Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies
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James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 20:36:18 MDT Print View

Hello Everyone,

I am planning a 2-3 night Spring trip in Colorado between 8-11,000' in elevation, where some pretty extreme ranges of conditions are possible. While I must be prepared for cold, I also must prepare for wet in the form of snow, rain, or deep melting slush. I am working on my bottom layers, and hoped I could get some assistance.

My basic plan at this point is to have 3 layers: Smartwool bottoms, REI Mistral pants (Schoeller Dynamic), and some REI Element rain pants with ankle zips. I imagine my ID eVEnt gaiters will be worn all the time. Of course, I could potentially wear all 3 layers at once, but I have found I can wear the Mistrals in a wide range of temperatures while moving, and expect that most of the time they will be worn alone. However, I like the idea of a pant shell for two reasons. First, I can't rule out the possibility of the kind of moisture that might overwhelm the Mistrals during the day. Second, I am sleeping under a tarp, and the shells would be nice while puttering around camp in the snow. The Smartwool bottoms are there to wear in camp and sleep in.

I suppose there is an argument for getting rid of each of these garments. I could wear the Mistrals to sleep, and pair them w/ the rain pants for added warmth morning and evening, and leave the Smartwools home. OR, I could wear the Smartwools all the time, during the day w/ the rain pants, leaving the Mistrals home. I am reluctant to go this route because I like how the Mistrals handle sweat at high levels of exertion, and have yet to meet a shell I could work hard in and stay nearly as comfortable. OR, I could just go without the rain pants and not worry if the Mistrals get wet, letting them dry out at night or, if necessary, in the sleeping bag with me (I don't have any experience with drying damp Schoeller Dynamic overnight).

So, should I think seriously about leaving one or more of these home? Am I on the wrong track entirely? Would a certain purchase, such as a very well vented and breathing pant shell in Paclite or eVent change the whole equation?

Thanks for the help!

James

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 20:53:19 MDT Print View

Skiing, snowshoeing, or post-holing?

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Re: Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 21:02:18 MDT Print View

Greg,

Good question- should have mentioned that right up front! I'll make the decision to bring snowshoes or not at the TH- so certainly at least some postholing, and perhaps some snowshoeing as well. BTW, this is the Lost Creek Loop from Goose Creek TH, Lost Creek Wilderness, if you are familiar at all with the area.

James

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 21:15:59 MDT Print View

You are on the right track, but a so much of it is temp dependant. If it's cooler, the softshells make sense. If it's on the warmer side and your fighting slush, might consider switching up to something quicker drying. Chances are (depend on date of course) that you are looking at either cold enough to hold stuff together (not terribly likely) or post holing in slushy soupy mix at elevation. It could easily be 70F+ at 8K but still have a lot of slushy drifts as deep as 5-6ft a bit higher up or in the shade. Personally, I've found softshells less than ideal. They repell water for a while, but in this slush they eventually get soaked through and will not dry for the rest of the trip.

Depending on the situation, I've found I prefer waterproof boots (inov8 390 gtx), high gaiters (OR verglass) and quick drying pants (columbia zip offs). I can hike comfortably in the dry but slap on the gaiters when slush starts occuring. Unfortunately, in many cases the streams may go over the sides of your boots. Normally, you could hike around them, but when post holing the stream is often in the bottom of the snow drift. When the water is more prevalent, mesh shoes make more sense and just hope you can dry them out in the dry spots.

When trip planning, if you want to avoid snow try and find trails with southern exposures - most will be completely dry assuming we haven't had any fresh snow. Or, if you want to play in the snow, try to stay higher in the elevations and on the northern exposures. It's the constant switching between extremes that makes for troubled trips (for me anyway).

Here's a typical photo of around 9K on June 1. It usually gets taller and slushier as you go up. Notice the running stream on the trail where ground is exposed and where the trail completely disappears under snow in the shade. Expect your feet and legs to get soaked.

Spring Hiking in Colorado

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/16/2009 21:22:41 MDT.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 21:20:28 MDT Print View

Joe,

Heh, yea, I've been in that stuff (but only for day hikes), and I imagine its pretty close to what I am likely to find. The loop has sections that should be relatively dry, but I would like to be prepared. If I anticipate warmer temperatures, should I switch over to a nylon pant of some sort? I've snowshoed in my Railrider Weatherpants, but found they wetted out after a while- but maybe this would be ok given their quicker drying time relative to a softshell?

James

Edited by dubendorf on 04/16/2009 21:31:40 MDT.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 21:29:30 MDT Print View

I'd definately go with something quick drying if it's warmer. Zip offs or shorts are actually a good thing to consider because you can do more wading in the slush but the ambient temp keeps you comfortable and zip on the bottoms or switch layers once the evening cooler air sets in. Whatever you bring, they are likely to fully wet out regardless. Even if it's a fully waterproof shell, it'll come in over your shoes and soak you up to the mid calf in spots.

Also, beware the mosquitoes. I cannot overstate how prevalent they can be during the snow melt when in the sheltered wooded areas. The open areas with wind are a blessing to get rid of the buggers. Consider treating your clothing with permathrine in addition to deet.

FYI: much of the Colorado front range and mountain areas have had confirmed instances of humans contracting west nile virus - last year there were 6 in my hometown, most got it while on their porches, hiking or doing yardwork.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 04/16/2009 21:31:11 MDT.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 21:53:35 MDT Print View

Joe,

Thank you for the helpful comments. I will think about the shorts and high gaiters combo more carefully, and feel as though I've seen pictures of this setup in snow on this site somewhere! As for shoes, I am working on that. Will probably be too warm for Keen Growlers, so I may go with a pair of Teva Anisos w/ eVent, or even Golite Sun Dragons w/ thick merino socks and/or Sealskinz socks. I am still very much in the learning stage about footwear in these conditions!

James

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/16/2009 21:56:07 MDT Print View

Yeah, I was just going to say high gaiters and whatever.

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/17/2009 18:26:39 MDT Print View

James, I'm assuming you'll be hiking the Goose Creek, McCurdy Park, Hankins Pass loop. If you can time your trip toward the later part of spring, you'll have a much easier time of it. Lost Creek is in kind of a "banana belt" which is warmer and drier than other places on the Front Range. It doesn't get quite as much snow, and what it gets tends to melt off faster.
I've hiked the loop maybe a dozen times, most often during the first couple of weeks of June. The postholing only got serious on a couple of trips, mostly on the ascent up the Lake Park trail before you drop into Lake Park. That said, we're getting a lot of late season snow here. So keep an eye on things. If the spring heats up quickly, the snow could melt away in a flash.

Edited by Dondo on 04/17/2009 18:29:48 MDT.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Re: Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/17/2009 18:51:05 MDT Print View

Dondo,

Yep, that's the loop. I've hiked it once before in very favorable early summer conditions with just a bit of snow left in the Bison Peak area, and arrived at the choice for exactly the reasons you mentioned. In fact, we spent an evening on Bison that was absolutely clear and still, simply perfect.

I am considering it now because I am interested in testing myself against some diverse spring conditions, without quite offering myself up to the passes and peaks over 11,000'. Since I know the loop, and I can expect the weather to be a bit more moderate, seems like a good choice. For these reasons, I may consider a trip when things are still snowy because I am interested in the challenge, but the timing will depend as much on an unpredictable schedule as the weather!

James

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/17/2009 22:28:47 MDT Print View

James, what about them thar Parachute Pants?

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
Leg Layering on 04/18/2009 00:24:27 MDT Print View

funny to pump into your post. I'm doing the CT on Monday for a 5 day trip ending at Kenosha Pass going through Lost creek as well. I actually stopped by the South Fork ranger district on wednesday and they said snow is a problem starting at 10,100 and on the passes. This was of course before this storm but, 70's starting on Monday so more slop then anything.
I'm planning on my zipoff REI pants, w/ low gaitors and wisp pants when its bad. This way I don't overheat but stay relatively dry.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Leg Layering for Spring in Rockies on 04/18/2009 00:33:44 MDT Print View

Peter,

Sounds like a great trip. Yea, you are likely to see some new and very heavy snow! Boulder is sopping at the moment. Let us know how it goes?

Monty,

Are you thinking I should score a pair of BPL Hammer Pants for my trip?

James

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Leg Layering on 04/18/2009 19:00:58 MDT Print View

Peter, I'm also curious to know how your trip goes. Pics would be also be appreciated, if you take them. The last time I was on the CT through Lost Creek was in early March and there was no snow on the ground at this camp at 9,200'!

lost creek 3/09

I'm guessing that your experience will be quite a bit different.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Leg Layering on 04/19/2009 13:17:18 MDT Print View

Peter,

I would be very surprised if you can get over Kenosha Ridge starting at about mile 5 of Segment 4. The west facing slope dropping into Long Gulch might be a bit of a problem, but is passable if you can get over Kenosha Ridge.

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
lost creek on 04/19/2009 22:40:41 MDT Print View

It will be a good trip, sloppy for sure. i was wondering the same thing in section 4 but i will make my way there and check it. if its a no go i have a backup route ready.

i always take alot of pics and im actually hoping to take some video with my canon camera, always wanted to try it.

i hope the weather is stable this week because my plans are to not take so many extra warm layers. oh well we will see.

i'll post some stuff when i get back.

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: lost creek on 04/20/2009 06:52:12 MDT Print View

Peter, if you haven't left yet, have a great trip. NWS is reporting the weather will be on your side, with mild days and cool nights. I'm looking forward to seeing your pics when your get back.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: lost creek on 04/20/2009 08:31:58 MDT Print View

Dondo,

Where is that picture? My guess is between Rock Creek and Black Canyon.

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: lost creek on 04/20/2009 17:39:35 MDT Print View

Hi Richard,

That picture was taken off the Payne Creek trail, maybe half a mile from it's intersection with the CT. The wall of green behind the aspen trees is Windy Peak. The photo is a bit misleading. I encountered snow on the CT before finding this campsite. But I thought it was cool to find such a large snow-free spot in early March at this elevation.

Jens Aarnaes
(Finnmark) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Lost Creek loop on 05/13/2009 11:22:37 MDT Print View

I am new here but wanted to post that I am heading up to Lost Creek for this loop this (long for me) weekend. Does anyone have a strong feeling about whether to do this loop clockwise or counterclockwise?

Thanks and if anyone is interested I will be posting pictures on my blog after the trip. I will post a link after I complete it.

Thanks for any insights you can provide.