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Dreaming of a White July 4th?

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Dreaming of a White July 4th?

Postby Bullwinkle » Wed Dec 27, 2006 10:19 am

In the early 1990s we traveled back to the U.S. on home leave from Switzerland. We had a week in Breck for family stuff and I also wanted to get in at least two climbs. But an unusual weather front (for July) blew in from Mexico and caused days of blustery, rainy, cold weather. In fact, it snowed on the Breck 4th of July parade and during the fireworks. The next day was supposed to be clear, so I made a run for Sherman. When I got there, the wind was still whipping new snow (up to 6') off the peak. I put on every stitch of clothing I had with me and headed straight up the south face in gale force winds and knee deep snow. Needless to say, I didn't linger at the top. For some reason, galloping down the mountain seemed like a good idea to get out of the bad conditions quickly. It usually worked well--except when I sunk in past my waist in spots and had to roll out.
The next day I peaked Quandary in a T-shirt.

I offer this as a lesson to novices on how quickly and dramatically weather can change in the mountains. Mt Washington in NH, though much lower altitude, is also notorious for abrupt weather changes.

ALWAYS be ready for contingencies!
Last edited by Bullwinkle on Wed Dec 27, 2006 6:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby summitrunner » Wed Dec 27, 2006 10:27 am

Talking to Summit County locals (old timer mountain men, not me being there for 1.5 years) your only safe month is August. It snows every month except August...I am sure someone has a story when it did though...

I have driven to Leadville in September and crossed Fraser Pass with 6" of snow. My grass was covered in June too with the white stuff.
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Postby Scott P » Wed Dec 27, 2006 11:12 am

I've been snowed on every month of the year in Colorado.

July is on average the warmest month, but it snows then too. Vannesa may be speaking of July 4 1993. That nowstorm dumped 1.5 feet of snow in the Uinta Mountains (UT) and two feet of snow in the Tetons. I don't know how much CO got, but Aspen and other towns had to cancel fireworks displays due to the snowstorm.

Weather station stats say that Berthoud Pass has recieved 3 inches of snow in August and Climax has recieved 2.7 inches in July and 3.1 inches in August. Higher mountains and other locatons no doubt have recieved a lot more. Berthoud Pass has recieved 44 inches of snow in June and averages 11.8 inches of snow for that month.

Below is a photo taken on our hike from Ripple Creek Pass (Flat Tops) on June 4, 2005 at only 10,200 feet elevation:

Image

Colorado, like all of the Rocky Mountain states, experiences a wide range of extremes and weather conditions. The temperature extremes that have been recorded in all the Rocky Mountain states verify this:

Image
Last edited by Scott P on Wed Dec 27, 2006 11:29 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby San Juan Ron » Wed Dec 27, 2006 11:24 am

A couple of years ago, it snowed all the way down to 9,000 feet in the San Juans on July 4th. Of course, it melted quickly and was in the 60's the next day. RD

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Postby San Juan Ron » Wed Dec 27, 2006 1:17 pm

Scott Patterson wrote:I've been snowed on every month of the year in Colorado.

July is on average the warmest month, but it snows then too. Vannesa may be speaking of July 4 1993. That nowstorm dumped 1.5 feet of snow in the Uinta Mountains (UT) and two feet of snow in the Tetons. I don't know how much CO got, but Aspen and other towns had to cancel fireworks displays due to the snowstorm.

Weather station stats say that Berthoud Pass has recieved 3 inches of snow in August and Climax has recieved 2.7 inches in July and 3.1 inches in August. Higher mountains and other locatons no doubt have recieved a lot more. Berthoud Pass has recieved 44 inches of snow in June and averages 11.8 inches of snow for that month.

Below is a photo taken on our hike from Ripple Creek Pass (Flat Tops) on June 4, 2005 at only 10,200 feet elevation:

Image

Colorado, like all of the Rocky Mountain states, experiences a wide range of extremes and weather conditions. The temperature extremes that have been recorded in all the Rocky Mountain states verify this:

Image


Temperature oddities:

Montana's record high is well above Florida's record high.

Alaska's record high is exactly the same as Hawaii's record high.

RD

Postby jimlup » Wed Dec 27, 2006 1:40 pm

Ron Davis wrote:...
Montana's record high is well above Florida's record high.

Alaska's record high is exactly the same as Hawaii's record high.


Yeah, water is a great buffering system. Colorado, Utah and Montana are far from water but have significant mountains, thus the extremes. For the locals: is Utah's climbing period roughly the same as Colorado's?
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Postby Scott P » Wed Dec 27, 2006 1:57 pm

Temperature oddities:


I thought the biggest one was that North Dakota has a higher record high than Texas.

For the locals: is Utah's climbing period roughly the same as Colorado's?


It depends on what you mean by climbing period and where you are talking about? Both are year round desitinations. As a generalization, Utah's higher mountains get a lot more snow in winter than the mountains in Colorado. However, Colorado has more higher elevation mountains, so by mid-July or August, Colorado usually has more snowfields and snowbanks around. On the other hand, the low elevation deserts of Utah are drier and hotter. Some parts of Utah don't get hardly any snow at all and only once every few years. Even if you don't like snow, it's pretty easy to find a place to climb in Utah that will be snow free on almost any day of any year.

The general theme is that the alpine mountains of Utah have more snow in the winter, but less rain and especially thunderstorms in the summer. The Uintas, the highest range in Utah has a climate more like Colorado than places like the Wasatch. As in Colorado, the Uintas have many thunderstorms. The snowfalls are probably similar to those of something like the Elk Range, so that part of the Utah mountains is pretty much the same as it is in parts of Colorado in both winter and summer.

The climates of Utah and Colorado are both fairly similar in the mountains, but in each part of the state vary tremendously from location to location.

Even though the alpine mountains of Utah recieve much more snow, Utah is still drier overall because of the vast deserts the state has.

http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/htmlfiles/avgstate.ppt.html

Average precip by location range anywhere from 4.8-56.2 inces a year in Utah and 7.1-45.3 inches in Colorado.

I assume because of the vast Eastern Plains, Utah actually has more mountains than CO, but many of those ranges are desert rather than alpine. Although the Uinta Mountains are said by many to have the most area above timberline than any other range in the lower 48, it's just that one area with the really vast areas above timberline and many other ranges have large areas above timberline, but exluding the Uintas, not on the same scale as the big ranges in Colorado. Overall, Colorado definately has more alpine mountains.

Postby jimlup » Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:25 pm

Scott Patterson wrote:It depends on what you mean by climbing period? Both are year round desitinations....


Thanks Scott, Here is my problem: I'm not ready for unguided sole winter climbing yet. I haven't had an avalanch course and I'm not yet ready for serious ice and snow. But, I'm looking for a real challenge at the class 2+ level (probably sole since I doubt others can get the time then) early this march. I got excited about maybe doing Izta but then discovered it was probably beyond me for march since I don't have glacier skills yet.

I'm wonder what might help challenge me this early March that would be within my reach. I'm currently thinking maybe something in the Sierra Nevada in California. I'm now aiming for Long's in July which is why I want a challenging 2+. Do you guys have suggestions?

I'm totally ready to strap on crampons and grab an ice axe but I don't want to get up high and then discover that I'm overextended beyond my level.
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Postby San Juan Ron » Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:29 pm

"I thought the biggest one was that North Dakota has a higher record high than Texas. "

Amazing!! I did spend several weeks during a recent summer in the Dakotas and it can be sweltering plus you have very high humidity and mosquitos the size of hummingbirds.

RD

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Postby Scott P » Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:23 pm

I'm wonder what might help challenge me this early March that would be within my reach.


For snow climbs, Bierstadt, Quandary, or Elbert (one long or two short days) may fit he bill, as well as many 12 and 13ers such as Colorado Mines Peak, Mount Flora, Mount Stanley, etc.

I'm now aiming for Long's in July which is why I want a challenging 2+. Do you guys have suggestions?


In addition to snow and if you are just looking for some (snow free) rock scrambling in early March, rather than snow, plenty is available, especially in most of Southern Utah and around Fruita CO.

There are too many places to list, but some highly recommended scrambles are in the San Rafael and Robbers Roost areas. I'm there several times in March if you need someone to show you around.

http://www.summitpost.org/area/range/18 ... Swell.html

In addition, Canyonlands, Arches, Powell, Ticaboo, Capitol Reef and the lower elevations of the Colorado National Monument and the lower Black Ridge (Fruita-Grand Junction area) all have very nice scrambles and usually little snow in early March.

Kiefer

Postby Kiefer » Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:55 pm

Scott Patterson wrote:I've been snowed on every month of the year in Colorado.

July is on average the warmest month, but it snows then too. Vannesa may be speaking of July 4 1993. That nowstorm dumped 1.5 feet of snow in the Uinta Mountains (UT) and two feet of snow in the Tetons. I don't know how much CO got, but Aspen and other towns had to cancel fireworks displays due to the snowstorm.

Weather station stats say that Berthoud Pass has recieved 3 inches of snow in August and Climax has recieved 2.7 inches in July and 3.1 inches in August. Higher mountains and other locatons no doubt have recieved a lot more. Berthoud Pass has recieved 44 inches of snow in June and averages 11.8 inches of snow for that month.

Below is a photo taken on our hike from Ripple Creek Pass (Flat Tops) on June 4, 2005 at only 10,200 feet elevation:

Image

Colorado, like all of the Rocky Mountain states, experiences a wide range of extremes and weather conditions. The temperature extremes that have been recorded in all the Rocky Mountain states verify this:

Image


This is a pretty interesting map, Scott. I didn't realize the western states were so dynamic in terms of temperature deviations. Great photo too! Looks like January.
Good post here Vanessa. I think once in a while, even though most of us know pretty well how quickly the weather can change, it's always good to be reminded of it.

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