Friday, September 3, 2010

RMNP Conditions Report - September 3rd, 2010

Climbing above Forest Canyon, RMNP
One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am, a reluctant enthusiast ... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it's still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotised by desk calculators. I promise you this; you will outlive the bastards-- Edward Abbey
Notchtop eating a full moon over the Ptarmigan area
This is a great time of year to follow Abbey's advice, to get outdoors and enjoy the remaining wilderness we have here in CO. The season is already beginning to change as of about 2 weeks ago, with the first hints of the alpine tundra changing color. Whitlow grass and Twisted-arm Draba as well as moss campion are all fading into the Fall hues. From most of the high peaks in the area, if you look carefully Fall is already putting on quite the show. Elsewhere, the aspen are beginning to show the first hints of yellow. The days are shorter and the temps are crisper and we will probably get snow at the highest elevations within in the next couple of weeks.
It's been over a month since I last updated our conditions report but that's mostly because conditions haven't changed much since then. I've also been very busy as this summer has kept all of us guides at the School very productive. The Park is beginning to change, however, so I feel it's probably time for a quick update.
The Ptarmigan Fingers viewed from Notchtop's summit
Snow is receding to expose its icy foundations all around the Park. If you're desperate for snow-climbing or putting on crampons, the Ptargmigan Fingers area still holds some options for you. The snow is very hard (or ice) and your greatest concern aside from the usual would be falling rock. I once witnessed a horrendous fall down Lambslide this time of year, though I'm still unsure if it was falling rock or loose rock that was to blame (aside from being in an area of high-risk during a warm part of the day). There are snow patches here and there but the majority of the snow/ice you'll find is on the various named "glaciers" along the eastern side of the Continental Divide. Aside from these areas, most snow in the Park is easily avoidable.
Climbing on the Petit above Sky Pond
Despite the cooler temps and shorter days, this is still a great time of year to be enjoying the alpine rock. I've been on Meeker, Longs, Notchtop, and the Petit, to name a few, with great weather. The two biggest concerns have been the temps (cold for bare hands in the mornings) and winds. For some reason it's been a bit windier than usual for this time of year so be open to walking off your objective if high winds would compromise a safe rappel descent. As we ease into the Fall, the chance of afternoon t-storms will lessen (usually) and long stretches of high pressure tend to dominate the forecast. Oh, and another good thing about climbing in the Park this time of year: no lines. We had the entire Cathedral Spires to ourselves yesterday on the Petit!
I will be out of town for a few weeks after this weekend so I won't be updating this report until I get home in late September. I will be in and out of internet connectivity throughout those weeks but feel free to e-mail me ( or the office ( with questions. As always, thanks for reading and stay safe out there!

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

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