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Tomer’s Trails: Changing Season’s


Wind and snow on the West Ridge of Quandary Peak. Meteorologist Chris Tomer.

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COLORADO - Wind and snow become prominent features in Colorado's mountains from October through April.  It's critical that hikers and climbers respect the mountains by preparing for those conditions.

There are at least five things to keep in mind to stay safe:

  • Avalanche Danger
  • Weather
  • Time
  • Gear
  • Personal Limitations
  1. Avalanche Danger: Dale Atkins knows avalanche danger really well, "So if you're going out in the backcountry you need to get educated...and that's a process...take the courses and also get the advisory from CAIC about what's going on out there."
  2. Weather: Plan on cold fronts every few days with high winds and snow.  Air temperatures will also drop behind each front.  Melissa and Brad McQueen tell their story of survival in the book Exposed, "Back in 2001 I got stuck up on Mount Evans in a snowstorm...and got severe frostbite on my feet and couldn't hike out..these guys left their jobs and literally saved me."  Melissa goes on to say, "The biggest thing i can tell people is that before you set out is to educate yourselves, know the 10 essentials and have the 10 essentials."  Melissa and Brad now work with search and rescue to educate the public.
  3. Time: It often takes twice as long in Winter versus Summer.  Many trailheads are covered in snow adding extra miles.
  4. Gear: Don't shortcut on this one or it will come back to bite you.  Invest in the best gear you can afford.  You will need either snowshoes or skis in the Winter for flotation.
  5. Personal Limitations: Experience matters.  Start small and work your way up.  Recognize summit fever and don't hesitate to turn around if conditions aren't right.  Winter doesn't mean the end of dreams according to Alan Arnette, "The same thing can happen here in Colorado, someone thinks they can't climb a mountain and they go over and climb Quandary Peak.  It's about dreams."

The 10 Essentials to have with you:

  • Navigation (map and compass)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Insulation (extra clothing)
  • Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  • First-aid supplies
  • Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  • Repair kit and tools
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Hydration (extra water)
  • Emergency shelter

Alpine Rescue Team of Colorado adds a #11 to the list: A Partner.



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