Colorado hikers, be warned – springtime fourteener hiking still means deadly conditions – Colorado Springs GazetteApril 20, 2022
Don’t be fooled by dry trails in your Colorado hometown – the highest peaks of the state are still very snowy, presenting a number of deadly risks that can’t be underestimated. If you’re headed out to hike Colorado’s fourteeners, know that you’ll need to utilize your winter hiking set-up for at least a few more weeks.
Each spring, a flood of hikers head to fourteener-based forums around the web to start inquiring about trail conditions on the long list of peaks the rise above 14,000 feet. Anxious to get their summer hiking started, these hikers are chomping at the bit to add more summits to their collection. In most cases, the best answer for these hikers is to wait until June or July before hitting trails above treeline – unless a hiker is capable of tackling a strenuous hike in snowy conditions.
With snow often persistent above treeline in Colorado into June, many hazards typically associated with winter remain on the trail in the spring.
Avalanche hazard remains a risk, as does frigid weather and strong winds above treeline. While some days may seem more favorable, it’s important to remember that a few warm days aren’t enough to clear the trail of snow. Always check the CAIC avalanche risk report and the Mountain-Forecast.com forecast prior to any adventure. It’s also important to stay up-to-date with recent weather in the area in days prior to a hike.
Another springtime aspect of mountain climbing is the texture of the snow. While winter fourteener hiking typically means extremely cold and dry snow conditions, springtime hiking means traveling through wet and heavy snow with a top layer that’s easy to penetrate come warmer afternoon temperatures. This creates an exhausting post-holing scenario that can be draining enough, in itself, to have hikers calling for help.
Warmer springtime temperatures also increase the risk of sun exposure. It’s easy to stay bundled-up during colder winter conditions, but as Colorado heats up in the spring, this may mean shedding layers while trekking across snowy slopes. Sunlight reflects off the slope and, given the higher elevation of a fourteener hike, it’s more powerful. This makes applying sunblock that much more important, with this sun exposure also a factor that can contribute to exhaustion.
To those headed out …….