Crazy weekend on Blanca

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spehkonen
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Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by spehkonen »

Yesterday a few friends and I summited Blanca starting at the lower trailhead where it meets the highway. The weather forecast was poor, showing a chance of storms starting around 1-2pm so we started very early and summited around 10:20am which was much later than anticipated (I know we should have bailed when I realized it was taking longer than I thought with the forecast). On the way up it was perfectly clear and calm and there were several other climbers in our close vicinity. As we started our descent cumulus clouds without any vertical development starting rolling in so we picked up the pace a bit. Around this time (10:45ish) I heard and saw what looked like a SAR helicopter circling around Little Bear which brings me to a question: Anyone know what that was about? Didn't seem to be around long... plus clouds were rolling in quick. On our way down we passed a few parties on the way up and mentioned to keep an eye on the weather which they agreed. Long story short, right as we hit about 12,500 ish the skies opened up and dropped hail/heavy rain plus a decent amount of thunder. We picked it up to a jog and got to the tree-line relatively quick. This brings me to another question: As we were approaching lake Como in heavy rain/wind/hail/thunder I looked to my left and surprisingly saw climbers (maybe 3-4?) at the top of the first gully you ascend to climb Little Bear. I'm inexperienced so maybe that gully isn't a huge deal but it looks gnarly from the lake Como area. Anyway, I was curios if anyone on here was up there and made it down safe? That had to have been a brutal spot to get stuck in weather... plus, there was convective activity for pretty much the rest of the day with few breaks... I hope whoever you are made it down okay! I also humbly accept the fact that I made a big error in judgement regarding weather, got lucky, and will be much more careful in the future.
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JChitwood
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by JChitwood »

Nice to be humble but I don’t think you made an error in judgement. You moved up your start time and summited early. You got off the peak and got stormed on at tree line. Hiking out in a storm is a Colorado tradition for those who choose to climb in July. I see only excellent judgement. Kudos on your summit what a beast of a hike that is from the deck of the valley.
"I'll make it." - Jimmy Chitwood
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spehkonen
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by spehkonen »

Hey thanks, I really appreciate it! It was a beast for sure... my GPS showed a hair over 19 miles round trip and 6500ft of gain. Loved every second though.
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by Dayute »

The gully over to Little Bear was probably not a fun place to be in a storm at all but still infinitely better than being in the Hourglass. The key to beating thunderstorms is usually always start earlier or get faster.
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Wish I lived in CO
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by Wish I lived in CO »

You will see a certain number of people push limits in terms of poor fitness, bad weather, lack of technical skills, inadequate gear / water, lack of route knowledge, improper clothing, etc. Be polite and mostly mind your own business, unless they ask (then be very candid), or unless they are a blatant danger to others such as careless rockfall.

Do you own climb on your own terms. But yes, since you are asking I agree with JChitwood, I think you were fine. It's OK sometimes to push it just a bit, but not too far. I've done both - pushed it just a bit on a peak with good results, and also turned around many times. 2x though I can think of I made poor decisions (improper gear once, bad weather another) and paid a price for it, fortunately the final outcome was good both times. Not always the case though. Serious climbing accidents more frequently involve one or more poor choices, often a series of poor choices. Of course at times a person can do everything right and still something bad happens. Mountain hiking / climbing is of course not without risk.

Thanks for the candidness and your post.
I look up to the mountains - does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2
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funsizetiff
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by funsizetiff »

I climbed Little Bear yesterday with 2 others. We were descending from the access gully to the ridge around 11, so it may have been us you saw (I was wearing a bright pink shirt that was pretty visible). Back to our parking spot right before Jaws 1 around 12:30, and no rain until we got there! We passed only one other party of 2 on the mountain, they were ascending the hourglass as we were descending. Saw the helicopter shortly after meeting and speaking to them, so I am certain it was not for anyone on the standard route (not sure if anyone attempted the traverse yesterday). We were worried it was for someone climbing Blanca/Ellingwood. Hope everyone is okay!
14erraver
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by 14erraver »

Dang glad you made it off ok! Crazy how this weather appeared a relatively short distance away from Mt. Harvard, where it was a moderate drizzle at best.
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spehkonen
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by spehkonen »

funsizetiff wrote: Sun Aug 01, 2021 9:21 pm I climbed Little Bear yesterday with 2 others. We were descending from the access gully to the ridge around 11, so it may have been us you saw (I was wearing a bright pink shirt that was pretty visible). Back to our parking spot right before Jaws 1 around 12:30, and no rain until we got there! We passed only one other party of 2 on the mountain, they were ascending the hourglass as we were descending. Saw the helicopter shortly after meeting and speaking to them, so I am certain it was not for anyone on the standard route (not sure if anyone attempted the traverse yesterday). We were worried it was for someone climbing Blanca/Ellingwood. Hope everyone is okay!
I did see a few people on the Blanca - Little Bear Traverse around 8am making their way towards Little Bear. This would have been about 2.5 hours before I saw the helicopter. Glad you made it down in time! Like I said, when I looked up and saw those climbers at the top of the first gulley (left of my point of view near Lake Como on the descent) it was hailing so hard it looked like patchy snow all the way up. This would have at 12:30-1:00pm or so.
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climbingcue
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by climbingcue »

spehkonen wrote: Mon Aug 02, 2021 6:25 am
funsizetiff wrote: Sun Aug 01, 2021 9:21 pm I climbed Little Bear yesterday with 2 others. We were descending from the access gully to the ridge around 11, so it may have been us you saw (I was wearing a bright pink shirt that was pretty visible). Back to our parking spot right before Jaws 1 around 12:30, and no rain until we got there! We passed only one other party of 2 on the mountain, they were ascending the hourglass as we were descending. Saw the helicopter shortly after meeting and speaking to them, so I am certain it was not for anyone on the standard route (not sure if anyone attempted the traverse yesterday). We were worried it was for someone climbing Blanca/Ellingwood. Hope everyone is okay!
I did see a few people on the Blanca - Little Bear Traverse around 8am making their way towards Little Bear. This would have been about 2.5 hours before I saw the helicopter. Glad you made it down in time! Like I said, when I looked up and saw those climbers at the top of the first gulley (left of my point of view near Lake Como on the descent) it was hailing so hard it looked like patchy snow all the way up. This would have at 12:30-1:00pm or so.
I was with Funsize on Little Bear on Saturday. The timing sounds like the group that was going up when we were coming down. Like she said we were at our truck at 12:15 pm just below Jaws one. When we got back down to the bottom of the road, we looked up and could see that Little Bear was all white from Hail or snow. Pretty crazy how fast the weather can come in. We knew we had a short window with the weather, that is why we started from Jaws one a 4:30 am. I was on the summit of Little Bear at 8:30am.
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spehkonen
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by spehkonen »

I was with Funsize on Little Bear on Saturday. The timing sounds like the group that was going up when we were coming down. Like she said we were at our truck at 12:15 pm just below Jaws one. When we got back down to the bottom of the road, we looked up and could see that Little Bear was all white from Hail or snow. Pretty crazy how fast the weather can come in. We knew we had a short window with the weather, that is why we started from Jaws one a 4:30 am. I was on the summit of Little Bear at 8:30am.
[/quote]

Yep that sounds about right. Would it be possible that the SAR helicopter was doing a training a flight? If it was, the conditions would have been challenging with clouds obstructing the pilot's view all throughout the basin. Coming from an aviation background, instrument conditions (clouds or fog) is pretty much a no go in terrain like that... but maybe the rescue ops push the limits more? Not sure.
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Somewhat of a Prick
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by Somewhat of a Prick »

Wish I lived in CO wrote: Sun Aug 01, 2021 8:54 pm You will see a certain number of people push limits in terms of poor fitness, bad weather, lack of technical skills, inadequate gear / water, lack of route knowledge, improper clothing, etc. Be polite and mostly mind your own business, unless they ask (then be very candid), or unless they are a blatant danger to others such as careless rockfall.

Do you own climb on your own terms. But yes, since you are asking I agree with JChitwood, I think you were fine. It's OK sometimes to push it just a bit, but not too far. I've done both - pushed it just a bit on a peak with good results, and also turned around many times. 2x though I can think of I made poor decisions (improper gear once, bad weather another) and paid a price for it, fortunately the final outcome was good both times. Not always the case though. Serious climbing accidents more frequently involve one or more poor choices, often a series of poor choices. Of course at times a person can do everything right and still something bad happens. Mountain hiking / climbing is of course not without risk.

Thanks for the candidness and your post.
This. I'm not the mountain hall-monitor, I don't offer unsolicited advice on the weather, time, gear, etc. I smile, say hello, and move on with my hike.
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spehkonen
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Re: Crazy weekend on Blanca

Post by spehkonen »

Somewhat of a Prick wrote: Mon Aug 02, 2021 7:01 am
Wish I lived in CO wrote: Sun Aug 01, 2021 8:54 pm You will see a certain number of people push limits in terms of poor fitness, bad weather, lack of technical skills, inadequate gear / water, lack of route knowledge, improper clothing, etc. Be polite and mostly mind your own business, unless they ask (then be very candid), or unless they are a blatant danger to others such as careless rockfall.

Do you own climb on your own terms. But yes, since you are asking I agree with JChitwood, I think you were fine. It's OK sometimes to push it just a bit, but not too far. I've done both - pushed it just a bit on a peak with good results, and also turned around many times. 2x though I can think of I made poor decisions (improper gear once, bad weather another) and paid a price for it, fortunately the final outcome was good both times. Not always the case though. Serious climbing accidents more frequently involve one or more poor choices, often a series of poor choices. Of course at times a person can do everything right and still something bad happens. Mountain hiking / climbing is of course not without risk.

Thanks for the candidness and your post.
This. I'm not the mountain hall-monitor, I don't offer unsolicited advice on the weather, time, gear, etc. I smile, say hello, and move on with my hike.
Good to know. Generally speaking, if you get caught in a storm above tree-line is it better to stay put / move slow or double time it down lower? I wondered this while we were basically running... I feel the risk of a slip/trip/fall injury is astronomically higher than getting struck by lighting right? Maybe we shouldn't have been running through rocky wet terrain? Then again - my instinct at the time was to pick up the pace and get lower ASAP. Curios on your thoughts on that.
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