Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

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mikej959
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Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by mikej959 » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:08 pm

I plan to spend some time this year around Thanksgiving in Colorado and am wanting to bag a few easy 14ers. I've done some research and decided I'd like to tackle Bierstadt, Sherman, and Quandary while I'm there. These will be my first 14ers and I'll be going solo. I've got some experience hiking in the mountains during the summer months. I can use a map and compass. I'm a marathon runner so I believe I'm fit enough to climb a 14er. I'm from Iowa so I'm not acclimated to high altitudes.

From my research I'm planning to bring a pair of micro spikes. I also plan to rent some snowshoes from REI in case I need them. The day before I venture out on the trails I'll be staying in Leadville with hopes that it will help me acclimate to the altitude. I hope by going that early in the year avalanche risk will be at a minimum. I drive a Jeep so I've got a high clearance 4WD.

What are your thoughts and opinions about my planned adventure into the mountains. What might I encounter that I wouldn't expect? Any vital piece of gear I might not know to bring with?

Thanks in advanced, Mike.
Bill G
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by Bill G » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:20 pm

you're dealing with the one variable you can't control. Weather.

The hikes themselves are straightforward. You don't need map and compass. If you need snowshoes, you're probably screwed. Microspikes are a good idea. Most of the past few years it's been dry at Thanksgiving. In that case there's not much to be concerned about. But if there's a call for snow on the day you start out you have two choices. 1) Don't go or 2) Make sure your will is up to date.
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by bmcqueen » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:25 pm

Getting to the Sherman TH could be problematic depending on snow. There is a section of the road that gets deceptively wind drifted and has stopped many 4WD vehicles in their tracks. Watch trailhead and condition reports the week before you go and be prepared to choose another objective or walk much further. Hope that helps in your planning.
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by AndrewLyonsGeibel » Tue Oct 09, 2018 7:40 pm

Microspikes and cover all skin. Sherman gets windy.
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by snowypeaks » Tue Oct 09, 2018 8:23 pm

About 40 years ago, I climbed Bierstadt solo in January on what started out as a beautiful day. No boardwalk then, so some work to get through the willows. At the far side of the willows, I ditched my snowshoes for pickup on the return. I stowed them sticking up in the snow to make them easier to find, as the change in slope hides them from above. Then the wind came up! And my footsteps disappeared. I had climbed Bierstadt at least a half-dozen times before.

Long story short, the climb went fine but I spent a good while on the descent looking for the snowshoes and wondering if I was going to run out of daylight. Just enough doubt that I remember how it felt. I've never ditched the snowshoes on a winter hike since. For me, lesson learned.

Safe travels.

-bob
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by nunns » Wed Oct 10, 2018 6:05 am

AndrewLyonsGeibel wrote:Microspikes and cover all skin. Sherman gets windy.
+1. I have been on that mountain several times in June/July and almost every time it was cold and windy at one point on the hike. Can't imagine what it is like in late November.

Overall I would use caution. Doing your first 14er solo in what is almost winter might not be a great idea.


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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by Eli Boardman » Wed Oct 10, 2018 7:01 am

My first 14er was Quandary in late December, and since then, I've climbed 17 of the 14ers in the months November through March, most of those solo. Based on those experiences, including climbing Sherman and Quandary in winter, here's a few thoughts:

* You won't need snowshoes.
* You won't have any avalanche problems if you stay on route. (barring some record-breaking storm which is unlikely in that period)
* It can be very windy on those mountains, as others have said, but don't let it discourage you from trying. Dress warmly (layers), and don't be afraid to turn around if it gets too rough.
* Look at a real weather forecast, and be conservative in your planning. (Not some random weather page, look at a a page that tells you what model it's using. Examples include Windy.com, SpotWX.com, etc.)

Have fun. You sound ready.
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by peter303 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 8:37 am

Another unmentioned issue is trail navigation which can be more tricky in the winter. Wind-blown snow can cover the trail, sometimes just minutes after you pass through. Fog or falling snow can reduce visibility to few, so cant always rely on landmarks. Heading uphill is usually straightforward- follow the upmost path. Coming downhill is more problmatic with altertive directions to go. Choose the wrong one you may end at a cliff or thick scrub or miles from the starting trailhead. Electric navigation is not always trustworthy when it is 30 below and your fingers are covered with thick gloves. Have a backup map and compass and know how to use it.
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by nunns » Wed Oct 10, 2018 8:48 am

peter303 wrote:Another unmentioned issue is trail navigation which can be more tricky in the winter. Wind-blown snow can cover the trail, sometimes just minutes after you pass through. Fog or falling snow can reduce visibility to few, so cant always rely on landmarks. Heading uphill is usually straightforward- follow the upmost path. Coming downhill is more problmatic with altertive directions to go. Choose the wrong one you may end at a cliff or thick scrub or miles from the starting trailhead. Electric navigation is not always trustworthy when it is 30 below and your fingers are covered with thick gloves. Have a backup map and compass and know how to use it.
Yeah, I am not trying to be your mom, but an article about a guy who got lost on Missouri in the snow and ended up being rescued by helicopter comes to mind. Hopefully you have been navigational skills than he did (or I do).

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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by bmcqueen » Wed Oct 10, 2018 9:00 am

Eli Boardman wrote:* You won't have any avalanche problems if you stay on route. (barring some record-breaking storm which is unlikely in that period)
While unlikely to be an issue, it is worth noting that Sherman's standard summer route does have a spot below the Sherman/Sheridan saddle that has some avalanche risk. The south slopes route is recommended in winter and is a safer option if there is even a hint of doubt.

https://www.14ers.com/route.php?route=s ... t.+Sherman
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by Toobaboy » Wed Oct 10, 2018 9:50 am

Greetings, fellow Iowan!
I just moved to CO a year ago (after a decade wallowing in Omaha) and started hiking some big peaks over the last several months. Unfortunately, work and family life (and now weather) have conspired to limit my opportunities to gain much altitude this year.
Other folks around here have a much better handle on what to expect from the weather, trail conditions, etc., but I'm curious as to how many days you are planning to spend out here. You seem to be pretty well prepared in theory, but I can tell you that the elevation can really kick your ass if your body hasn't acclimatized. It happened to me on Mt. Meeker in late July. I'd spent the previous 2 months in NE Montana at 2,800 feet, and once I got above ~12,000 feet, I hit a wall. All the planning and preparation my buddy and I had done was for naught when I couldn't even make it up the SE Ridge before storms started rolling in by noon.
Altitude affects everyone differently, and its effects on a person can change from day to day. Learn to recognize the symptoms of mountain sickness and be prepared to descend a lot sooner than you might like. As a marathon runner, you've learned to push past pain. With AMS, that's probably not a good idea.
I'm sure you'll do fine, though. Good luck!
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Re: Wanting to bag my first 14er over Thanksgiving.

Post by RyGuy » Wed Oct 10, 2018 10:18 am

A couple thoughts/recommendations for you.

1. Plan to do Quandary first. It's the easiest to get to in winter conditions since the trailhead is right off the highway. It's also typically the most popular peak year round, so if you have problems, you have a better chance of people also being on the mountain with you. Additionally, you are close to Breckenridge if the weather gets really nasty and you find yourself in bad shape (Hopefully not SAR kind of trouble) OR just decide climbing peaks in winter conditions just isn't for you.

2. Plan on bringing both microspikes and snowshoes. I would be surprised if snowshoes are NEEDED at that time of year on any of those 3 peaks, but some years there can be quite a bit of snow below treeline to contend with. It really can vary year to year, and how recently a storm hit the area, plus wind loading. Once above treeline, I'd highly recommend microspikes. They will help keep you firmly planted on the snow and ice, especially in the wind scoured snow/ice areas.

3. Water. Make sure you bring nalgenes with insulated cases to keep your water liquid. Don't bring a camelbak or any hose-based hydration device. I'd also start with your water boiling/hot as well. Makes for a nice treat when it's cold and nasty.

4. As bmcqueen noted, be careful on Sherman. There is avalanche terrain on the standard route that CAN slide, especially right after a storm. Good TR to take a look at highlighting how a overnight storm can change the game: https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/triprepo ... trip=14631
It's not likely, but you don't want to take the chance and getting into the wrong terrain as someone both new to this, and solo.

5. Weather- Certainly something to keep an eye on and will be the biggest wildcard in your trip. A few days out, start checking the NOAA forecasts, and specifically the hourly forecasts. These are a good way to gauge what you will be getting into. I am usually most concerned with the wind speeds/direction, temperature, and precip potential. It's personal preference on how much wind/snow you want to put up with, but given you are new to this and solo, I'd suggest only going if it's going to be decent weather. That helps to avoid issues we see each fall with new folks going out on their first peaks with winter like conditions.
"Climbing mountains is the only thing I know that combines the best of the physical, spiritual, and emotional world all rolled into one." -Steve Gladbach
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