Snowpack 2019 and “Mountaineering”

Trail Tip Tuesday – SNOWPACK and MOUNTAINEERING – May 14, 2019. Mid May now and another portion of The Colorado Trail has become snowpack “passable,” meaning it has melted enough to where it is not overly arduous or hazardous for the average CT user to pass through, for example, on a lengthy hike, bike or horse ride. Thanks to intrepid Trail travelers for their detailed conditions reports, we are now considering Segments 1, 2, 3, and 5 as passable. Hooray!

Deep snowpack remains on The Colorado Trail.

Deep snowpack remains on The Colorado Trail.

The great majority of The Colorado Trail is still buried in deep snowpack after near-record snowfalls in winter and spring. At high elevations conditions are still similar to winter and little snow has melted yet.

The word “mountaineering” comes to mind. With current conditions, traveling The Colorado Trail would not be like thru-hiking. It would be much more like mountaineering, typically much slower and more arduous than the CT trips being planned by the average Trail traveler.

Right now, route finding is more challenging with the Trail completely invisible under deep snowpack. Getting off-Trail is a sure thing and exposes travelers to deadfall and sketchy footing under the snow. Tracks can be followed but they are seldom in the trail corridor.

Post-holing will exhaust you and it will likely get worse in coming weeks with the snowpack becoming rotten due to the thaw/freeze transformation.

For thru-travelers starting at the Waterton Canyon terminus, to avoid most snowpack, (guesswork here) we are suggesting a later-than-normal, earliest start date of July 15. Because the snowpack is even deeper in the San Juan Mountains, for thru-travelers starting at the Durango terminus, we are suggesting a start date in late July or beyond.

Whenever you start, have a wonderful adventure and stay safe on The Colorado Trail.