Worst Winter Weather Stories

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timstich
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by timstich » Sat Dec 01, 2018 4:57 am

I did a ridge traverse from Hoosier Pass to Red Mountain once in winter. There was so much fog that visibility dropped to about 400 to 500 feet, which made the terrain very hard to read. We ultimately realized that if we stayed high we would hit the highway at the approximate elevation of the pass and we did. But it was one of those times a GPS would have come in very handy.

I had never experienced really bad winter weather until I tried to hike up St. Mary's Glacier in full on blizzard conditions once with a friend. It was 35 mph sustained winds with heavy snow and gusts probably up to 60. We made it halfway up the glacier and then retreated to a coffee shop in Georgetown. The real deal killer was that each little place wind could get to your skin, it absolutely stung. Despite goggles, gloves, good boots, etc. it just was no fun at all. Never forgot that valuable lesson!
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WildWanderer
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by WildWanderer » Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:05 pm

The date was January 4. We were coming back from a long day of terrible condition skiing at Monarch ( 15*, 45mph winds, blowing snow, etc). We'd stopped for dinner and were now on our way home. It was 7:30pm, and the roads were icy. It was snowing and very, very windy. I was exhausted (while they'd had a blast, taking 3 kids ages 4, 6, and 8 skiing all day in not so fun conditions had worn me out) so I decided to take a nap while my ex drove home. I woke up when the car started suddenly accelerating: My ex had decided to commit suicide, and take the entire family with him. He raced our truck over a cliff and into the Arkansas river (the one paralleling the 50 between Canon City and Salida). As we were flying through the air everything happened in slow motion: I remember thinking we were all going to die, and how dreadfully cold that river was. It was the river we'd gone rafting in this past summer, and I knew you don't pull people out of that river that enter via a vehicle. The Arkansas was raging even now in winter, and I could see ice floating on the top. My mind went into survival mode, knowing as soon as the truck stopped time was of the essence. I had 3 kids sleeping behind me in car seats: Which one did I save first?

"Luckily" the truck landed and got stuck on a very large boulder near the middle of the river, with the front half totally submerged and the back half sticking up, out of the water. I unbuckled all 3 of the kids and had them climb out the back window of the truck, and told them to be careful not to rock the truck in case it dislodged and began carrying us down the river (I was seriously concerned this would happen). It was snowing and cold and we'd left everything in the truck, worried it wasn't stable and would dislodge and carry us all away (so in our haste no mittens, coats, etc). The trek back up the cliff (which was mostly full of dead brush, trees, and steep snow in the beginning) seemed to last forever. Halfway up I couldn't take the kids safely any further, but that's when I heard shouting from the top: Some good Samaritans had been driving behind us and saw us go over, stopped, and were asking if everyone was ok. When I told them the kids weren't able to navigate the terrain any more they climbed down and formed a chain and helped me lift all 3 kids to safety, passing each child from person to person until they reached the top. It was the scariest night of my life, and I am extremely grateful for those who stopped to help.

On a lighter note, when we reached the top an off duty police officer was there. He asked my kids if they were alright. My youngest pointed to her cheek and replied in a dramatic voice: "No! I got a scratch under my eye!" It was from a random branch that had lightly scraped her cheek. I told her that didn't count, but she said adamantly "Mommy! It really hurts!" It was great comic relief. Yes, miraculously we were all ok. Even the truck: It took them 4 hours to remove it from the river, and when it was on the road again I was able to start it. It didn't have any dents/broken windows, etc. All that was wrong was a tire had blown and all tires were frozen to the frame (due to the water and freezing temperatures). Within 30 minutes and after changing the tire it was drivable, but declared a total loss by the insurance company due to a cracked frame. After the divorce was final and I could finally afford to, I bought the exact same truck again.

Moral of the story: Have winter driving skills and make sure you're the one doing the winter driving. Also, Toyota Tundras rock.
It's a mountain: get over it.
Bill G
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by Bill G » Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:08 pm

it's starts on March 28th 1982 and ends a week later. D-day was Wed when we got buried in an avalanche driving from Tahoe City towards Squaw Valley. A front-end loader dug us out. That day 7 people died in an avalanche at the base of Alpine Meadows. On April 5th they found one of the lifties alive in what was once a very large building. She lost toes and part of her leg. She was the first live find by a snow rescue dog in the US. I flew out for spring skiing with friends who lived there. Depending on where you were on North Shore you got between 12-18 feet of snow. Think Donner Party brutal.

That storm convinced me to move somewhere safer. I chose CO. I still recall at Xmas time Denver had what they called the Xmas blizzard with almost 2 feet of snow. Always thought that was funny. One was snow 2 to 3 times my height, the other almost came up to my knees.

I line I read associated with that storm still resonates with me today...Those who have gone to the mountains but have not returned.

Have fun, play safe!
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username72
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by username72 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:40 pm

Bill G wrote: That storm convinced me to move somewhere safer. I chose CO.
But the majority of US avalanche deaths occur in Colorado, also don't forget the Pikes Peak bigfoot and Manbearpig.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by SnowAlien » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:06 pm

All 14ers under true winter conditions are hard - road closures miles from the summer TH, trailbreaking, cold temps, short days, camping in single digits - it can be pretty rough. If you play the weather and the avy card right, it can be reasonable or even downright pleasant. Skiing is typically terrible/non-existent above the treeline, but can be pretty good below the treeline (the deeper the pow, the better the skiing :-D ), however it is just the byproduct of the approach/experience, and not the goal.
All the Elks are really hard, and Snowmass was probably the toughest because we didn't play the weather card right. The approach days was forecasted to be beautiful, but the weak storm was predicted to arrive after 11am on the next/summit day. Well, it arrived about 2 hours earlier than anticipated as we were still heading up near ~12k. Although my partner and I had hopes to ski the peak, we were moving slower than desired in punchy snow and increasing winds, so we decided to ditch our skis to help with the pace. We made it to summit while it was showing with low visibility, but on the way down we couldn't find our skis for awhile, as they got almost completely snow covered (although I marked them with a waypoint on my Gaia). We spent a harrowing 15-20 minutes looking for skis as the snowfall was intensifying. :-SS Finally we found them and were able to ski out!
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Tornadoman
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by Tornadoman » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:57 pm

username72 wrote:
Bill G wrote: That storm convinced me to move somewhere safer. I chose CO.
But the majority of US avalanche deaths occur in Colorado, also don't forget the Pikes Peak bigfoot and Manbearpig.
MBP alone makes Colorado the most dangerous state in the nation!
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by nunns » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:02 pm

My friends in Missouri think I am a beast because I go for 10 mile runs occasionally in 3-5 inches of snow. Pretty funny in light of what I know about Andrew Hamilton climbing all of the 14ers in one calendar winter.

Sean Nunn
"Thy righteousness is like the great mountains." --Psalms 36:6
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by Greenhouseguy » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:54 pm

username72 wrote:
Bill G wrote: That storm convinced me to move somewhere safer. I chose CO.
But the majority of US avalanche deaths occur in Colorado, also don't forget the Pikes Peak bigfoot and Manbearpig.
Bigfoot has never actually lived on Pikes Peak, but you can see Pikes Peak from where he lives in the Lost Creek Wilderness.
"May your boulder be your blessing." - Aron Ralston
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nyker
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by nyker » Wed Dec 05, 2018 3:28 pm

All three of my attempts to climb a mountain in Colorado in winter were thwarted by weather, iced roads, snow etc, before even making out of Denver upon
flying in, so I've never been able to even get to a trailhead! Maybe I just had bad luck with weather and timing with my attempts..
So I have no winter stories from a CO 14er...I'll use a story from closer to home in the Adirondacks. For those who have climbed there, winters can be tough.

I had the great idea to try Gothics as a day trip, two days after a big late winter snow storm and during lingering flurries of a smaller, but expectedly short lived one.
Nervously, I drove 5 hours North through the tail end of a snowstorm once roads were plowed. In short, dumb idea. The hike up is normally pretty challenging in dry weather,
being ~15 miles and +4,700ft elevation gain. with a lot of rock, granite slabs, steep ravines, some ladders to climb over eroded gulleys, etc. Daytime temps were in the low 20s.

I suspected I made a bad decision when right from the trailhead, which because was right off the road was easy to get to and giving one that false sense of "doability".
Getting out of the parking lot, fresh snow was 3ft deep and snowshoes barely mitigated sinking in... All streams were covered in ice or snow, that made those parts quicker,
and at this point, the ice was typically thick enough to prevent punching through. Any boulder was covered in fresh snow and iced over underneath requiring better traction
than snowshoes had, so I switched to crampons for the frequent boulders and icefalls to climb up despite the trade of more intense postholing in other sections.
I'm still not sure how I was able to navigate all the way to the ridge, but managed to do so over the course of 6-7 hours winding my way through the forest

As I hiked up, hidden branches of fir and spruce bent over by the weight of snow would snap up from the ground, usually as I walked right by, hitting me, and usually right
in the face like an icey uppercut. Spruce traps" were everywhere where a 1-2 foot posthole became a 4ft posthole, scary and hard to avoid in some areas.

Another 2 hours I made my way to a spot where I could see the summit as the falling snow lessened, but it was already getting late and I was getting burned out
postholing all day with the exception of the boulder sections which were just hard and tedious and I didn't want to reverse all this in the dark, still hadn't seen another
person all day, so I turned around.

Wind was a steady 20 mph all day, feeling it even in the deep woods and then gusts higher than that
The flurries were still coming down, coated my tracks behind me making it a bit tough to back track, but I made it back, never so happy to sit in my car after that day.

Similar experience with Giant Mountain, but this time was during the storm, given the shorter route, figured it would be fine. I did summit that one, but was just a brutal day
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username72
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by username72 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:02 pm

Greenhouseguy wrote:
username72 wrote:
Bill G wrote: That storm convinced me to move somewhere safer. I chose CO.
But the majority of US avalanche deaths occur in Colorado, also don't forget the Pikes Peak bigfoot and Manbearpig.
Bigfoot has never actually lived on Pikes Peak, but you can see Pikes Peak from where he lives in the Lost Creek Wilderness.
Bigfoot's property must have a value of at least 1 mil if he has a view of Pikes Peak from that area. Is he considering selling by any chance?
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Greenhouseguy
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by Greenhouseguy » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:02 pm

username72 wrote:
Greenhouseguy wrote:
username72 wrote: But the majority of US avalanche deaths occur in Colorado, also don't forget the Pikes Peak bigfoot and Manbearpig.
Bigfoot has never actually lived on Pikes Peak, but you can see Pikes Peak from where he lives in the Lost Creek Wilderness.
Bigfoot's property must have a value of at least 1 mil if he has a view of Pikes Peak from that area. Is he considering selling by any chance?
As a matter of fact, some similar properties have hit the market recently. Address all inquiries to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500.
"May your boulder be your blessing." - Aron Ralston
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by jibler » Thu Dec 20, 2018 1:09 pm

this is a driving saga - but may contain valuable info re: driving in ultra cold conditions


was driving home from montana to denver for xmas break - 20 years ago this week

massive winter storm bearing down - and me in my geo tracker right on the cusp of it the whole way down. coldest driving I ever encountered. and very long trip - most of the time around 40-45 mph.

either way - inside of car was frosting up. had never seen that or knew what was up. But at Wyoming gas station local gave me the tip - put a piece of cardboard in front of your radiator - it cannot keep up with that level of cold.

saved the day!
Keep looking up - Jack Horkheimer
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