Worst Winter Weather Stories

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jesusfreak1824
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Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by jesusfreak1824 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:26 am

So in light of the nasty storms that hit some of the peaks in the Mosquitos and Front Range this last weekend, it looks like it's starting out to be a pretty intense winter climbing season already. I want to hear everyone's worst winter weather story while climbing or attempting to climb a 14er. Let's hear some details too: temps, wind speeds, visibility, routes, gear used, reasons for not making the summit if attempted, etc.

I think we can all appreciate these stories for two reasons:
1) We can take comfort in knowing that we are reading about them while sitting on our keisters in the warmth of our own home/office!
2) And we can learn from them and apply them to our own adventures in the future.
"The mountains are calling and I must go." -John Muir
"Climbing brings nothing to humanity. I climb for myself and for the joy of the sport." -Ueli Steck
"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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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by Conor » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:24 am

I once caught a fish that was 4' long and weighed 230 lbs. I reeled it in all by myself on some 30 lb test line. No one in Steven's gulch that day could believe their eyes.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by LetsGoMets » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:37 am

One time the Palli lift broke down at ABasin and I was stuck on it for like 30 min. It was cold and windy.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by dpage » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:41 am

On a climb of Quandary's East ridge many winters ago after studying the forecast, looking at conditions reports, and physically preparing, I set off for the TH under clear skies with little wind to enjoy the summit on a Colorado bluebird day. Why would I want to suffer through horrible conditions when it's simple enough to enjoy the mountains in those conditions instead? I think I almost got sunburned from not applying enough sunscreen. That was a close one.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by Scott P » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:36 am

I literally got blown off the mountain while climbing North Star on 12/9/2005. I'm not a small guy either.

The temperature was -14 F and I later learned (possibly by Bill Middlebrook-I think he posted it?) that on the same day Breckenridge was shut down by 130 mph winds (I had no way to measure the winds myself). Dillon was officially -22 that day, but the coldest I measured was -14 (the lower valleys can get colder than on the peaks), but of course the windchill was lower up high than in Dillon.

Here is the 14ers.com message I posted that evening:

December 9, 2005

Written December 9, from Breckenridge: I can't believe this happened. Let this serve as a warning to anyone who thinks of climbing in high winds.

I just got off East North Star Peak, a 13,460 foot (~4100 meters) peak in Colorado. It was windy the whole way up, but I dressed properly and had 5 layers on, as well as no exposed flesh at all, so I wasn't cold, and had much new gear I was trying out.

It was very windy, but it wasn't that bad at first, but as I neared the summit, I was blown to the ground several times, but the summit was close enough that I continued. Near the eastern summit, I couldn't stand up, but I could crawl on my hands and knees during the wind gust, which were strong enough to force me to crawl every few minutes. After a while, I could stand up again.

Just below the east summit, a gust of wind picked me up. It didn't push me down; it picked me up-like a toothpick. It seems like the gust carried me what seemed to be 25-30 feet (8-9 meters) up in the air and above the ground, and for a horizontal distance of 50-60 feet (16-18 meters) before savagely slamming me to the ground. I didn't measure it, but it seemed long way up (I mean I was in the air looking way down at the ground!!) and I can't believe the wind could do this! I weigh 220 lbs/100kgs. Once I smashed into the ground I saw my left glove (which had idiot strings, but still ripped from my hand) and my left ski pole fly in the air until they disappeared. I had landed on my left side, with my left hand, forearm, and upper leg taking the brunt of the force. Since I still had my right ski pole, I had a death grip on it, and in a state of confusion, I raised my right hand (forgetting that the flesh of my hand was exposed) in front of my face to block spindrift so I could see. My goggles were sprayed with blowing blood that instantly froze the moment it hit the goggles. My down coat was ripped open on my left arm and feathers were flying everywhere. I was injured and sore, but not in that much pain.

I could see my ski pole in the rocks and snow below, but my glove is probably on its way to New Mexico.

I was able to struggle down the mountain, trying to keep my left hand in my pocket. Once I got low enough to reach a tree, I went down to sit behind some rocks and be somewhat sheltered to the wind so I could look at my injured hand. Luckily they were not near as bad as a feared and not near as bad as the blood indicated. There was a "pinkie nail sized” small chunk of skin that was hanging off my left hand. A very minor injury, but that's where the blood I could see had come from. I could feel that my forearm was bleeding, but I didn't want to strip my layers of clothing to look at it. I took a rest, and snapped a picture of Lincoln and one of Quandary Peak before heading down. Once at the pass, I checked out my other injuries. My forearm injury is about the same as my hand was; a small chunk of skin torn loose. If I wouldn't have had five layers of clothing on, it would have been worse. My side, arm, hip, and lower leg are bruised and sore, but not seriously injured.

I have now driven back to Breckenridge and am writing this from the library. For the rest of the day I'm just going to relax and go glove shopping in the ski shops before camping tonight. I still hope to climb Mt. Silverheels tomorrow, but I'm not going to take chances with the wind, if it doesn't die down. If I can't stand up, I am turning back. Interestingly, there is just a light breeze in Breckenridge. You can however, look up to the high peaks and see a tail of spin drift from the jet stream that is screaming across the highest peaks.

Let this be a warning to anyone who climbs in winter or any time with high winds. I have always considered the winter winds to be an inconvenience, and to be very cold, and even be strong enough to blow me to the ground. But...I never even though that a wind could pick me up like a toothpick carry me through the air and slam me into a mountain. Not in Colorado; but maybe in a Kansas tornado or something. I can't believe this happened.

Please be careful out there and don't under estimate mother nature or winter winds.
I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by jesusfreak1824 » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:44 am

Conor wrote:I once caught a fish that was 4' long and weighed 230 lbs. I reeled it in all by myself on some 30 lb test line. No one in Steven's gulch that day could believe their eyes.
LetsGoMets wrote:One time the Palli lift broke down at ABasin and I was stuck on it for like 30 min. It was cold and windy.
dpage wrote:On a climb of Quandary's East ridge many winters ago after studying the forecast, looking at conditions reports, and physically preparing, I set off for the TH under clear skies with little wind to enjoy the summit on a Colorado bluebird day. Why would I want to suffer through horrible conditions when it's simple enough to enjoy the mountains in those conditions instead? I think I almost got sunburned from not applying enough sunscreen. That was a close one.
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"The mountains are calling and I must go." -John Muir
"Climbing brings nothing to humanity. I climb for myself and for the joy of the sport." -Ueli Steck
"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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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by billycox » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:12 am

One time the Palli lift broke down at ABasin and I was stuck on it for like 30 min. It was cold and windy.
Same on Silver Queen at CB. But I also had to pee, so there's that.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by JQDivide » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:31 am

One winter Brad McQ and I trenched from the 2wd TH to the 4wd TH for Uncompahgre, only took us 7 hours to snowshoe that stretch, we turned back.
The next winter we went back and carried snowshoes on our packs for 23 miles.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by XterraRob » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:49 am

Taking 8-9 hours to get from the 4WD TH of Wetterhorn to the Summit. From the lower boulderfield up until the summit was a good chunk of post-holing up to my chest in some very wet and heavy snow. Good thing it all froze over on the way down and made things go a lot faster lol.
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by jibler » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:27 pm

two days ago

squeezing in late trip to devilshead lookout

manage to get out of work early - depart denver around 2pm - but road work on santa fe!!

pulled off onto rampart range road at 3pm - got to lower lot around 3:25 or so. BUT the gates to the upper summer lot were open? and I was late - so I drove a little further in to save some time....


road had a few tire tracks but was less used than rampart range rd. progressing slowly and cautiously in SUV. one final small hill before the lot -- but car is too slow!! not enough momentum > sliding! > back tires stuck in a F'ing Ditch!!!

it is getting cold and dark very quickly and I'm solo and kinda freaking out. first call placed to 911 just to advise (and see if they could reach forest service) - and I did indicate to them that I have AAA

barely any reception out there. in and out too. frustrating.

reach AAA - tell them "i'm not in a safe location"
due to location and time of day.

get the text saying tow wouldn't arrive for 3 hrs!!

go back to car to hunker down for long wait. slightly losing my mind just a little.

BUT - as I'm sitting there pawing thru owners manual for some secret to get out -- along comes a sheriff deputy on foot with flashlight. they had been unable to get back to me on phone so they sent him out.

he then asks if i'm ok with waiting there for the tow. after hesistating - i say no - can I sit in your truck? he obliges.


long story short the tow was 30mins+ later than expected and by then this guy would likely not have even seen the turn off for the devilhead parking lot - so the deputy really actually saved my ass by being there with his truck to await the tow.



it was weird how isolating and freaky this was depsite not really being in true danger and not really being that far from town either.

(and it should be noted that I had called FS to ask about road condition and told it was just fine and that was essentially very incorrect info as the whole road was icy and snowy)
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by Trotter » Fri Nov 30, 2018 5:50 pm

A friend convinced me along on a trip to the hut below Mt Audubon, to retrieve some forgotten gloves. She said the hut would have a caretaker with a fire, hot cocoa, etc.

It was six degrees F, with strong winds and gusts about 40-50 mph. As soon as you left treeline, it was almost whiteout conditions. So after several miles snowshoeing to the hut, we get to the hut and its locked. Apparently the caretaker decided nobody would show up in those conditions and so didn't bother coming. So we huddled on the porch a few minutes, then turned around and trudged back. It was so terrible and so close to killing us :P
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Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called Ego. -Nietzsche
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Re: Worst Winter Weather Stories

Post by username72 » Fri Nov 30, 2018 11:44 pm

My water bottle froze shut near Brainard Lake and when I got it open it was pretty uncomfy to drink from because the water was really cold :cry: .
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