Wednesday, July 14, 2010

RMNP Conditions Report - July 14th, 2010

Found the following in a local post by someone describing what they look for in a resume when hiring a person for a computer programming job:

“Flowery action words can’t hide a lack of accomplishment in life. I like it when someone lists things like ‘mountain climbing’ in their resume, because it means he’s geeky enough to feel it’s necessary to prove that he’s not a geek, yet not so geeky that he’s anal retentive.”

Given the relatively high unemployment rate around the country, this seemed like an appropriate quote to start off with on this report. See? Climbing can serve many purposes. So if you want to add “mountain climbing” to your resume (and want to do so safely) why not hire a CMS guide to help you on your way? Aside from helping you get that job, climbing is fun, healthy, and takes you to the world’s most beautiful places. This year in Rocky Mountain National Park is no exception; we are really having an excellent climbing season so far so get out there and accomplish something!
In the last week the weather has been beautiful, sunny, warm and breezy. We have yet to see the usual summer t-storm activity that tends to develop in the early afternoon. Sure, the clouds have been there, building from cumulus to nimbus, and even raining here and there (sometimes quite heavily) but overall these storms pass without producing much electricity. Let’s hope it stays that way but with this week’s forecasted heat I think maybe we’ll see that t-storm cycle develop. The Mummy Range did receive about 5” of new snow last Wednesday night (everywhere else down lower got doused in rain) but since then the weather’s been great. The new snow has all melted away and everything is greener for it.

I’ve had many days of climbing in the Park since the last update and the thing that has stood out to me the most has been the lack of climbers. There are lots of people, to be sure: hikers, fishermen, young and old, but not that many climbers. As the Front Range continues to heat up, I’m sure this will change. Early starts are the best way to beat the potential afternoon weather and the hordes escaping the heat. No, I’m kidding…there are never really hordes of climbers in the Park; the hikes are too far for many. The busiest areas are always the same: the Diamond, the Petit, Hallet’s N. Face, and the Book at Lumpy. If you branch out to other places or even less-travelled routes in those places, you’re sure to have to formation or the route to yourself.
As of yesterday, the Rangers have officially lifted the “technical” rating on the Keyhole Route. Snow still sits in the Trough but is easily avoidable. Cold nights will turn melted snow into ice on various ledges so be sure to test your holds. CMS Guide Russell Hunter was on the route recently and reported verglass ice on the Homestretch. About a week ago a hiker got off-route, fell 150’ near the Narrows/Trough and ended up getting heli-evacuated. Even when dry, Longs Peak can be dangerous. As a side note, elsewhere in the Park hikers have fallen down Timberline Falls, near Andrew’s Glacier, and in the Ptarmigan Fingers area, all necessitating rescue in some form or fashion (walk-out, horse, and helicopter). Accidents do happen, it’s true, but you can stack the odds of success and safety in your favor. If you don’t know how to do that or are in doubt…hiring a guide is a great way to remedy that problem.
The snow continues to melt around the Park at a quick rate with noticeable difference in coverage from one day to the next. The Y-Couloir on Ypsilon is gone. The Ptarmigan Fingers area, on the other hand, continues to hold lots of snow. I was on Andrew’s Glacier the other day and there’s snow from the Divide all the way down to the Tarn. Stone Man Pass on McHenry’s east side is also still all snow from the tundra up to the ridge. Various north-facing couloirs like the Gash and the Pagoda-Chiefshead col still have snow as well though it, too, will eventually disappear. All reports indicate that the snow is softening very early in the day, mandating a burly-early start for any snow climbs.
CMS Guide Mark Hammond was guiding Kieners on Longs Peak recently and had this to report:

“There is no snow on the entire approach to Lambslide, where the snow was already quite soft by 6am. We experienced a bit of balling up but mostly good cramponing. Broadway was functionally snow free; some patches but very easy to avoid (including crossing the base of the Notch Couloir). Upper Kieners was also snow-free though wet in a few places. Warm temps, mostly light winds on route. Rain finally got us between the Boulderfield and Chasm Junction with strong winds and very cold rain. A few booms in the distance but not a very violent storm, passed fairly quickly. On the N. Face it was wet (read: wet rope) and there was one significant snow patch that we plunge-stepped down after the rappels but we probably could have avoided it by veering over by Chasm View. We did not see any massive rockfalls. There was one other party on the route and no one on the summit.”
Mark’s group didn’t see any rockfall but we did see a massive rock fall from where we sat on the summit of the Spearhead the other day, the rock coming off Chiefshead (photo above). Heavy spring rains continue to make local climbing areas (ie Eldo and Boulder Canyon) as well as the alpine more sensitive to rock-fall so pay attention to what’s above you.

CMS Guide Mark Kelly was climbing on Hallet’s N. Face, specifically on “Better Than Love” to “Love,” and reports overall dry conditions with a few wet spots to negotiate. Mark also replaced the tat on the second rappel with some new material and two steel quicklinks. Thanks Mark! CMS Guide Steve Johnson was climbing the “Great Dihedral,” also on Hallet and reported that the rock was a little more damp in some areas but overall dry as well. Both guides reported cool temps on the wall, anywhere from the 40s to the 60s…much cooler than anything you’ll find along the Front Range. In fact, this week while on a couple of alpine objectives, I was nestled deep within the comfortable confines of my puffy jacket more than once. During the day.
At Lumpy Ridge the various falcon-related closures remain in effect; please be considerate of these birds and fellow climbers and do not climb on closed formations. The summer is well under way but the best part of the climbing season (alpine climbing) is just starting to get good. The Diamond is mostly dry, Hallet is mostly dry, Blitzen is great, most of the routes on Chiefshead are dry and from all appearances so is everything on the Spearhead. The Sharkstooth continues to awe and amaze me as does the shear number of unclimbed, unnamed cliffs, buttresses, and faces around the Park. This is the time of year we’ve all been waiting for, when the Park is at its prime. So get out there and enjoy it while it lasts!
If you have conditions-related questions or observations, please feel free to e-mail me at I’m always happy to help with your plans and do my best to reply as quickly as possible.  Thanks for reading and stay safe out there!

Andrew Councell is a year-round CMS Guide and Estes Park resident

No comments: