Lack of Snow Creates Major Dangers on Colorado 14'ers

Lack of Snow Creates Major Dangers on Colorado 14'ers

roger
roger

June 8th, 2002, 9:51 pm #1

The absence of a snowpack worries the cities and towns that rely on snowmelt to fill reservoirs. But the bald peaks are causing concern about the early onset of the Fourteener Season, a four-month period in which about 250,000 climbers mount assaults on Colorado's famous 14,000-foot peaks.
The Fourteeners are a great source of pride in Colorado, which is home to 54 of the nation's 91 peaks over 14,000 feet. But rescuers and alpine specialists fear that the weather conditions here could make for a risky climbing season. Already, they say, inexperienced and ill-prepared climbers have attempted ascents they would have balked at in years past, when portions would have required slogging through snow and ice.
Now, more enthusiasts are climbing earlier, just when the state's high-altitude peaks are potentially more dangerous than ever. The extensive snowmelt has exposed vast, unstable boulder fields that usually remain snow-covered year-round and that now are prone to slide. And, if current weather patterns hold, the early heat and lack of moisture could mean sudden and severe lightning storms in the mountains, which can prove highly dangerous to exposed climbers.
Ed Crothers is one of the owners of the Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park, which is the oldest guide service in the state. The school recently held a guide meeting and reviewed the special problems in store for this season.
''Our biggest concern is rock fall,'' Crothers said. ''There are receding snowfields with rocks held in place by snow and ice. Those rocks are no longer being held in place.''

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/158/n ... ous+.shtml

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Jeffrey Cook
Jeffrey Cook

June 10th, 2002, 5:28 am #2

Can anyone guess whether such conditions might affect the tourist routes up Elbert and Massive? I'm planning on trying those July 4 weekend. I'm assuming No on the NE ridgeline of Elbert, but Massive???
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WingLady
WingLady

June 10th, 2002, 1:42 pm #3

It's been many years since I climbed Massive, but I remember only a small area of snow on the upper slopes when we climbed it. The snow was handy, since we were able to glissade a bit on the way down, saving some time & effort, but it seems to me that the trail skirted the upper portion of the snow anyway -- so no change in rockfall potential based on snow conditions while on the trail.

Maybe someone who has hiked Massive in the past decade will have a clearer memory of this than I do!

On another note: Colorado is tinder-dry, and we have numerous wildfires. Check with local resources just before you head out to make sure areas aren't closed due to fire. Don't even imagine that you'll be allowed to have a campfire anywhere in the state. Based on our experience in Montana 2 summers ago when we climbed Granite, it's possible that even backpacking stoves may be banned.
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John M
John M

June 10th, 2002, 2:32 pm #4

Forest Service, in response to major fires, has closed much of Pike NF.

The State of Colorado is on fire.
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Tonya
Tonya

June 12th, 2002, 4:19 am #5

Can anyone guess whether such conditions might affect the tourist routes up Elbert and Massive? I'm planning on trying those July 4 weekend. I'm assuming No on the NE ridgeline of Elbert, but Massive???
I hiked Elbert on Wednesday May 29, and didn't have a problem. We went up the North East Trail. There were scattered patches of snow that crossed the trail only three times and were packed down to less than a foot. It was clear, cold, and breezy. My two friends used hiking poles and found them very helpful navigating through the loose rocks near the peak.
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roger
roger

June 12th, 2002, 2:27 pm #6

Forest Service, in response to major fires, has closed much of Pike NF.

The State of Colorado is on fire.
Some of the news reports are confusing as they blanketly say that Pike-San Isabel National Forest is closed. In fact it is "only" Pike. San Isabel (home to Elbert) is open. I verified this with the Leadville Ranger station (719) 486-0749.

Here's an article from the Denver Post:
Monday, June 10, 2002 - The Pike National Forest and federal lands in five Front Range counties were closed to everyone but residents, permit holders and firefighters in an unprecedented move by U.S. Forest Service officials fed up with repeated violations of fire bans.
The closure means the public may not enter 2 million acres of federal land by road, by trail or over land, perhaps until the snow flies. It's the first time a Colorado national forest has been closed because of fire danger, officials said.

"This is not a short-term measure," said Barb Timock, Public Affairs Officer for the Pike-San Isabel National Forest. "It's reasonable to assume these closures will be in effect for most of the summer."

Bureau of Land Management land in Douglas, Jefferson, Park Teller and El Paso counties were also ordered closed to the public. People who violate the order can face fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for groups, and up to six months in jail.
http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,141 ... rch=filter


Here's a confusing one from the Boulder Daily Camera:

DENVER — The U.S. Forest Service closed the Pike-San Isabel National Forest indefinitely for the first time in at least a quarter century after a wildfire roared across 75,000 acres of prime tourist habitat.
Forest Service spokesman Dave Steinke said other states, including New Mexico and Arizona, also have closed their forests.
He said it is the first time anyone can remember the Pike-San Isabel National Forest being closed. The area covers five counties southwest of Denver, and is a popular destination for campers, hikers and other outdoors fans.
http://www2.dailycamera.com/bdc/state_n ... 38,00.html

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roger
roger

June 12th, 2002, 2:29 pm #7

The absence of a snowpack worries the cities and towns that rely on snowmelt to fill reservoirs. But the bald peaks are causing concern about the early onset of the Fourteener Season, a four-month period in which about 250,000 climbers mount assaults on Colorado's famous 14,000-foot peaks.
The Fourteeners are a great source of pride in Colorado, which is home to 54 of the nation's 91 peaks over 14,000 feet. But rescuers and alpine specialists fear that the weather conditions here could make for a risky climbing season. Already, they say, inexperienced and ill-prepared climbers have attempted ascents they would have balked at in years past, when portions would have required slogging through snow and ice.
Now, more enthusiasts are climbing earlier, just when the state's high-altitude peaks are potentially more dangerous than ever. The extensive snowmelt has exposed vast, unstable boulder fields that usually remain snow-covered year-round and that now are prone to slide. And, if current weather patterns hold, the early heat and lack of moisture could mean sudden and severe lightning storms in the mountains, which can prove highly dangerous to exposed climbers.
Ed Crothers is one of the owners of the Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park, which is the oldest guide service in the state. The school recently held a guide meeting and reviewed the special problems in store for this season.
''Our biggest concern is rock fall,'' Crothers said. ''There are receding snowfields with rocks held in place by snow and ice. Those rocks are no longer being held in place.''

http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/158/n ... ous+.shtml
DENVER -- Gudy Gaskill's secret is out. The "Colorado Trail" is more than a love song sung by cowboys missing their sweethearts and the warmth of home.
Created on a shoestring for the benefit of Colorado hikers, the 468-mile-long trail is drawing raves from hikers from across the country.
"We never really wanted to make it so public like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails," said Gaskill, who was recently inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame for her work on the trail.

The trail runs from just west of Denver to Durango through seven national forests, six wilderness areas, five major river systems and eight mountain ranges. Its average elevation, once it leaves the Denver area, is 10,000-feet-plus.

The trail is divided into 28 segments that average 17 miles.
Gaskill says hikers often exchange car keys with friends parked at the other end and swap cars to avoid backtracking. Even using this technique she doubts more than 300 people have hiked the entire length.
"It takes six weeks out of your life," but even those who "go up for only one day are hooked," she said.
Because of its elevation and lingering snow, hikers are urged not to attempt it beyond Kenosha Pass, 50 miles west of Denver, until June 20.
http://www.modbee.com/sports/story/3180 ... 8721c.html
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Anonymous
Anonymous

June 13th, 2002, 10:05 pm #8

It's been many years since I climbed Massive, but I remember only a small area of snow on the upper slopes when we climbed it. The snow was handy, since we were able to glissade a bit on the way down, saving some time & effort, but it seems to me that the trail skirted the upper portion of the snow anyway -- so no change in rockfall potential based on snow conditions while on the trail.

Maybe someone who has hiked Massive in the past decade will have a clearer memory of this than I do!

On another note: Colorado is tinder-dry, and we have numerous wildfires. Check with local resources just before you head out to make sure areas aren't closed due to fire. Don't even imagine that you'll be allowed to have a campfire anywhere in the state. Based on our experience in Montana 2 summers ago when we climbed Granite, it's possible that even backpacking stoves may be banned.
A few weeks ago, I called around to several national forests and a few national parks in AZ & NM. Most of them said that they might soon require "cold camping", meaning no stoves, smoking etc. in the backcountry. Except for Bandelier National Park, which has a total backcountry closure, even for dayhikes.

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Jeffrey Cook
Jeffrey Cook

June 13th, 2002, 10:21 pm #9

The entire Coronado National Forest in Southern AZ is closed to recreational activity, as are 80% of the Tonto NF, half of the Apache-Sitgreaves NF, 2/3 of the Coconino NF,more than half of the Kaibab NF (Williams and Tusayan districts), and 100% of the Prescott NF. Hiking in AZ is going to be pretty p-poor until we get some significant rainfall.

You can get the latest on AZ forests at:
http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/forests/az.html

The Forest Service home page http://www.fs.fed.us has quick links to National Forests in all states.
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John G
John G

June 17th, 2002, 7:30 pm #10

Some of the news reports are confusing as they blanketly say that Pike-San Isabel National Forest is closed. In fact it is "only" Pike. San Isabel (home to Elbert) is open. I verified this with the Leadville Ranger station (719) 486-0749.

Here's an article from the Denver Post:
Monday, June 10, 2002 - The Pike National Forest and federal lands in five Front Range counties were closed to everyone but residents, permit holders and firefighters in an unprecedented move by U.S. Forest Service officials fed up with repeated violations of fire bans.
The closure means the public may not enter 2 million acres of federal land by road, by trail or over land, perhaps until the snow flies. It's the first time a Colorado national forest has been closed because of fire danger, officials said.

"This is not a short-term measure," said Barb Timock, Public Affairs Officer for the Pike-San Isabel National Forest. "It's reasonable to assume these closures will be in effect for most of the summer."

Bureau of Land Management land in Douglas, Jefferson, Park Teller and El Paso counties were also ordered closed to the public. People who violate the order can face fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for groups, and up to six months in jail.
http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,141 ... rch=filter


Here's a confusing one from the Boulder Daily Camera:

DENVER — The U.S. Forest Service closed the Pike-San Isabel National Forest indefinitely for the first time in at least a quarter century after a wildfire roared across 75,000 acres of prime tourist habitat.
Forest Service spokesman Dave Steinke said other states, including New Mexico and Arizona, also have closed their forests.
He said it is the first time anyone can remember the Pike-San Isabel National Forest being closed. The area covers five counties southwest of Denver, and is a popular destination for campers, hikers and other outdoors fans.
http://www2.dailycamera.com/bdc/state_n ... 38,00.html
I am planning a trip to CO over the 4th of July, including some hiking in the San Isabel NF. I called their HQ today, and they are OPEN for hiking, at least for now.

Be advised that you will likely not be allowed a fire, possibly even from a camp stove, but the trails are open for hiking.

Rio Grande NF is also open. Some of their areas are reportedly open to day hiking only; no camping. Since my trips are all day hikes, I couldn't tell you what if any areas are closed to camping.

Both NF's did warn that things could change. I guess if any more Forest Rangers set the place on fire, we might see some total closures.

Interesting - for all of the publicity about "only you can prevent forest fires" and all that stuff, the two biggest fires of the last few years, Los Alamos NM and the current CO fire, both were started by supposed professionals being brain-dead.
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