Easy Snow Climbs

Colorado peak questions, condition requests and other info.
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cfischer
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Easy Snow Climbs

Post by cfischer » Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:31 pm

Hi all,
I'm looking to take a friend on a first-time snow climb. We're both fairly decent hikers, and I have a good reservoir of experience and knowledge from winter trips in the Whites and Tuckerman's Ravine, an AIARE I course, and two weeks in the French Alps; however, my experience in snow climbs in CO is very, very limited. I've been looking at CAIC, and things appear to me to be settling some. The only things are that my buddy doesn't have any experience with avalanche safety, and it will be his first time in real crampons. My plan is to go out Tuesday (if conditions stay stable) and stick to southern facing slops, with an early start to avoid softening snow. So, I have two questions:

1. Am I foolish to consider this at this point in the season, or should I wait until later in the spring?
2. Any recommendations for relatively low angle terrain? I'm thinking steeper than St. Mary's but not as steep as Skywalker. We live in the Denver/Boulder/Longmont area.

Any feedback would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Charlie
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by osprey » Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:49 pm

Snow is forecasted for most mountains on Tuesday.
I,and maybe one other partner, will be doing the Grand Couloir on Mt. Aetna Sunday assuming CAIC predictions do not increase from the current moderate. It is a south facing couloir.
Saturday night has a low of 21 which should make the ascent safe and provide good conditions for crampons with a pre-dawn start.
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( This did not answer any of your questions. )
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by peter303 » Thu Apr 08, 2021 8:28 pm

I'd recommend starting from Loveland Pass and choosing either of three directions: southwest to Cupid, southeast to Sniktau, or north along the ridge behind Loveland ski resort. Instant great views from the start. Vigorous uphill sections along any of the three.

It can be windy and cold. You might want/need microspike traction in some sections. Loveland Pass road closes temporarily when it is snowing hard.

Loveland Pass is exit 216 off I70 jusr before the tunnel - easy access.
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by nyker » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:50 pm

Once you're on the mountain the main difference from your experience will be handling the altitude and exerting yourself at altitude.

Depending on the storm you may want to just wait for another time. If you do go and avy risk is present, choose ridge routes to help minimize risk of slides and avoid steeper (>30*) slopes or north facing slopes. The Sniktau group might be a good option, but if there is a lot of fresh snow, while the road will eventually be plowed up there, you might want to wait until it is clean and not be out mid storm which would not be fun on the road or the mountain, assuming the road is open to get there. Elbert was a decent climb in the snow and has pretty mellow east facing slopes on the standard route. Silverheels was also not too bad in snow, but could get windy.

I'd advise taking your friend out nearby to a mellow snow slope to learn to walk in crampons properly before going out on your target peak. Sounds like you will be in flatter terrain, so 'probably' won't need an ice axe, but may not be bad to practice that as well and practice self arrest.

Good luck
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by cfischer » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:16 pm

Yeah, I'd like him to cut his teeth on something fairly mellow. We have some experience with 14ers in the shoulder seasons, but I'll need to teach him crampon and self arrest techniques. I hadn't looked at the weather forecast yet (silly me), but if there's snow in the forecast, I'll likely wait. I don't want to take him out in anything that has a moderate or higher avalanche risk (so, green only). Loveland Pass might not be a bad place to teach him some of the techniques.
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by Molasses » Mon Apr 12, 2021 12:18 pm

Some of the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) Snow Climbing classes have used the Horseshoe Mountain Boudoir Couloir for their Field Day.
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by cfischer » Mon Apr 12, 2021 1:29 pm

Boudoir came up in my searches as well. I'm currently considering taking him out onto Ptarmigan Glacier, but it's been a challenge to find information on parking, trails, distances, and routes. From what it sounded like on Summit Report, there's a variety of terrain to learn and practice on.

Does anyone have any beta on it? Seems like you park at Bear Lake, head towards Helene Lake, and then find a climber's trail. I've found some good RMNP maps, but none of them really call out Ptarmigan, the way they do with, say, Tyndall or Many Glaciers. Any information would be much appreciated.
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by blazintoes » Mon Apr 12, 2021 3:12 pm

Whale's Tail fits all your criteria. This is a good TR even though they skied: https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/triprepo ... trip=15873
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by cfischer » Mon Apr 12, 2021 3:22 pm

If his endurance was better, I'd entertain Whale's Tail, but he's at the tail end of a knee surgery recovery, and hasn't worked back up to that mileage, yet.
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coopereitel
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by coopereitel » Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:01 pm

You may have already seen, but in regard to Boudoir, someone just put out a good recent report and it looked pretty thin. Just fyi.

Good luck with your upcoming trip!
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by cougar » Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:41 pm

cfischer wrote:
Mon Apr 12, 2021 1:29 pm
Boudoir came up in my searches as well. I'm currently considering taking him out onto Ptarmigan Glacier, but it's been a challenge to find information on parking, trails, distances, and routes. From what it sounded like on Summit Report, there's a variety of terrain to learn and practice on.

Does anyone have any beta on it? Seems like you park at Bear Lake, head towards Helene Lake, and then find a climber's trail. I've found some good RMNP maps, but none of them really call out Ptarmigan, the way they do with, say, Tyndall or Many Glaciers. Any information would be much appreciated.
Ptarmigan tends to have a large cornice at the top and gets a bit steep up high. Also not sure why it doesn't get much mention, approach isn't much different than Tyndall, although route finding in the snow around Lake Helene gets tricky. In the park, Andrew's would be easiest. Storm Peak by Longs holds snow into June, although it's a short snowfield.
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Re: Easy Snow Climbs

Post by Wildernessjane » Mon Apr 12, 2021 8:47 pm

Not sure when you are planning on going and how this new snow will play out but for what it’s worth Little Italy on Pikes Peak is in great shape right now. Crazy short approach and would be a great place to take a first timer.
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