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Old 04-07-2010, 08:54 AM
 
Location: San Diego
497 posts, read 773,733 times
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Hi all, looking to do some backpacking in the Rockies this spring or summer. Originally I was hoping to do it in May bit I don't want to have to carry snow gear with me. Generally, about what month could I pack along the Colorado Trail in the Sawatch area and not have to tromp through snow?

Would love to be pointed to a website that keeps track of how much snow is left at specific elevations. Thanks in advance!
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Old 04-07-2010, 09:40 AM
 
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At the highest elevations, snowcover can persist well into June is some years. The reliably snow-free period in the highest elevations is after July 4th. There can be big variation from year-to-year. I've seen things melted off by mid-May in some years, and some years with 4 feet or more of snow in the trees near timberline on the first day of summer. In more particularly big snow year, I have a photo of me up on the Grand Mesa (10,000 feet elevation), standing on the front bumper of a Chevy Blazer, with the snow level adjacent to the road still above my head--this on a July 1st!

Unfortunately, after July 4th is usually when the southwest monsoon rolls into Colorado, especially the southern half of the state, with afternoon thunderstorms almost daily in the mountains. Getting "off the mountain" (meaning above timberline) by noon is the local wisdom.

You might check some of the SnoTel sites maintained by the NRCS for current data:

http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/.../colorado.html
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Old 04-07-2010, 11:59 AM
 
Location: San Diego
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Thank you very much! Looks like I scratch May off the list and move the backpacking plans to late June at the least.
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Old 04-07-2010, 03:28 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
4,888 posts, read 8,909,954 times
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Elevation is what it's all about here in Colorado so the answer to your question depends on what you mean by high elevation. It also depends on whether you'll be doing most of your hiking on southern facing slopes or north slopes. Slopes that get a lot of shade (north slopes) don't melt off until later, if at all. While sunny slopes can be dry much earlier.

Generally, up to about 10,000 feet should be clear in May, although it can be muddy if things are still melting off. Higher than that and you can run into some serious snowbanks.

If you want a snow free backpacking experience, you should hold off until July or August. My coworker and I are planning on doing a little backpacking in that area (Holy Cross Wilderness, Fryingpan Wilderness) and we'll probably hold off until June or July.
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Old 04-07-2010, 03:33 PM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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... and when I say there's a difference between north vs. southern slopes, I really mean it. You can be hiking along a clear trail, no mud, nice and dry and then get around to a northern side of the mountain that doesnt' see much sunshine and find yourself in knee deep snow.
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Old 04-07-2010, 04:05 PM
Status: "Not politically correct" (set 4 days ago)
 
Location: Western Colorado
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Take time to get used to the thin air and altitude, drink LOTS of water.
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Old 04-07-2010, 10:09 PM
 
Location: San Diego
497 posts, read 773,733 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 80skeys View Post
Elevation is what it's all about here in Colorado so the answer to your question depends on what you mean by high elevation. It also depends on whether you'll be doing most of your hiking on southern facing slopes or north slopes. Slopes that get a lot of shade (north slopes) don't melt off until later, if at all. While sunny slopes can be dry much earlier.

Generally, up to about 10,000 feet should be clear in May, although it can be muddy if things are still melting off. Higher than that and you can run into some serious snowbanks.

If you want a snow free backpacking experience, you should hold off until July or August. My coworker and I are planning on doing a little backpacking in that area (Holy Cross Wilderness, Fryingpan Wilderness) and we'll probably hold off until June or July.
By high elevation, I mean fourteeners. I want to scale the Collegiates and some of their neighbors. I knew May was optimistic (since I've done a lot of packing in the sierras) but I had kind of been hoping for enough melt that I wouldn't have to carry snow gear. It's no big deal, I am very fortunate to have a highly flexible summer schedule. I have already tentatively penciled it in for late July.
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Old 04-07-2010, 10:13 PM
 
Location: San Diego
497 posts, read 773,733 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim9251 View Post
Take time to get used to the thin air and altitude, drink LOTS of water.
Indeed I've climbed Whitney in CA a few times, and have done quite a bit of packing at 10k+ and so far am fortunate not to have suffered from the altitude. Hopefully that will continue!
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Old 04-08-2010, 02:37 AM
 
Location: Summit County (Denver's Toilet)
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Living here and hiking 13er/14er's in the summer I can tell you that the snowpack in that region is below average, and if it continues to be warm and dryish it could melt particularly early.......Like Jazz said above it can be July sometimes before you can consider it mostly "snow free" but my "gestimate" is that it will be plenty good by June.....BUT it's just way too early to tell, Aprils' not half over, and there can still be substantial snow in May......So to answer your original question I would mark May off, and wait till at least June.......Have fun!!!!!!
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Old 04-08-2010, 08:11 AM
 
Location: San Diego
497 posts, read 773,733 times
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Thanks so much to everyone for the info!
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