Snowpack 2019 and Avalanche Impacts

Trail Tip Tuesday – 2019 DEEP SNOWPACK and AVALANCHE IMPACTS – April 16, 2019. Given that it’s mid-April now, it is impossible to know for sure all the ways this spring’s super-deep snowpack, averaging around 150% of average, will affect The Colorado Trail this summer. Our guesses include later start dates for distance travelers and swollen creeks running stronger and longer than normal, both the subject of previous blog posts.

Avalanche debris covering Colorado Trail segment 13 near the Avalanche Gulch Trailhead west of Buena Vista.

Avalanche debris covering Colorado Trail segment 13 near the Avalanche Gulch Trailhead west of Buena Vista.

Avalanche aftermath will also impact Colorado Trail travelers. Though we lack information still on the great majority of the Trail, we know of two places already where the tread is buried by avalanche debris that includes nearly rock-hard snow, broken trees and limbs, and sharp rocks. The known areas where debris blocks the Trail are in Segment 7 around miles 12.7 and 13.1, Copper Far East Lot, and Segment 13 mile 6.6 around the Avalanche Gulch Trailhead. But we think it is highly likely other problem areas will be discovered in coming months.

Trail travelers, especially those starting early before volunteer work crews are able to remove them and uncover the Trail, will encounter each of these areas as a big and broad pile blocking a section of tread. (Do not expect these avalanche debris areas to be clear before you arrive. For the CTF and our volunteers, each of these areas will prove time consuming and challenging.)

If you encounter avalanche debris blocking the Trail, stop and assess the circumstances. Keep in mind the safety hazards involved, including that it will be slippery and that some of the debris will be very sharp. Be especially mindful of the risk of slipping and falling or having your leg drop into a hole and encountering something sharp. Consider whether to cross and where, or maybe to turn back and exit without crossing.

If you decide to cross, focus on your footing so as not to slip or posthole into potentially sharp debris.

An additional possibility is that sections of Trail ‘bench’ could be scoured off the hillside and ‘benchless’ rocky terrain left in place of the Trail. Here again, consider whether to cross or turn around. If you decide to cross, carefully choose your route and focus on your footing.

Be safe everyone. Enjoy The Colorado Trail. Here’s a good CT-related avalanche debris article including a 3-minute video, thanks to Denver CBS Local, Channel 4 News:

https://denver.cbslocal.com/2019/04/01/avalanche-sesason-problematic-spring-summer/