The snow just keeps piling up in the High Country.
It has been a busy avalanche year in Colorado, and that could be a problem for hikers this spring and summer.
“There are some places up on Guanella Pass that have been affected by avalanches. Herman’s Gulch is a popular hiking area, and that has some debris from avalanches as well,” said Dawn Wilson, a volunteer for the Alpine Rescue Team.
The organization works with sheriff’s offices to help locate and rescue people in Jefferson, Gilpin, and Clear Creek counties.
Wilson said team members have noticed avalanche slide paths crossing popular trails already.
“One of our most popular areas is the trail to Grays and Torreys Peaks, which are common 14ers in Clear Creek County,” she said. “Right now, avalanches have put a ton of debris on the trail.”
In the White River National Forest, rangers closed the Conundrum Creek Trailhead and parking area near Aspen this week after an avalanche buried the area in 15-30 feet of snow and debris.
“There's no place to park a car, there's no way to physically access that area at all without trespassing on private land,” explained Lisa Stoeffler, Deputy Forest Supervisor for White River National Forest.
“That's why we went the extra step of closing that trailhead. There's physically no way to get to it right now, and we believe some of those areas will become unsafe to pass over. Right now it's a big pile of snow, but as it starts to melt we don't know what's going to happen.”
Stoeffler said the Forest Services is aware of other avalanches in the Tenmile Range, in the Snowmass basin, and around Marble. She said rangers are in the process of assessing the damage now, but it will hard to know the full extent of the damage until the snow melts.
So when might affected trails reopen?
“There will be some areas that will be impassable late in to the summer, that's simply waiting for the snow to melt,” Stoeffler said.
“Some of the slides are 30-40 feet deep of compacted snow and debris. So, it will be longer than usual before they're even available to the public. Then, I think people should also expect, with variable conditions, there's going to be a lot of debris down on the ground, and we may or may not get some of those trails open at all this year.”
Wilson and her team are trained to respond to emergencies in challenging terrain, but she hopes hikers won’t try to hike through avalanche debris.
“We don’t want them getting hurt on the debris that’s on the trail, and more importantly, we don’t want them going around the debris and then getting themselves lost where they can’t find the trail again,” she said.
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