[Cdt-l] Route Selection; Managing Spring Snow

Matthew Robison wolverine1970 at gmail.com
Fri Jan 11 17:20:41 CST 2008

I'm trying to figure out the best way to flip-flop the CDT so as to
experience the San Juans (the loop west, NOT the Creede shortcut; and I may
continue west to hit the Maroon Bells), Glacier (the Highline Trail, NOT the
Chief Mountain route), the rest of Colorado (bagging as many 14ers as
possible, especially in central Colorado), and the Wind River Range—in that
order of importance—without snow.

What I'm considering (a rough sketch):
 May‡New Mexico (4 weeks) Southbound: Greyhound to Alamosa; hitch south to
Antonio; take the scenit trail to Chama; hitch from Chama
June‡Wyoming (4 weeks): Deming NM to Jackson, WY Greyhound) then hitch to
Yellowstone.  Hike south.
July/early August: Colorado (6 weeks) Continue the hike south
Mid-August-??? Greyhound from southern Colorado to Whitefish, Montana; make
my way to Waterton or  Glacier's Highline Trail.  Hike south to Yellowstone,
hitch to Jackson, WY. Take Greyhound home

The truth is that I don't know how to flip flop in such a way as to enjoy
all 4 top places without snow. I'm biting the bullet with the Wind River
Range; I'll certainly hit snow there.

First, are there other (better?) ways to sequence my hike such that I can
enjoy my top four locations without snow?  Has anyone hiked southern Montana
and Idaho ( ) in the early fall?  Thoughts? Comments?  Experiences?

Second, I'm still trying to figure out the best way to manage snow early in
the season.  In the spring, the snow will be well packed, perhaps even
crusty or icy.    This creates a
slip-and-slide-down-the-slope-and-hit-a-rock hazard that an ice axe (along
with the knowledge of how to use it and the ability to use it correctly in
an emergency) is meant to minimize.  My Question: wouldn't snowshoes provide
a more effective (though heavy) way to prevent sliding on packed snow to
begin with?  I rented some MSR Evo Ascent snowshoes and discovered that they
didn't have enough flotation to prevent me from sinking into knee to hip
deep fresh powder, but they provided excellent traction on iced over packed
snow.   Another option for ice and packed snow is cramp-ons but they seem
too specialized (glaciers, ice climbing) and ill-suited to hiking in snow
(snow "bunching" up under one's foot).

So, in packed snow I could use:
- Nothing.  Hope for the best.
- an ice axe (lighter weight, but it doesn't improve a hiker's traction (and
therefore the likelihood of a dangerous slide-and-fall); plus, it assumes
that the ice axe is properly used—human error cannot be eliminated
- snowshoes which provide greater, "idiot-proof" traction (especially MSR
snowshoes with "blades" of traction along the sides of the snowshoes to ease
the challenge of traversing a snowfield) They are heavier.
- cramp-ons: aids navigation of ice, not snow

How will you manage the snow early in the season? Thoughts? Comments?

Thank You!

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