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Building a winter 14er wish list

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby Kiddo » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:04 pm

Hi there,
My wife and 12-year-old son and I are seasoned 14er hikers. This winter we would like to try to do one with snow for the first time. Does anyone have any recommendations for some relatively easy to moderate snow routes that would be good for us? Are snow conditions generally safe for summits in early and mid-winter, or is the risk of avalanches too great until late winter to early spring?

Just to clarify things to help with your responses: My wife and I have done 15 14ers and our son has 5 -- mostly class 3 and below. We own and have lots of experience with snowshoes, MicroSpikes, and hiking poles and a little bit of experience with crampons and ice axes (which we'd rent, if necessary). We are physically fit and know how to dress, pack, camp, and survive in cold winter weather conditions, so we aren't looking for guidance in those departments. :)

Anyway, routes and timing recommendations would be much appreciated. Thanks!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19)

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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby I Man » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:08 pm

If you search the forum you will find a wealth of information on this topic.

Depending on what you mean by winter, would change the answer quite a bit. Spring Colouir "Snow Climbs" are very different than Calendar Winter ascents of 14ers.

Either way, peaks like Sherman, Quandry & Bierstadt are, as always, going to be your best bets. They follow the standard route for the most part and require hiking on snow with micro spikes generally.
You can touch the void, just don't fall into it.

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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby Kiddo » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:23 pm

I Man wrote:Depending on what you mean by winter, would change the answer quite a bit. Spring Colouir "Snow Climbs" are very different than Calendar Winter ascents of 14ers.

Either way, peaks like Sherman, Quandry & Bierstadt are, as always, going to be your best bets. They follow the standard route for the most part and require hiking on snow with micro spikes generally.


Ah, good point. The main thing is to keep checking off the summits year round. We've always taken the winter off in years past, but this year we don't want to let the snow stop us.

I was thinking mostly about snowshoe ascents, but we would definitely be up for a beginner level "snow climb" too. That would be fun. We have ropes and harnesses and all that. I'd need to study up on my mountaineering skills. It's been a while for me, but that would certainly be doable. The biggest question for my wife is safety with our 12-year-old.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:19)

Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby Bean » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:24 pm

Get some avalanche education before you go, your lives could depend on it. Friends of Berthoud Pass (berthoudpass.org) put on some free introductory-level classes. An AIARE Level I class is even better. I also recommend a book titled Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, the title is a pretty good description of what you'll find inside.
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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby I Man » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:34 pm

Kiddo wrote:
I Man wrote:Depending on what you mean by winter, would change the answer quite a bit. Spring Colouir "Snow Climbs" are very different than Calendar Winter ascents of 14ers.

Either way, peaks like Sherman, Quandry & Bierstadt are, as always, going to be your best bets. They follow the standard route for the most part and require hiking on snow with micro spikes generally.


Ah, good point. The main thing is to keep checking off the summits year round. We've always taken the winter off in years past, but this year we don't want to let the snow stop us.

I was thinking mostly about snowshoe ascents, but we would definitely be up for a beginner level "snow climb" too. That would be fun. We have ropes and harnesses and all that. I'd need to study up on my mountaineering skills. It's been a while for me, but that would certainly be doable. The biggest question for my wife is safety with our 12-year-old.


I have never used crampons on a winter ascent - but I imagine I will this year.

Micro spikes, Snowshoes, poles and a piolet will get you up most 14ers in winter.

Listen to Bean - avalanche is the real deal and far scarier than anything else the mountains of CO can throw at us. Bruce Temper's book is very good.

Research your routes, pick easier peaks and watch the weather/avy forecasts and winter climbing can be very rewarding (and fairly safe).
You can touch the void, just don't fall into it.

"I fly a starship across the universe divide....and when I reach the other side...I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can. Perhaps I may become a Mountain Man again.

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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby jmc5040 » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:39 pm

Bean wrote:Get some avalanche education before you go, your lives could depend on it. Friends of Berthoud Pass (berthoudpass.org) put on some free introductory-level classes. An AIARE Level I class is even better. I also recommend a book titled Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, the title is a pretty good description of what you'll find inside.

I completely agree... knowing how to safely travel on a snow covered slope is critical in your ability to reach your goal and make it back safely. I've taken the avalanche 1 course and have read numerous books including Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and feel as though that they supplemented the course well. Going with someone who has experience is also something you should shoot for. Once your in the situation you need to be able to assess what your options are and make the right decisions. Having someone for guidance and to ask questions would help you gain the experience in a safer matter. Obviously you can check on avalanche conditions, but keep in mind they are for guidance so you must assess the terrain and conditions that you are in real time. Just because a trail follows a certain route during the summer doesn't mean you should follow it in the winter (a case by case situation).
"My senses become heightened and the stresses of life fade with each step I take further from civilization. When I'm in the wilderness my brain and body work seamlessly together to do their finest work - a single flowing track down one of natures high peaks." - Jeremy Jones

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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:26 pm

I Man wrote:Sherman, Quandry & Bierstadt are, as always, going to be your best bets.


Elbert's east ridge would also have a pretty hard time sliding in most conditions.

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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby bodhidharma » Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:23 am

Quandary and Bierstadt should be your list and if you still want more after doing those then build you list. Sherman has a very active avy slope near hilltop mine.

I took an AIARE I class with Aspen Alpine Guides a couple years back that combined a hut trip with the course. Excellent! AIARE I is designed to scare you out of traveling through avy terrain and for good reason. More people die when conditions are low to moderate than considerable to high because people think it's safe. Colorado is the worst place in the US for persistant avy conditions throughout the winter because of the cold temps, lack of deep snow pack, creating a temperature gradient creating depth hoar, which can persist throughout the year.

I would limit your travel to avy free slopes no ifs ands or buts about it. Fortunately, avalanches do not occur in random places and random times, but in specific areas. They are easy to spot and easy to avoid once you know what to look for.

Do not trust someone with lots of experience to tell you an avy slope is safe. Stats show that someone who has taken AIARE II is more likely to die in an avalanche than people with only the introductory course. A human will never out smart mother nature to the point of knowing 100% of the time if a slope is safe.

If you complete Bierstadt and Quandary and still want more than perhaps expand your list of peaks beyond the 14ers to include ultra safe ones such as Square Top with ridges mainly blown free of snow. You might like 14er winter hiking, but odds are between the three of you at least one of you will not care for it in the least. It's really cold, it's a lot of work (more than double a summer ascent), doing simple things are a pain with gloves on, you can't stop to rest without screwing up your layer system or you get really cold. Once you get cold, it's very difficult to warm back up no matter what you try.

The books mentioned are excellent. The course would be great. Do you see yourself training your entire family with beacons to search for a buried victim? Keep this in mind that if you are buried skiing with ski patrol in the backcountry the odds of them digging you out alive are just barely above 50%. If you are with weekend warriors the odds aren't much better than 1 in 3 getting extracted alive. I and most people won't play with their lives with those odds.

Have fun out there with your family just start with one and see how it goes.
"But whether or not one can live with one's passions, whether or not one can accept their law, which is to burn the heart they simultaneously exalt - that is the whole question." Albert Camus

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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby Scott P » Tue Sep 25, 2012 9:00 am

I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.

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Re: Building a winter 14er wish list

Postby sgladbach » Tue Sep 25, 2012 1:21 pm

Besides the peaks mentioned, I really like Lincoln for a first winter 14er.This route works really well except that you have to park at the Moose Creek TH and use the road to walk back to the Quartzville TH. It is only a 10 minute walk along the road.

My recently turned 13 y/o has been saving back a few 14ers to do as her first winter peaks. We hope to tackle some this winter. We'll start with Quandary or Sherman. We plan to try Elbert on a Sunday following a nice Saturday to ensure that somebody got out there and broke trail. We're considering Gray's/Torreys as her first winter camp-out.

For us the key will to be very flexible with the plans. I won't take her unless i'm reasonably certain the weather will be very good, including reasonable winds. I don't want her first winter peaks to be unpleasant.

Keep me informed of your plans through PM. We might like to tag along and another 14ers.com member has been in touch about another young teen on a winter 14er.

steve
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"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." Hillary, 2003
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