Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Snowshoeing Around Guanella Pass

January 9-10, 2014

Richard Stevens:

Bryan Ehlmann and I wanted to test some camping equipment and decided on Guanella Pass.  Winds for the next two days were 14+ mph, gusts 30+ mph (except the Summit).

A Northern Pygmy-Owl was found at one of the Campgrounds along Guanella Pass Road (Park County, location to remain unnamed).

Eventually we abandoned our vehicle for snowshoes and continued to the summit.  We are quite familiar with the area and road and were comfortable continuing the trip into dark.  Winds continued and snow starting falling.  As stated on previous trips, we always carry avalanche beacons in winter.  There are few places of avalanche danger along the southern route to the Guanella Pass summit (previous knowledge is recommended).

The next morning we woke to fresh snow, winds 50+ mph and partly sunny skies.  ("Woke": if we fell asleep, the high winds made it sound like we were camped next to the running freight train).  Chance was good to us; a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan was found on the hillside southeast of the upper parking area.

At times anemometer readings went off the chart (only measures to 66 mph).  Holding binoculars steady was quite a chore.  When we observed a storm front moving in from the west, the plan to stay another night (including hiking down to Guanella pass Campgrounds) was abandoned.

We made a rapid pace to get the heck out of there.  It was snowing quite heavy by the time we reached highway 285.  Our plans to continue owling in Park and Douglas Counties were also deserted and we steered for home.

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