Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Help needed. San Juans in early-mid July: Gear for snow and cold and bugs


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Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Help needed. San Juans in early-mid July: Gear for snow and cold and bugs on 06/29/2011 08:28:59 MDT Print View

I am going into the Chicago Basin soon with my 16 year old son to camp and hopefully top out on a few peaks. I live in the East so I have a few questions. Hopefully someone can help. I have heard stories of heavy snow this year. Is it mostly gone now? I have planned on taking my Montbell UL Spiral #3 30 degree bags. Is this likely enough nighttime insulation? Last, what's the bug situation? I have a full enclosure Tarptent but usually just use my 2 person tarp when camping around here. Will the flying bugs or weather likely make the tarp a bad idea in the Chicago Basin area? Any help is appreciated.

Aaron Armstrong
(traderaaron) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Help needed. San Juans in early-mid July: Gear for snow and cold and bugs on 06/29/2011 08:35:13 MDT Print View

The tremendous snow year was not really in the San Juans, north and north western Colorado. I think it's near pretty normal conditions now from what I have heard, especially with this heat building, I'll be getting an update on Chicago basin sometime next week though.

A 30 degree back should be fine with any layers/clothing you may have if you sleep a little colder.

It's not the insects to worry about but the marmots, rabbits, mountain goats and then perhaps mosquitos.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 08:41:55 MDT Print View

Thanks, Aaron. So I will need no special considerations for the snow it sounds. And my 30 degree bags should be fine. But it sounds like these mammals may be a bit of a concern down in the basin. I have heard they will seek out salt on your pole handles. Will they tear up any other gear? Will the gear be fine under my tarp while I day climb? Any special precautions needed for them?

Aaron Armstrong
(traderaaron) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 08:47:18 MDT Print View

Under a tarp? No, I would not trust that, although if using a tarp you could probably pick a more ideal site (stealth site camping?).

But survey your surroundings, you should know pretty quickly if there may be a problem critter.

Take plenty of line to hang stuff from trees if you need to.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 08:54:41 MDT Print View

Sounds like these mammals are quite the pests. You think I'm ok leaving my gear in a Tarptent in the basin while I climb. But if I tarp, sounds like I need to break camp and put it up on a bear line. Gotcha. Thanks for the gear-saving advice.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - M

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 09:36:08 MDT Print View

I'm going the 10th to the 15 th but starting in Silverton and leaving Chicago Basin.

San Juans had a lot of snow in the north and west. There will be snow in areas from what I saw at 13k last week.

Same story, Ice axe is a good idea. I'm taking one. I hang stuff, when needed from critters.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 09:49:36 MDT Print View

Thanks Kevin. I may well see you there. Is it better to start from Silverton? I don't even own an ice axe (not needed in these parts much) and am hoping not to need one. I assume I can buy an axe in Durango if its really needed.
You said to hang gear "when needed". How do you know when its needed? I kind of assumed I could leave camp set up and head up the mountains for a day climb. I wont be there to know if hanging is needed. I think you guys are saying I need to break camp and hang everything to be safe.

Aaron Armstrong
(traderaaron) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 10:03:56 MDT Print View

If you haven't used an ice axe before then you probably don't need one because if you had it and really needed to use it you wouldn't know how. At least that's my thought on the matter. It is safer to turn back than proceed without proper skill and experience.

It's a case by case basis right now, some mountains are in summer mode, some are not. I know Handies from certain routes is clear, same for Redcloud and Sunshine while Uncompahgre is still quite snowy in places.

This report from earlier in June may be of help: http://14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=30363#p359661

I'll have a fully updated report from someone I know, hopefully by this time next week.

If you have a pack, shoes, trekking poles, clothing, sleeping bag, food-those items should be hung or secured somehow off the ground if they are not going in tent/tarptent. But again, not all campsites are created equal, some will be safer than others.

Edited by traderaaron on 06/29/2011 10:20:42 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 13:06:09 MDT Print View

I'd love it if you could paste the report you get next week on to here. I think you are right; I would turn back rather than risk anything stupid up there. I have done short snow field crossings in Colorado in trail runners but that is it.
I am used to bear bagging at night. I was mostly concerned about whether I need to send my tarp/tent, sleeping bad, pad, etc up a tree during the day. It doesn't take too long to completely break camp, but if we are starting pre-dawn, I would prefer not to break camp. Thanks.

Aaron Armstrong
(traderaaron) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Chicago Basin on 06/29/2011 16:31:07 MDT Print View

If tarping just put anything that might be critter susceptible into your pack or a bag and put it up off the ground either in a branch or hanging it. I don't think you need to break down camp but just the susceptible items.

If using the tarptent then you've got an enclosed shelter and can leave what you normally would in it I think.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 06/30/2011 07:50:53 MDT Print View

OK, so as long as its not salty or smells like food, sounds like I am ok. I hope to hear your snow report soon. Thanks Aaron.

Aaron Armstrong
(traderaaron) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Chicago Basin on 07/04/2011 17:28:29 MDT Print View

Here is that report on Chicago Basin conditions I told you I'd have this week:

http://14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=30758&p=362924#p362924

Hope it helps.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 07/05/2011 08:50:18 MDT Print View

Thanks Aaron. We will go and play it by ear. Sounds like Windom is definitely doable by us right now. We will be there in about a week, so hopefully there will be a bit of melt between now and then. Now I remember why I originally scheduled this for the end of the month.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - M

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Silverton on 07/05/2011 09:19:56 MDT Print View

I'm starting in Silverton , because I want to hit storm king , possibly the trinities and some other peaks while making my way to chicago basin. Starting at Cunningham gulch it's a pretty easy day to get in there.

I hang my sleeping bag, food etc, often just from the center pole of my tent.

I probably will not camp in Chicago Basin, but who knows.

I also don't want to take the train in from Silverton, gets there at 4pm, when I can start the same day early at cunningham, get a peak, setup camp and take a nap by the time I would get in from the train.

I'll be in a tan tipi, or a green tarp such as these and be doing a little gear testing of course. Tipi and Tarp

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 07/05/2011 11:16:54 MDT Print View

Hope to see you there Kevin. My son and I plan to be under a SpinnTwinn tarp. Thanks for the hanging tip.

Aaron Armstrong
(traderaaron) - F

Locale: Colorado
If I get another report I'll pass it along on 07/05/2011 12:08:09 MDT Print View

Between now and your trip if I get further updates on peaks I'll pass that along here.

Have fun and be safe, a teenage boy fell/slid about 100 feet in/near chicago basin but not on one of the 14ers, sounds like he'll be ok thank goodness.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago Basin on 07/05/2011 13:47:57 MDT Print View

Thanks for the info Aaron. That story is a bit sobering. I will not hesitate to turn back if it looks bad. I know to temper my enthusiasm with a bit of humility on the mountain. The story about the 14 year old falling is sobering. I will be there with my ambitious 16 year old.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - M

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Weather , summit fever on 07/05/2011 14:06:54 MDT Print View

We have started getting afternoon storms, so that is something to be aware of. Summit fever, can sometimes, cause problems with judgement as well :)

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - F - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Weminuche snow conditions on 07/05/2011 15:29:27 MDT Print View

Just got back from a trip last weekend starting at Highland Mary Lakes down to Flint Lakes on the CDT, down Rock Creek and up Vallecito Creek. There's definitely lots of snow crossing and wet everywhere else (our feet were never dry the entire trip). In steep sections there are usually routes around the snow if you need. There was rain/storms every afternoon in the area; we only got rained on one day. I believe the highest we were at was around 12700'. Definitely be careful; there's been at least 3 recent deaths and sounds like some other falls. Typical scenes:snow1snow2snow3

Edited by brendans on 07/05/2011 15:36:26 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Chicago basin on 07/05/2011 21:38:05 MDT Print View

Thanks for the input, guys. Beatiful pictures Brendan. I can hardly wait to get there. And I am used to wet feet.

Edited by alexdrewreed on 07/05/2011 21:39:44 MDT.