What is seasonal?

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PolarBearfromCali
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What is seasonal?

Post by PolarBearfromCali » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:50 am

I'm from Canada now living in California. I spend 2 weeks at the end of August peak-bagging the easier peaks. I might have the opportunity to return to Colorado in October. I understand predicting the weather is next to impossible--any clues on what we can expect this year in October/November and which ranges will be best? I am inclined to check out the Southern 14ers and the Collegiate Peaks, since it was too hot/dry for me in August--Buena Vista reminds me of high desert--is that accurate?

I've been asking people I've run into in Glenwood Springs for what October is like and everybody's been saying that lightening risk diminishes, October is a fabulous time to hike. Avi risk is non-existent and snow is not a concern (although anything can happen).

Is this year atypical? This kinda contradicts what I've been seeing. End of August it was already below freezing at night (above 12,000 feet anyway) and we were already getting snow on many of the peaks. Is the issue that the snow does not accumulate?

Also, when do the roads get icy and trailheads inaccessible?

I've done plenty of winter mountaineering: I'm just trying to get a feel for whether we're talking snow-shoe/crampon weather, micro-spikes or boots.

Thanks!
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bmcqueen
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Re: What is seasonal?

Post by bmcqueen » Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:37 am

October is generally lovely. Summer THs are generally still accessible, nothing more than spikes needed for traction, and while cool in the mornings, nothing a pair of gloves, stocking cap and an extra layer won’t comfortably handle. Of course, every year is different as you point out, but on the whole, a great time to get out in my opinion.
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randalmartin
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Re: What is seasonal?

Post by randalmartin » Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:42 am

I would add that the length of days will be shorter so your start times may need to be later or you will need a headlamp. The nice thing is that thunderstorms are generally non existent then so starting a little later is just fine as long as you take into account the overall length of your hike and available daylight.
peter303
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Re: What is seasonal?

Post by peter303 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:35 pm

Some of passes/roads close on a fixed because funding ends on a certain date. Examples are Mt. Evans, already closed the top five miles, and Branaird Lake campground this weekend. Others wait until the snow accumulates like RMNP Trail Ridge and Independence Pass. Mid October is a good guess then. And some they close only during snow storms and then plowed open again like Loveland Pass and Berthoud Pass.
PolarBearfromCali
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Re: What is seasonal?

Post by PolarBearfromCali » Mon Sep 10, 2018 1:05 am

I appreciate the insight. Thanks!
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Scott P
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Re: What is seasonal?

Post by Scott P » Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:08 am

Is this year atypical?
This year has been warmer than average in the Colorado mountains. This has been true every month of the year so far.
I've done plenty of winter mountaineering: I'm just trying to get a feel for whether we're talking snow-shoe/crampon weather, micro-spikes or boots.
Snowfall varies greatly from year to year.

No year is average, but for the record, Berthoud Pass (elevation 11,315 feet) receives an average of 8.7 inches in September, and 28.0 inches in October. During the period of record, September has received anywhere from 0 to 34.5 inches and October received anywhere from 10.0 to 90.0 inches.

October can have anything from near summer conditions to full on winter conditions.

Usually there isn't enough snow for snowshoes in many areas, but there is usually snow around. Microspikes usually are useful. Often the snow isn't consolidated enough to use crampons.
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Chicago Transplant
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Re: What is seasonal?

Post by Chicago Transplant » Mon Sep 10, 2018 9:22 am

A lot of times the later monsoon season is cool enough at night at high elevation to get a little bit of snow. We have had some trips in early September with several inches of it, but it melts off fast.

In my experience you have the best luck with the more south facing and west facing routes. They get the most sun as a lot of the north facing routes stay in the shade from the lower sun angle. Look through trip reports of the peaks you are interested in from past Octobers and you will see what parts dry out and what parts hold snow.
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