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Questions from British Columbian climbers

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Questions from British Columbian climbers

Postby adthevenet » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:04 am

Before asking my questions, I wanted to congratulate the site manager and community for the outstanding job they have done. I am a huge user of internet beta for climbing and other outdoor activities and I have never seen such a complete work. It`s reassuring to see that there is such a passionate crowd for mountaineering and willing to take the time to share their experience.

On June 29th, myself and two buddies are planning to spend a week in Colorado to exclusively climb 14ers. Foolish and over ambitious, we are planning to climb the following (in this order):

- Longs Peak
- Mt Elbert
- Maroon Bells Traverse
- Mt Sneffles
- Mt Wilson

(Maybe others depending on the weather)

We are active climbers (adthevenet.zenfolio.com) but each mountain range is very different and therefore had a few questions in regards to our adventure:

1. Weather: In British Columbia, we almost never have thunder storms, I heard that this is very different from Colorado. Being fast hikers, do you recommend that we start very early (4AM) to ensure that we are always off the peaks after 1-2PM?

2. Gear: We are planning helmet of course, but at this time of the year, would crampons and ice axe be necessary? Are the snowfields icy?

3. Camping: We are planning to bivy (no tents) at the trailheads of each summit. Are we going to get in trouble with rangers or discretion usually works well. How bad are the mosquitoes? Can we have dinner without being their dinner?

4. Do you think the first week of July is usually an optimum week for this kind of adventure (based on your previous years)


Thank you all for taking the time to respond to my questions, and we hope seeing you on the trails during our upcoming adventure!

Adrien.
Last edited by adthevenet on Wed Jun 19, 2013 10:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby Hiker Mike » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:32 am

Hi,

T-Storms are quite common in the Colorado mountain ranges this time of year. Having good rain gear is a must. This time of year I would plan on being off the summit by 12noon. Keep in mind that being caught in bad weather above the tree-line is at best unpleasant, at worst dangerous.

I would not really recommend Longs Peak as a first 14er. Although it is pretty much just a hike up to the Keyhole, the Class 3 climbing after that is hard for first timers. No matter your experience level, it is a long day on the mountain. Both times I did it we started at 3am.

IMHO, Elbert would be a better choice for a first 14er. It is Class 1 all the way on the Standard route. Depending on your conditioning, I would start about sunrise.

July is a good time to climb since most of snow is usually gone and the temps are good as well. Early fall can be great too.

Good Luck!!

Mike

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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby Rainier_Wolfcastle » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:45 am

That's a lot of questions, I'll try to answer a few of them for you:

During summer, Colorado climbers have the general rule of being off the summit on the way down before noon. But that does not mean there won't be lightening at 11am, no lightening all day, or the scary looking cloud that spits a quick shower as you retreat...only to turn into a sunny afternoon. Starting really early (particular on long ones like Longs or the Bells Traverse) will always increase your summit odds. Just always leave yourself time to be back on class 1/2 terrain before it hits the fan.

During that time period you will want an ice ax on most of those peaks (maybe not Elbert), you will need to look at trip reports from the week prior to find out about crampons.

I'm not sure if can bivy at the Wilson Rock of Ages TH. You will probably be sent away at the Longs TH, if you can even find a parking spot. Best to climb that peak on a weekday. Read up on the Maroon Lake/Maroon Bells TH...lots of issues: Can't drive up between 9-5pm, unless you have a camping permit, can be issues car camping (porcupines, finding a spot in the overnight, you can/but are not supposed to car camp).

If there is not a breeze, you will have some mosquitos below treeline...but since this is a little earlier in the season, it shouldn't be ridiculous.

Why include Mt.Wilson? Why not just hang out and climb Pyramid (by the Bells)? I can understand Sneffels, to get down to Ouray and see the San Juans. But going another hour and a half one-way to climb one 14er out of a tight group of 3?
Shawn D
Broomfield, CO

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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby Lemmiwinks » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:57 am

Welcome to the site, I echo your comments about this being a great resource for Colorado climbers. I assume you are very experienced in mountaineering (class III/IV and snow) because many of the peaks you're targeting are quite technical. I'll try to answer your questions as best as I can:

1) Yes, start early. The peak of the monsoon season in Colorado is July/August, but thunderstorms are still common in late June. It's good to be off the summit no later than noon, but keep an eye on the skies because storms can move in before noon on occasion.

2) Axe and crampons will likely be necessary on all of those peaks except Elbert and maybe Sneffels. Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them. Watch for conditions reports on this site in the next weeks leading up to your trip. That will give you a better idea of the necessity of axe and crampons.

3) Sleeping at the Longs Peak trailhead is not allowed, and I've heard the rangers do frequently check. Not a bad idea to bring bug spray. Mosquitos aren't generally a problem, but last weekend I almost got eaten alive at San Luis Peak.

4) Your timeframe should be fine. September is probably the best time because the monsoon season ends and the snow is scarce, but late June is a good time as well.



That is quite an ambitious plan, have you scheduled in a rest day? Best of luck and enjoy your time in Colorado.
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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby MountainHiker » Wed Jun 12, 2013 3:11 pm

If you’re going to spend the night at Maroon or Longs THs, your vehicle needs to blend in with all the other vehicles. If you can sleep in your vehicle you can often escape notice. Anything set up outside the vehicle is likely to attract attention. The Longs parking lot has activity 24/7 so just being around your vehicle won’t stand out as much. (Hey, I'm just getting ready!) A bivy would be harder to pull off. The Maroon parking lot is quieter but has a reputation for nasty porcupines with a taste for vehicle parts. The Longs parking lot fills up so arriving at 2:00 or 3:00 am might be too late to get a spot.
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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby MonGoose » Wed Jun 12, 2013 3:49 pm

Sounds like you guys have a great trip planned and I know you're going to love CO. Here's my answers to your questions:

1) Yes, start early as you will be here during prime thunderstorm season. The storms themselves usually pass quickly and don't drop a lot of rain (not like the constant drizzle in BC) but lightning is a major concern. Longs Peak is a very long day and people often start around 2 or 3am.

2) Most of the snow will probably be gone in another two weeks. Bringing an ice axe is a good idea but crampons would be overkill, especially on the standard routes. I would highly recommend bringing Microspikes. Between microspikes and an ice axe, you'll have it covered.

3) Camping varies at the different trailheads: Longs Peak is a National Park so you will have to make special arrangements. Elbert has lots of free camping as does Mt Wilson. For the Maroon Bells, you won't be able to camp at the trailhead but I would recommend hiking into and camping by Crater Lake. Mount Sneffels is also difficult as the do not allow camping at the trailhead, so you'll probably need to find a spot outside of Ouray and drive to the Sneffels trailhead in the morning.

4) The first week in July is reasonable for these trips but I would consider August / early September to be the optimal time, because thunderstorms are less prevalent later in the summer. Ice axes normally aren't needed on standard routes after the middle of July during average snow years.

Additional comments: The Maroon Bells traverse is significantly more difficult than the other routes you have planned. There have been a handful of deaths on the Bells in the past few years. Just be sure that you guys know what you are getting into.

Edit: Mosquitoes are not a major problem in CO, anything more than repellent is overkill. Also, keep an eye on the forest fires as your trip approaches, as it appears we are ramping up for smoke filled summer.

Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby MonGoose » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:00 pm

adthevenet wrote:Questions from British Colombian climbers


By the way, where is British Colombia? Is it in Britain, Colombia or western Canada? :lol:

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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby scalba123 » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:40 pm

MonGoose wrote:
adthevenet wrote:Questions from British Colombian climbers


By the way, where is British Colombia? Is it in Britain, Colombia or western Canada? :lol:


British Columbia is beautiful. Definitely on my places to revisit list.

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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby Jim Davies » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:40 pm

The end of June is often a lull in the thunderstorm pattern, so you might get perfect weather (or you might not, but the odds are better than usual for Colorado).

There's a very basic Forest Service campground a few miles south of the Longs Peak trailhead (Olive Ridge) that we found almost empty on a weekday last year. Unfortunately, 4th of July is one of the biggest camping weekends, so you might find everything full that can be reserved, at least later in your trip.

We did the Maroon Bells-to-Sneffels drive last year. It almost killed a whole day - we left Aspen in the evening, camped around halfway, and didn't get to the Yankee Boy Basin TH until late morning. Everything is pretty crowded and expensive when you're in Pitkin County, then much more reasonable once you get over the Gunnison county line. There's a free campground just south of McClure Pass on that route where we spent the night.
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Re: Questions from British Colombian climbers

Postby MountainHiker » Wed Jun 12, 2013 5:28 pm

MonGoose wrote:
adthevenet wrote:Questions from British Colombian climbers


By the way, where is British Colombia? Is it in Britain, Colombia or western Canada? :lol:

I thought they were Brits living in Columbia! :-P
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Re: Questions from British Columbian climbers

Postby adthevenet » Wed Jun 19, 2013 10:31 pm

Wow, you guys are amazing and so engaged!!Thank you so much! I hope that all of you will have an opportunity to climb some of our local mountains here in Vancouver. No need for permits and wild camping is the rule! However access is sometimes terrible and weather is not always the best.

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Re: Questions from British Columbian climbers

Postby Scott P » Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:21 am

and weather is not always the best.


It only rains a few times a year there. One of those times last about 10 months. (PS, I'm from Everett and love BC).
I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.

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