Snow on southwest peaks

Snow on southwest peaks

Joined: January 21st, 2004, 4:09 am

December 1st, 2005, 6:23 pm #1

This east coast hiker is looking to head out west to pick up some of the less challenging western HP's in 2006.

As I haven't spent much too much time in the Rockies or beyond, I really haven't a clue as to when I can reasonably expect that the peaks will be snow-free. My only foray out west was a successful attempt on Humphries the first week of October 2004, and even then I got snowed on during the descent.

What are the earliest and latest dates that I can REASONABLY expect the following peaks to be snow-free?

New Mexico (Wheeler)
Colorado (Elbert)
Nevada (Boundary)
Utah (Kings)

I plan on doing two next year, possibly three.

Many thanks in advance!
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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 9:10 pm

December 1st, 2005, 8:27 pm #2

What are the earliest and latest dates that I can REASONABLY expect the following peaks to be snow-free?

New Mexico (Wheeler)
Colorado (Elbert)
Nevada (Boundary)
Utah (Kings)

I plan on doing two next year, possibly three,


I can give some general comments on times. Much depends on what 'type' of winter we'll get - El Nino (wet), La Nina (dry), or something in between. Last year was a relatively wet one, and lots of big peaks were still under heavy snow into May (at least in NV, NM, AZ, CA). Further north, well into June even.

Typically, the bigger peaks in NM, AZ and SoCal can be hiked starting in mid May without too much difficulty from snow, drifts, mud or similar. Add a month for northern CA, NV, UT, CO.

In dry years everything can be moved up a month or so (e.g. in 2002 I hiked up Grays Peak on June 1 along the trail, entirely. 2002 was pretty dry). In a real wet year (1993), we had significant snow into mid July on Humphreys, for example.

Of the four, Kings Peak will probably be the one most affected by season- probably not doable until mid July unless you want to ski in or deal with mud.

There really is no way to tell other than to wait until about April and start asking around, and hope for the best.
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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 6:42 pm

December 1st, 2005, 8:57 pm #3

I agree with Scott about the most important factor being the snowfall the previous winter.

That said, I climbed Kings Peak on June 14, 2000, and the only snow I encountered was a small snow patch near Gunsight Pass and a small chute I chose to glissade down from the summit. Neither of these patches posed a problem to me and, although I brought an ice axe, I never used it. I did the trip in running shoes and did not wear crampons at all.

I also climed Mount Elbert in June - on June 26, 2001. I encountered no snow on that trip.

Since I do not live in the area, I cannot say whether these trips were done after winters with heavy or light snowpacks.

I do not have any spring or early summer experience on Boundary Peak (climbed in October) or on Wheeler Peak (climbed in August).
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Joined: February 27th, 2004, 4:18 pm

December 2nd, 2005, 3:37 pm #4

This east coast hiker is looking to head out west to pick up some of the less challenging western HP's in 2006.

As I haven't spent much too much time in the Rockies or beyond, I really haven't a clue as to when I can reasonably expect that the peaks will be snow-free. My only foray out west was a successful attempt on Humphries the first week of October 2004, and even then I got snowed on during the descent.

What are the earliest and latest dates that I can REASONABLY expect the following peaks to be snow-free?

New Mexico (Wheeler)
Colorado (Elbert)
Nevada (Boundary)
Utah (Kings)

I plan on doing two next year, possibly three.

Many thanks in advance!
In 2003, Kings didn't get snow that was a "season ender" (more than a foot) until the last week of October. 2003 was a dry year overall- regrettably, I didn't get a chance to go into that part of the Uintas in 2004 at all to see what it was like.

With average precip, Kings might be doable starting in early/mid June. There will be snow to cross over, but it wouldn't likely be anything you should worry about. Most will be doing it in tennis shoes anyway. June or July are pretty since everything is green and flowers are coming up, but you also have the extra snow/mosquitoes to tend with. August is another story. September can have much colder weather, but it has always been quite stable for me to hike all day and into the night if needed. Snow will fall in September some time, but it usually melts quickly enough that you wont ever have to deal with it much. October will usually bring snow that stops the normal hiking season.

I can't attest for the other mountains, but in early summer (june), conditions can be quite variable. Maybe some lingering snowfields, maybe not. In June'05, in the Wasatch mountains next to Salt Lake City, I was walking on corniced ridges at 9000 feet. That was after ~160% normal winter snowpack.

Since you haven't been out West, one thing to keep in mind is the summer storms that regularly develop on all of these mountains. Frequently in July through August, thunderstorms develop in the morning and hit quickly as the day goes on- sometimes they'll hit in the morning, something in the afternoon, or even at night. Regardless, it is usually prudent to plan on getting up and down QUICKLY in the day!

-be
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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 10:33 pm

December 6th, 2005, 3:49 pm #5

This east coast hiker is looking to head out west to pick up some of the less challenging western HP's in 2006.

As I haven't spent much too much time in the Rockies or beyond, I really haven't a clue as to when I can reasonably expect that the peaks will be snow-free. My only foray out west was a successful attempt on Humphries the first week of October 2004, and even then I got snowed on during the descent.

What are the earliest and latest dates that I can REASONABLY expect the following peaks to be snow-free?

New Mexico (Wheeler)
Colorado (Elbert)
Nevada (Boundary)
Utah (Kings)

I plan on doing two next year, possibly three.

Many thanks in advance!
I live in Colorado, and I was also a backpacking guide for two years in the Uintas, and wrote a guidebook to that range, so I know these two areas very well.


Anyway, in a "normal" year Kings Peak will have quite a bit of snow left until early or mid-July. The years mentioned, 2000, 2001, and 2003 were all drought years. The flowers usually don't come out until early July, and stream crossings can be a problem, though the on the route through Henrys Fork will have a bridge.

However, just as mentioned, it will all depend on the year and previous snowfall in winter and spring. I've seen Kings realitively snow free in June,a nd I've also seen it still buried under snow in August.


Elbert is usually snow free by late June in a "normal" year, but this too varies. Since the route is on a ridge, there often isn't snow, even if mountain has snow on other slopes.
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