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Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Information on peaks other than the CO 14ers and 13ers.
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Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby scramble » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:36 am

Are there any scenic routes in Rocky Mountain National Park or the Indian Peaks Wilderness or elsewhere in the Front Range that stick to low-angle terrain? (and aren't situated right below high-angle terran? heh) Some friends and I would like to get out there, but they don't have avy training or equipment. I myself don't have a lot of experience. Emerald Lake is gorgeous, but my AIARE instructor said some CMS guides were there when a slope slid and caught some people...

Y'all have any "go to" fun, safe routes? Thanks for the advice!

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby mountain_man » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:55 am

In RMNP your best bet for no chance of avys is on the northern east side. A short and sweet trip would be to Bridal Veil Falls, I'm not sure how scenic it is in the winter, but in the summer you get a good view of one of my favorite mountain there, Dark Mountain (or as I say it Daaaaaarrrk Mouuuuntain, with an ombnious tone). Is Emerald Lake that dangerous? I'd imagine it can't be due to the popularity. Maybe if you traversed the lake and headed up toward the ridge between Flatop and Hallet.

The west side may have some good trails, but I'm not familiar with that side of the park at all.
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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby susanjoypaul » Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:03 am

The Onahu Creek-Green Mountain Circle on the west side of the park is pretty awesome, and it's already packed down for you. I hiked it on Saturday (Jan 14) and there was *no one* else out there - even though it was a free weekend. I did run into four moose on the trail, though, so keep your eyes open - they're huge!

Trail Ridge Road is closed, so you need to access the trailhead from Grand Lake. Just stay on 34 past the turnoff to Grand Lake at 278, drive through the pay gate, and start at the Onahu Creek Trailhead 3.3 miles past the gate, or the Green Mountain Trailhead 4.5 miles past the gate. If you start at Green Mountain, it will look as if the trail disappears at Big Meadows, but it's just drifted over. Keep going and you'll pick up the tracks. The preferred route is from Onahu, but if you go that way I think you'll have to park at Green Mountain anyway and then just hike the roadside trail back to the Onahu Trailhead. I did it in the opposite direction.

I haven't been on the east side of the park in a few weeks, but in general you'll find more snow - and solitude - to the west. Have fun!

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby benners » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:28 am

I'll go ahead and point out the popular one, St. Mary's Glacier and James Peak. Not only is the terrain low-angle but you will usually find several other parties there, which could be a good thing unless you're looking for solitude. You can stick to the glacier or head up to James, depending on how long a day you're interested in.

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby Dave B » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:37 am

Mt. Audubon in the IPW is a pretty fun tour. Granted there's about 4 miles of walking on asphalt road just to get to the Mitchel Creek TH but you're soon above timberline after that. Once to the summit of Audobon, it's about 0.5 miles and a short 3rd class section to the summit of Paiute. There is a short section of the trail through the trees, just short of timberline, that could potentially slide in the right conditions.

Flattop Mountain in RMNP makes for a pretty good tour as well. Really great views of Hallet Peak to the south and Long's off in the distance. This is a fairly safe route in the likes of St. Mary's on James Peak.
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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby llamaman » Wed Jan 18, 2012 9:41 am

Flattop is not a bad suggestion, but it can be easy to get off the main trail if you're not a skilled navigator and if you get too off the main trail, you can find yourself in some avalanche terrain. You can go as far as Dream Lake without getting into any serious avalanche terrain.

But there are many, many options. Get yourself a winter guidebook, I imagine most will include avalanche exposure in their descriptions. Here's a few ideas off the top of my head:

Ypsilon Lake
Lawn Lake
Mills Lake
Bierstadt Lake
Mill Creek Basin
Fern Lake and Odessa Lake (from the Fern Lake TH, coming from Bear Lake you do cross some avy slopes that could be dangerous in certain conditions)
Cub Lake
Just about any short tour in Wild Basin--if you go really far toward the high peaks you might start running into some avy slopes
Twin Sisters
Lumpy Ridge
Storm Pass

Not all of these have good snow, but I've snowshoed/skied most of them, some recently.

Have fun.

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby scramble » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:22 am

THANK YOU everyone! Indeed, gotta get me a winter guidebook. Really appreciate this info : )

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby timstich » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:39 am

Almost all of the tours I have done are well away from avy terrain. Check out the Brainard Lake trails sometime. There are also quite a few others off the Peak to Peak highway. One is Peaceful Valley, which has fairly flat trails that go all the way to Mt. Alice. Niwot Ridge from the atmospheric research station is a road cut, so it can be skied downhill with really long sections of gliding without worries about hitting trees. That's one of my favorite tours in the right snow conditions. If it's icy, you can get going a little too fast. There are some good books out there with maps and trail ratings for cross country touring. I used to have one, but forget the title of it.

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby jsdratm » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:28 pm

Does anyone know the current Brainard Lake snowshoeing conditions? I was hoping to go snowshoeing on sunday. Would Glacier Gorge be a better choice?

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby shaunster_co » Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:10 am

jsdratm wrote:Does anyone know the current Brainard Lake snowshoeing conditions? I was hoping to go snowshoeing on sunday. Would Glacier Gorge be a better choice?

I was up in the Brainard Lake area on Sunday, our plans were cancelled for a higher route to make some turns near Audubon due to the avy conditions. We skinned up the leisure cruise of Lefthand Park road to the res. It was mostly windblown and packed on the road - some deeper drifts increasing in size as you peak Niwot Ridge area. Anything off the road is a foot or so deep.

Coincidentally, I went with another to Loche Vale RMNP on Monday, again skinning to the Loche. Snowshoes would be a big plus in there right now if you are not skinning. We took the shortcut that branches right (4th stream crossing about .5 miles from the TH that arrives at the Loche Vale / Mills Lake intersection) - that area has mostly drifts, 1-2' in places. At the Glacier Gorge / Loche Vale trail intersection there were pretty deep drifts - 2-3'. A little caution if you go to higher to the Loche. There were areas in there on the switchbacks that had red flags all over it (directly above some of the cuts to the ice climbing areas). We proceeded but used a lot of extra caution through a few places. There is definitely a weak slab roughly 12" deep along that entire route, and plenty of wind loading all over in there - very slabby in the exposed areas. Some areas are blown dry, other areas have several feet of loose unconsolidated snow. Up high it is bullet proof crust. I'm sure by Sunday much of that will stabilize and /or be packed out. Hope that helps.

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby madbuck » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:33 am

jsdratm wrote:Does anyone know the current Brainard Lake snowshoeing conditions? I was hoping to go snowshoeing on sunday. Would Glacier Gorge be a better choice?

Did you want off-trail summit exploration, or the general marked trail system in the trees?
Anyway, the trails at Brainard were great, brought my wife up there for some XC skiing. Numerous sizeable snowshoe groups had missed the markings for the snowshoe-only route to the Lake and started heading up the CMC ski-only trail, which seems to happen every time and caused me the usual consternation, but I got over it. The Sourdough Trail, at least going south, also had great snow.

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Re: Avy-safe snowshoeing/ski touring?

Postby peter303 » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:12 am

The Mt Audubon approach has 2 or 3 steep enough slopes that could build up dangerous snow if the wind has been coming from the right direction. Check your CIAC maps.


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