Apr 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm #1302407
Any locals have a handle on conditions around Mt. Elbert and Massive?
We are planning to head that way mid-May and were wondering:
a) What to expect,
b) whether we should explore other options.
Our original plan is for a loop route taking in both…
Any thoughts/recent experiences???
-Mark in St. LouisMay 1, 2013 at 8:42 am #1982229
@lotuseaterLocale: Colorado Foothills
With the exception of the southwestern part of the state, the snowpack is deeper now than it's been all season, and another storm blew in last night blanketing the central mountains and the front range. Expect unsettled conditions for the first half of May. Check 14ers.com for peakbagging reports closer to your trip, but you may do better heading to the San Juans where snowpack has fallen to 52% of normal in the last two weeks. The Arkansas river basin is at 80% and South Platte is at 85% as of yesterday, per the NRCS Snowtel reports.May 1, 2013 at 9:23 am #1982238
I'll assume you know it's still very much "winter" in the alpine Rocky Mountains in mid-May. Many of the roads that lead to marked 3-season campgrounds & trailheads are burried in snow and not open to car / truck travel to those trailheads – some are open, some are gated & locked. It would be best to call the headquarters of the San Isabel National Forest and try to talk with one of the Rangers for vehicle access.
The northern, central and front range mountains are having a very good spring snow season. We've had nice snowstorms for the last 4+ weeks in a row – with another 12"-18" today, lots of new accumulation – also a lot of avalanche and high potential for avalanche. Always check in with CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Info Center) and of course don't go into areas without proproper skills and training for reading the terrain, snow travel & rescue.
The alpine in the Massive / Elbert areas are 30*-45* round-ish wide open and windswept – perfect avalanche terrain. There is not a lot of people going in those areas at this time of year, so not a lot of reporting of conditions. Plan on using floatation devices – soft snow in the trees will be knee to waist deep, windswept dry to multi-foot high drifts in the alpine – it will be very wet melting snow conditions in mid-May.
If you don't have it – I would highly recommend Lou Dawson's backcountry skiing guide book – one of the best references available for backcountry winter travel – I don't remember if the Mt Massive area is included – using that guide and using one of the descripted routes as a plan "B" would be a great idea.
Have fun – Be safe!!
mMMay 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm #1982322
Hey Guys…Thanx for the replies.
I gathered as much from looking at online sources, but wanted some real world experience from locals if possible. I will look into the sources you mentioned as well.
Do you guys have any recommendations/favorites in the San Juans…either straight climbs, or possible 3-4 day loops connecting a couple.
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