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Mt Helen this weekend

Colorado 13er questions, conditions, and other info should be posted here. Also includes topics related to 13ers.com. 13er Trip Reports
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Mt Helen this weekend

Postby hobo13 » Thu Jan 15, 2009 3:19 pm

Anybody have thoughts on what the avy risk is for Mt. Helen typically? Right now the CAIC warns of east slopes, and that would seem to include Helen. We're thinking of heading up there this weekend, and wondered if anyone has any info on current conditions of the road, the route, the snow, etc.

Thanks.

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Re: Mt Helen this weekend

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:35 pm

I just skied Helen the other day and there are a couple of areas I would avoid:
1) The narrow gully that runs up the face from 11,300' to 11,600'. It gets loaded and there's no escape in a slide.
2) The sparsely-treed area on the northern edge of the slope, just above Crystal Creek. Many people snowshoeing near Francies Cabin make the mistake of ascending this slope to reach Helen's upper slopes. Don't do it! It's never a good idea this time of year.

Check out the route description on BreckenridgeClimbing.com for info on getting there.
Photo #3 shows the steep, narrow gully that I mentioned above.

The Spruce/Crystal Creek Winter trailhead is in affect - at 10,400'. AWD or 4WD may be useful to get to the TH if they haven't plowed the road in a while.

Have fun!

I'll go grab a camera and large zoom to see if I can give you the general, current snow conditions...
"There's no recess and no rules in the school of life" - D. Mustaine

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Re: Mt Helen this weekend

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:45 pm

Not a great shot because the sun is setting, but this gives you a good idea of the snow above tree line.

Image
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Re: Mt Helen this weekend

Postby hobo13 » Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:11 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:I just skied Helen the other day and there are a couple of areas I would avoid:
1) The narrow gully that runs up the face from 11,300' to 11,600'. It gets loaded and there's no escape in a slide.
2) The sparsely-treed area on the northern edge of the slope, just above Crystal Creek. Many people snowshoeing near Francies Cabin make the mistake of ascending this slope to reach Helen's upper slopes. Don't do it! It's never a good idea this time of year.


Thanks a lot Bill! We definitely had looked at BreckClimbing already!

If I understand correctly, #2 won't be an issue if we basically follow the route you describe on breckinridgeclimbing. But that route goes right up the gully, i.e. #1. What is your recommended alternative to that gully? Bushwhack up through the trees?

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Re: Mt Helen this weekend

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Thu Jan 15, 2009 5:39 pm

When you reach the gully, you can angle left (south) and go up through the trees using the best path you can find. Another alternative is to stay along the left side of the gully but in the trees - the area is a bit steep so snowshoeing along the gully can be a bit tough. If you don't climb the gully, just make sure you bypass it by climbing left, not right.

Oh, I just realized I had a snow photo of that gully - Photo #11 in the Helen route description. When you see that gully, just pick a line to the left for a few hundred feet, before angling back towards the center of the mountain.

I modified Photo #2 to show the areas to avoid (red) and a possible line (yellow) to avoid the gully and another snow slope a bit higher. This photo is NOT the current snow conditions.
Image
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Re: Mt Helen this weekend

Postby hobo13 » Fri Jan 16, 2009 7:14 am

Thanks a lot Bill! That annotated image is incredibly useful! If those are the standard avy chutes on Helen (rather than just this year), you might want to archive it with the peak profile over on BClimbing.

Thanks again.

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Re: Mt Helen this weekend

Postby hobo13 » Mon Jan 19, 2009 8:12 am

Just an update --

We did summit on Saturday! Thanks Bill!

If anyone goes up there in the next few days, you'll find a nice set of snowshoe tracks up through the snow to above treeline. But I wouldn't suggest following them, as it seems we got farther to the left (south) of Bill's suggested safer route. (At the time, it seemed like the best of the alternatives). We did cross back above treeline to avoid the big snowfield. Above about 12,000, there is minimal snow, and above 12,500, there is virtually no snow at all.

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