We started this series of articles with the WHY - what motivations get us outside touring…
Colorado is known for its dynamic and surprising weather patterns, and this season is no exception. Unless you’ve been under a snow-covered rock all winter, you’ve come to the same conclusion we’ve come to at Mountain Chalet. Our normal timeline for fun on our favorite high-alpine trails has been modified. With deep snow sitting closer to the trailheads than we’ve seen in recent years, we have a few things to reckon with but don’t cancel your trip. Mountain Chalet can help.
We’ve heard of several people that were thwarted as they found themselves unprepared for the conditions they met early in their journeys. We’ve seen recent aerial photographs of the basin surrounding Capital Peak and it’s more snowy than even mid-February has looked in quite some time.
All that being said, this could be the best time to consider some otherwise overlooked opportunities to explore. Explore the areas of lower elevation, or a more southern objective like the Sangre De Cristo mountains. If you normally speed past the Lost Creek Wilderness to get up high in the Collegiate Range, you have a great opportunity. Consider a closer and/or more passable alternative. If you must go higher (because it’s there) consider the drainage hikes that might not be so steep and will hold snow longer. Consider the aspect of the terrain you might be navigating. If your objective hugs the north-facing slope of an east/west drainage, you might reconsider. These northern slopes will see less sunlight than any other aspect and will be the last to shed their snow layer into our watershed.
Warm temperatures means heavy, wet snow. Have you considered the unlikely possibility of a wet-slide avalanche? We should never completely let our guard down with regards to these concerns of danger. Consider an EARLY morning start. A “dawn patrol” start may put you in snow conditions much more suitable for efficient travel.
With record snowfall in our mountains, the usual openness we see in the region this time of year has caused a surge of sales in snowshoes and traction devices – gear usually reserved for shoulder season pursuits. Here are a few additional things you might consider carrying on your early season adventures. Take the time to consider adding these items. They just might help you stand on your summit, or complete your intended loop hike.
Julbo Explorer 2.0 Glacier Glasses
More time spent on snow means much more exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun. Remember that we’re not only talking about rays from the sky, but also the rays reflecting off the snow. Protect your eyes from these damaging rays with quality glacier glasses or goggles.
Chainsen Pro Traction Devices
For some people, traction devices seem out of place during this time of the year, but journeying up high in a big snow year will require these tools. Well worth the added weight to help ensure your success.
Black Diamond Lynx Shovel
Be prepared with the tools needed to eliminate any surprises that might shut down your momentum. A small and lightweight avalanche shovel will help level your tent platform, or build a windbreak in more exposed environs.
An ice axe could make the difference when traveling on terrain that is more slick than you’re used to, but be wise and know its purpose. An ice axe can be a false sense of security if you’re not practiced in its use. And where there’s an ice axe, there should probably be a helmet.
MSR Evo Snowshoes
Nothing shuts down an early season snow adventure more than a pair of snowshoes that are sitting in your car, or on a shelf in your gear room. Bring them with you for trips in this early season.
OR Crocodile Gaiters
Gaiters definitely protect your feet from getting wet, but they can also protect you during a short stretch of post-holing. Firm conditions can render your shins bloody.
Let’s face it, we all feel like there is less and less time available to us to make these mountain trips possible. Don’t let the snow discourage you, or keep you from your favorite alpine happy place. Be prepared and you’ll be more poised for mountain success.
Come see us at Mountain Chalet for more information regarding traveling in the mountains.