche awareness" class), which clearly you haven't based on your request. I'd prefer not to see your username under the mountaineering accidents forum.

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby Davedog » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:11 pm

Not to hijack the thread, but are there any climbs that are doable in the winter with low angle slopes to the summit? I haven't taken a Level I class yet (plan to this winter) but I've heard Quandary and Bierstadt have pretty safe standard routes in the winter. How safe is "pretty safe?" I think a ski descent would be awesome but I don't want to try anything risky before getting a formal avy education (not to mention more practice skiing backountry snow!)

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:28 pm

Davedog wrote: How safe is "pretty safe?" I think a ski descent would be awesome...
Enough snow to ski is enough snow to slide.
Some bedtime reading...

CAIC wrote:Issued: 11/05/2013 3:30 PM
The most recent storm brought generally 2 to 8 inches of snow across the high country since Sunday. Zones favored by southwest flow received the highest amounts, including Steamboat and the San Juan Mountains. The snowpack continues to build and is mostly above average for early November. Height of snow is at least 10-20 inches in most zones with locally higher amounts in the Northern San Juan and northern portions of the Front Range, and up to 40 inches in the Steamboat zone. The snowpack can vary greatly in wind-affected areas especially near the Continental Divide. Observer reports are increasing in number - another indication that the snowpack is growing. Recent snow, wind, and cold temperatures are creating a number of avalanche problems including storm/wind slabs, developing persistent slabs, and loose dry facet slides.

Recent activity includes human-triggered slides near Red Mountain Pass and Jones Pass and natural activity above Graham Gulch east of Independence Pass and also south of Loveland Pass. These slides all occurred on aspects facing from northwest through northeast to southeast near and above treeline. A previous reported natural slide ran early Friday morning from the Seven Sisters north of Loveland Pass depositing 5-6 feet of snow onto the highway. The first incident of the 2013-14 winter season was reported on 10/30. A skier triggered an avalanche while ascending. The skier was caught, carried, and partially buried, but able to self rescue. The avalanche was on a north aspect above treeline, in the Northern San Juan Mountains northeast of Silverton. There are two more reports of close calls since last week in the same zone.

The recent snow load fell on top of early season facets, which is creating touchy conditions in the backcountry. Natural and human-triggered slides are possible to even likely in wind loaded areas. Even a short ride in a shallow avalanche could be rough as it drags you through rocks and trees. The next storm system is expected to arrive on Friday.

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby ajd2352 » Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:05 pm

40-50 degree slopes.... That's really, really steep actually. Do you mean % instead? When you consider most of the easier 14ers (Elbert, DeCaLibron, Quandry, Bierstadt...) they usually max out steepness of around 50% grade, which is only 26.5651 degrees (atan(1/2)) and I believe anything over 33 degrees is steep enough for loose material to start collapsing on itself due to gravity - if you look at steep sided volcanoes their typically around 33 degrees because the pitch is steep enough the lava can't stick well enough to stay put. I just want to make sure you understand how steep 40-50 degrees is.

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby JROSKA » Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:46 pm

This is just a guess, but maybe the OP has read what the general avalanche stats show - that is, that MOST avalanches occur on slopes of between 35 and 40 degrees - thus, the request for slope information of 40-50 degrees? To the OP: If that's the case, remember that those are only statistics; it's just the highest frequency. Avalanches can occur on any slope between 25 and 60 degrees. Even if you are "relatively" safe on a slope over 40 degrees, remember that you may need to pass through more sketchy avalanche terrain before you get there. And you need to be able to recognize what avalanche terrain is, and accurately measure slope angles. As others have said, get some avalanche education before heading up above the tree-line in winter.

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby mcquentin » Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:14 pm

Look at Humbolt, Culebra or San Luis is you are that keen. I am going for Massive in late Feb.

Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby MonGoose » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:12 am

Davedog wrote:Not to hijack the thread, but are there any climbs that are doable in the winter with low angle slopes to the summit? I haven't taken a Level I class yet (plan to this winter) but I've heard Quandary and Bierstadt have pretty safe standard routes in the winter. How safe is "pretty safe?" I think a ski descent would be awesome but I don't want to try anything risky before getting a formal avy education (not to mention more practice skiing backountry snow!)


A good source for determining slope angle is CalTopo:
http://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=39.3959,-106.0942&z=15&b=t&o=r&n=0.25&a=sf

The general consensus is that slopes < 25 degrees are safe from avalanches, however, avalanches can still be triggered from steeper terrain above if you undercut a slide path. You'll learn more about this in your Avy education.
As for winter 14er ascents with low slope angles, check out: Quandary Peak, Mt Bierstadt, Mt Elbert - East Ridge and Mt Massive - East Slopes.

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Re: Winter 14er suggestions

Postby SchralpTheGnar » Fri Nov 22, 2013 2:39 pm

this is just a guess, but i'm guessing the OP was trollin

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