Colorado is known for its dynamic and surprising weather patterns, and this season is no exception. Unless you’ve been under a snow-covered rock all winter, you’ve come to the same conclusion we’ve come to at Mountain Chalet. Our normal timeline for fun on our favorite high-alpine trails has been modified. With deep snow sitting closer to the trailheads than we’ve seen in recent years, we have a few things to reckon with but don’t cancel your trip. Mountain Chalet can help.
We’ve heard of several people that were thwarted as they found themselves unprepared for the conditions they met early in their journeys. We’ve seen recent aerial photographs of the basin surrounding Capital Peak and it’s more snowy than even mid-February has looked in quite some time.
All that being said, this could be the best time to consider some otherwise overlooked opportunities to explore. Explore the areas of lower elevation, or a more southern objective like the Sangre De Cristo mountains. If you normally speed past the Lost Creek Wilderness to get up high in the Collegiate Range, you have a great opportunity. Consider a closer and/or more passable alternative. If you must go higher (because it’s there) consider the drainage hikes that might not be so steep and will hold snow longer. Consider the aspect of the terrain you might be navigating. If your objective hugs the north-facing slope of an east/west drainage, you might reconsider. These northern slopes will see less sunlight than any other aspect and will be the last to shed their snow layer into our watershed.
Warm temperatures means heavy, wet snow. Have you considered the unlikely possibility of a wet-slide avalanche? We should never completely let our guard down with regards to these concerns of danger. Consider an EARLY morning start. A “dawn patrol” start may put you in snow conditions much more suitable for efficient travel.
With record snowfall in our mountains, the usual openness we see in the region this time of year has caused a surge of sales in snowshoes and traction devices – gear usually reserved for shoulder season pursuits. Here are a few additional things you might consider carrying on your early season adventures. Take the time to consider adding these items. They just might help you stand on your summit, or complete your intended loop hike.