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San Juan 14er skiing

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports

San Juan 14er skiing

Postby livetothemax96 » Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:14 pm

Hey,

So this season I'm kicking off my ski the 14ers project (trying to have them done before my 20th birthday) and a few of the descents I was hoping to get in this season were the Lake City 14ers (Handies, Sunshine, Redcloud, Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn). Only problem is, I live in Denver, so it's quite the haul to get down there. I have some time over spring break to go knock them out and my family is pretty willing to road trip. Nothing is definite yet, just want to make sure it's doable first. Does anyone know if he conditions will be stable enough (and snow covered enough) to get descents of all 5 in? I'm not so much worried about Handies, Sunshine and Redcloud as I am of Wetterhorn and 'paghre. I know some people have gotten Wetterhorn in Early April before, but I have a feeling that Late March (when Spring break is) might be pushing it a bit. Any thoughts?
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Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby San Juan Ron » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:32 pm

FYI, the gate is usually locked until around May 1st at the Sherman Fork which is around 5 miles to the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch TH. SJ Ron

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Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:32 pm

My thought is this:
Most avalanche fatalities (as I recall off the top of my head - please correct me if I'm wrong - but the concept is the point) occur during the CAIC Moderate (yellow) or Considerable (orange) rating.

Watch to see if things settle. Check CAIC data every day from now till then. Notice that TRs have trailed off considerably (no pun.) In more than a month, there's only been 9 reports, and one of those did not take place during the current timeframe. While the snow typically starts to consolidate in March, this has been an atypical year.

We'd like to celebrate your 20th birthday, with you, not post-mortem. Please be careful.

Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby Easy Rider » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:53 pm

Wellllllll.....I think if you are new to ski mountaineering, the Lake City 14ers are a good PLACE start. But the best TIME would be the early morning frozen spring snow of mid to late May. Summit coverage is best just before it's all over down low. Plus the access is better. I'll wager you're success rate in the late season will be much better, and more enjoyable. March can be reeeeeally touchy, and especially this year. Consider for example that can be the first time all year that the snowpack has to endure nights above freezing at the higher elevations without the benefit of consolidation. The rime crusted, wind blasted, sun beaten SW aspects of the Sangres were the only place I really felt the happening of stable spring snow in mid-March. Come to think of it, Lake City can dish out some very winter like conditions thru the Easter pig roast.

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Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby Dancesatmoonrise » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:43 pm

Easy Rider wrote:Wellllllll.....I think if you are new to ski mountaineering, the Lake City 14ers are a good PLACE start. But the best TIME would be the early morning frozen spring snow of mid to late May. Summit coverage is best just before it's all over down low. Plus the access is better. I'll wager you're success rate in the late season will be much better, and more enjoyable. March can be reeeeeally touchy, and especially this year. Consider for example that can be the first time all year that the snowpack has to endure nights above freezing at the higher elevations without the benefit of consolidation. The rime crusted, wind blasted, sun beaten SW aspects of the Sangres were the only place I really felt the happening of stable spring snow in mid-March. Come to think of it, Lake City can dish out some very winter like conditions thru the Easter pig roast.

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Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby livetothemax96 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 3:53 pm

Thanks for the input guys! Yeah, I didn't really think that it would be the best time to ski them, but I just wanted to make sure and get some other opinions, because, unless I wait until mid June, don't have time to get down to that area.
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Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby lodgling » Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:04 pm

With the exception of probably Uncompahgre, in some years mid-June can be an OK time to ski the Lake City 14ers from the standpoints of safety and access. Whether this year will be such a year will depend upon the weather.

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Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby benners » Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:53 pm

Just to add some food for thought, Uncompahgre may be a good option for late-March as the standard ski route faces southeast and is fairly low angle. It is also feasible for a day trip (being around 16 miles round trip) from the winter closure. The approach avoids avy terrian for the most part, and the summit pitch is very low angle. The two cruxes of pulling this one off in March are summit coverage (i.e. will there be any?) and the upper-southeast face pitch just below the cliffs. If I remember correctly this pitch is around 30 degrees in steepness but could slide under certain conditions. We skied it in January a few years ago (search the ski TRs if you're interested) and found this pitch to be stable. Summit coverage was OK to poor but in late-March on a year like this year it could be much better.

Like the fellas said above, make sure to do your due diligence with regards to avy danger. I just wanted to throw my two cents in there for a winter ski route out of the peaks you mentioned. Cheers!

Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby lodgling » Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:40 pm

Agreed re: Uncompahgre and avy danger. The exposure is pretty obvious where it exists, if you keep in mind that when the Lake City paths go during winter or the winter-spring transition they go BIG.

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Also, a less obvious but sketchy spot for me was the portion of the route just prior to the big, open meadows before the summer trailhead where you are on the road cut. There is steep, treeless, dark rock, sun-exposed terrain above you and a steep drop to the creek bed. Triggering even a very small slide from the road to the steep terrain above could rather innocently send you for a ride all the way to the creek some 50+ ft. below. On my three (yes 3) attempts to ski Umcompahgre, that area put me the most on edge.

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Re: San Juan 14er skiing

Postby benners » Fri Mar 08, 2013 3:35 pm

lodgling wrote:Also, a less obvious but sketchy spot for me was the portion of the route just prior to the big, open meadows before the summer trailhead where you are on the road cut. There is steep, treeless, dark rock, sun-exposed terrain above you and a steep drop to the creek bed. Triggering even a very small slide from the road to the steep terrain above could rather innocently send you for a ride all the way to the creek some 50+ ft. below. On my three (yes 3) attempts to ski Umcompahgre, that area put me the most on edge.

Yep I remember that same spot! San Juans are primed for some big ones this year that's for sure :shock:. Gonna be great when everything stabalizes though!

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