When to turn around (part 2)

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mgl45
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When to turn around (part 2)

Post by mgl45 »

Thanks much to everyone who replied to my post a few weeks ago, "When to turn around", the perspectives were very helpful.

I have a follow-up question.

I saw this Quandary peak video, and I am wondering if, based on the clouds shown, you would have turned around and if so at what timestamp in the video?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NOX8dyNlm0

Based on everything I've learned from research, including the original "When to turn around" post, the clouds as of 5:17 (still on the way up) seem pretty threatening to me.

I intent no criticism to the maker of the video, he seemed to know what he's doing, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can before I have to make these decisions for real.

Any perspectives are much appreciated.
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nyker
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by nyker »

While in July it would be expected to have rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon and since in this example the percentage was 50% after midday I either would have started much earlier or just not gone after a higher summit that day. The clouds after the 3-minute mark start looking pretty ominous and low.
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timewarp01
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by timewarp01 »

Honestly I'd be pretty comfortable hiking in pretty much everything in that video, although some of the shots at the very end show signs of turning into worse weather. When assessing incoming weather you have to think about the type of clouds you're seeing, not just when they showing up. The clouds are certainly denser around 4:00 than when he started, but you can clearly see their smooth upper surfaces as he pans the camera around. This indicates to me a relatively stable stratus formation that has a long way to go before precipitating. If the weather system is moving towards a thunderstorm you'll start to see bulging, cauliflower-shaped structures (transition to stratocumulus) begin to protrude from the tops of the clouds, which will initially blow off and dissipate, but eventually become prevalent enough that larger towers with much darker bases begin to form. Compare the clouds at 5:05 in that video to this image I took from Lindsey a few weeks ago. The clouds in this picture are noticeably more mature; convection is causing them to stretch upwards, soon there will be enough of them to form a large enough base for that upper deck to get sufficiently high for ice crystals to form. Even when it gets to that point you still have time before precipitation starts (the clouds in my picture didn't start raining for another three hours). In some of the last shots when the guy is on his way down, you can start to see some puffier lumpy shapes starting to form, but nothing close to what I would consider an imminent danger. The fact that you can see so much blue sky between the clouds also speaks to their relatively slow upward development; the individual clouds haven't yet reached the height they would need for glaciation to start at the top.
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by peter303 »

Huge monsoon dump forecast July 30 - August 1, 2021.
Already considering abandoning mountain plans.
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by tmud »

Pre-planning is the most important aspect of this conversation. There are generally 3 forecasts in the summer...chance of storms by 9am, chance of storms by noon, chance of storms after 1p.

If its a 9am forecast, then either plan a very short trip, start at 2am, or call it off. Otherwise...always plan to be at tree line by noon. Doing a long traverse, start early. Bagging multiple peaks that day, start early. If you always plan to be at tree line by noon, this conversation is basically moot, and that is by far my best advice for handling mountain weather.

It is very obvious what the weather is doing. You'll see clear skies or whispy clouds between 4a-9a. Between 9a-12p those whispy and small puffy clouds start to "build", you'll see small puffy clouds become more frequent, combine, turn grey; then around noon, you'll see they've all "built" into an actual storm cloud, when you see it take up most the sky and start expanding like a balloon (cauliflower shaped as mentioned earlier), then it is imminent. Either way, when I see them building, I start moving faster, and when its built, I'm gone.
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by derekpetrie »

I probably would have turned around if I was on Quandary that day as well. A few weeks ago I was on a camping trip with my wife and kids and due to the Sylvan fire, we ended up staying part of the trip near Leadville. So I went out on one morning for Elbert and the next for Huron.

I turned around on Elbert at ~13,700 due to vertical cloud development similar to what is in the video. That day started with a cloud inversion and vertical development picked up around 8:45a, with storms chances picking up at 11a.


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Turned out there were no storms and even though Elbert was completely socked in at 11a, things cleared up around 1p. The next morning on Huron I saw rolling stratus clouds and no vertical development, with storm chances forecast to pick up after 1p. So, I was fine being socked in at the summit just before 8a.
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Where I am in both my alpine experience (18 summits above 13k) and weather knowledge, I am very conservative in weather decision making. If I see vertical formation and expect to be enveloped in cloud cover, that is time to turn around. If there are storm chances that day, I set a turnaround time based on my pace so that I am below treeline an hour before those chances pick up. If it’s overcast when I hit the trailhead AND there are storm chances that day, I’ll turn around at treeline should things not clear up.

The most important thing to me is that I review my decision after the fact and see what I can learn. On Elbert that day, even though it cleared up by 1p I feel I made a good decision as there was no way for me to know once on the mountain what those cloud tops were doing.
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DArcyS
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by DArcyS »

derekpetrie wrote: Wed Jul 28, 2021 6:44 am If it’s overcast when I hit the trailhead AND there are storm chances that day,
Right, the decision isn't made in a vacuum by looking only at the clouds.
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by rob runkle »

If I turned around on weather like in that video, it would probably be a 30-40% retreat rate. No way.

But, agree 100% with people who say start early. I start no later than 530am anymore, and ideally earlier, especially if extended time at elevation is going to be required (i.e. a long ridge climb).

In weather like this, I'm definitely keeping my eyes wide open for changes and also for anything that might be building in the distance and moving in our direction.
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by DeTour »

I think the speed at which you can descend is a huge and sometimes overlooked factor in decision-making in marginal weather. If you know you can descend quickly you can afford to wait and watch developments longer. The guy in the video was a burner, he could press ahead knowing he would be able to see if things started turning bad, and get at least down below tree line. I’m an older slow flatlander, painfully slow especially descending. I would have been getting my tortoise tail outta there if I encountered the weather in the video or the photo on this thread.

Don’t get me wrong - not saying anyone can outrun a mountain storm. But speed combined with knowledge of how to read weather patterns allows some to hold off longer on possible bail-out decisions.

I didn’t look up if OP posted any input on your speed in the other thread. If you don’t know, plan on being slow until proven otherwise.
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Skimo95
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by Skimo95 »

DeTour wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 3:42 pm I think the speed at which you can descend is a huge and sometimes overlooked factor in decision-making in marginal weather. If you know you can descend quickly you can afford to wait and watch developments longer. The guy in the video was a burner, he could press ahead knowing he would be able to see if things started turning bad, and get at least down below tree line. I’m an older slow flatlander, painfully slow especially descending. I would have been getting my tortoise tail outta there if I encountered the weather in the video or the photo on this thread.

Don’t get me wrong - not saying anyone can outrun a mountain storm. But speed combined with knowledge of how to read weather patterns allows some to hold off longer on possible bail-out decisions.

I didn’t look up if OP posted any input on your speed in the other thread. If you don’t know, plan on being slow until proven otherwise.
I agree DeTour. I’m in the Sierras this week, and they have an odd monsoon cycle going on. Colorado 14er distance+elevation is laughable compared to these mountains. If I am 10-12 miles in one way, I won’t let a trickle of rain or a dark cloud dissuade me. I also would like to think I have enough experience to know when it’s time to “get the f*** down”. Being able to speed hike/jog downhill can be a total game changer.
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mgl45
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Re: When to turn around (part 2)

Post by mgl45 »

Thanks much everyone for all your helpful perspectives!
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