Much of Colorado received an early dose of winter last week with more than a foot of fresh powder dropping over parts of the high country. Despite temperatures creeping back into the 60s and 70s, snow continues to linger, especially on Colorado's highest peaks.
Hikers on some of Colorado's fourteeners should be warned – wintery conditions may be present.
Rocky Mountain National Park issued a warning of "sub-freezing temperatures, blowing snow, widespread ice formation, and winds gusting in excess of 40 miles per hour," returning to Longs Peak on Monday.
"Strong early winter storms over the last few days have dramatically changed the character of the Keyhole route," stated RMNP in a recent press release warning of "extremely challenging travel with drifting snow anywhere above treeline."
The snowy conditions in the park were also expected to impact hikers at lower elevations, including Chasm Lake and Granite Pass.
Many of Colorado's other fourteeners also received big snow totals. It's important to know the conditions before you go. One website that's a great reference is 14ers.com, which allows users to detail conditions on specific routes.
It's also worth mentioning that the return of snowfall means an increased risk for avalanche danger in Colorado.
In a Facebook post on Monday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) warned outdoor recreationists by stating "despite recent scorching temperatures, raging wild fires, and the calendar showing a late summer date, it's time to start thinking about avalanches."
Last season, avalanches accounted for 8 skier-related deaths in Colorado. Even with low snowpack, the danger is real.
"Please be thinking avalanche if you visit steep slopes in the high country," the CAIC goes on to say. "Avalanches catch eager riders and late-season hikers off-guard. Hunters traveling through the high country need to exercise caution on steep, snow-covered terrain."
Up to 18 inches of powder fell over Monarch Mountain last week, topping the charts for early season snowfall in Colorado's ski country. Other resorts also got some snow, including Breckenridge, Vail, and Arapahoe Basin.
Editor's Note: 14er climbing is inherently dangerous. Like any outdoor winter activity, there are several risks involved including avalanches, inclement weather, altitude sickness, and hypothermia. Stay safe and be prepared by bringing extra warm clothes, waterproof layers, extra food and water, a headlamp, and first aid kit. Traction devices such as microspikes or crampons and an ice axe are also strongly recommended.