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kaiman

Best Weather Window in Southern Cascades

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Hi Folks,

 

First time poster here so go easy on me...

 

I am planning a 10 day climbing trip to the southern Cascades this summer from Colorado and am looking for input from the California and Oregon folks on this site as to when to expect the best weather for climbing Shasta, Lassen (if the route is open), the Three Sisters, and Thielsen (and possibly some others).

 

I have climbed Mount Hood via Pearly Gates in June but the northern Cascades seem to have an entirely different weather pattern from those in northern CA and central OR hence my question.

 

As far as my experience goes I have climbed a number of CO 13ers and 14ers year round so I have a pretty good idea of what to expect conditions wise. We will have standard snow/rock gear, but I am wondering when the best summer weather windows are in the area? Has that area received as much precipitation as the northern part of the range? My schedule is flexible so any comments or suggestions are welcome.

 

Also if anyone has any links to weather/statistical data for that area, they would be appreciated.

 

Thanks,

 

kaiman

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kaiman,

 

I'll take a stab without diving into it too much.

Summer in the NW 'reliably' starts after 4th of july. As in if I was having a friend visit for a week to get outdoors, I'd probably err towards making the plans for July over June (for weather predictability). I like June more for snow conditions though (more of it) weather aside.

 

But central OR does seem to get off easier esp that time of year--more likely to have better conditions in June to the south than the north (you're correct). I can't dig in now but do a search for snotel stuff-Oregon Cascades got a lot this past month so above say 4500ft there is average or above average snowpack I believe.

 

 

 

 

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Water is right: 4th of July to Labor Day is your best bet for decent weather. Obviously, the earlier you go, the better the snow.

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Thanks for the replies Water and skibum14.

 

Water I will look for the snotel links to see if I can get some better snowpack/weather statistics for June and July before making my decision.

 

Out of curiosity, if I wait until early July for the trip, do you think I run the risk of facing scree climbs on any of those mountains versus snow climbs? I ask because I would rather do snow climbs (I can always get my share of the loose stuff here in Colorado ;) )

 

Also, can anyone recommend any maps for the areas mentioned as a quick search on Amazon didn't reveal any Trails Illustrated maps with coverage of those mountains.

 

Thanks again for the help,

 

kaiman

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hard to know for sure. First week of July you'll still have a lot of snow. Some places...like the upper part of S. Sister's S. Ridge..... North Sister's SE Ridge..etc never accumulate much snow since they are narrow/it blows off..I have seen those be sections of scree even when I was on snow galore down lower in the trees.

 

But early July no, to my knowledge does not entitle all those to be raging scree climbs of the variety you'd find if you came in later August or September.

 

http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/

 

all snotels on a tehgoogle map: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/ftpref/data/water/wcs/earth/snotelwithlabels.kmz&sll=45.467836,-108.446045&sspn=5.369953,8.712158&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=4

 

 

 

maps...maps... hmm.. there is a geographics map that has all 3 sisters. additionally Green Trails for cascades. Not sure about Shasta and Lassen. If you have access to a printer you can use http://caltopo.com/ or other map products to print a custom section.

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All of the above info is spot on - even our best weatherman will agree July 12th - Labor day is the best time frame in the NW. Especially with the latest winter storms, the mountains have taken on some heavy snow falls. Best to keep checking on conditions and plan around those time frames. I don't think the Southern Cascades will as much as a problem as our Northern Cascades. I'm sure others will have some good suggestions to consider. Good luck.

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Also, can anyone recommend any maps for the areas mentioned as a quick search on Amazon didn't reveal any Trails Illustrated maps with coverage of those mountains.

 

Kaiman;

Regarding the map situation, I would go into greentrails.com and research what they have. I find them very useful for the "big picture" and they show approach trails and roads, albeit not the scale that some mountain men prefer. But they are invaluable when guide books sandbag you.

:tup:

( I keep screwing up this "qoute" thing).

 

Welcome aboard.

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Great,

 

Thanks for the advice everyone! It's nice to see such a responsive group of folks helping us out of state climbers out.

 

obwan - Water mentioned greentrails.com in his response as well and I have their site bookmarked. It looks like they only sell a minimum of 6 maps at a time though which is way more then I need. Do you know of any other Online distributors of their maps, or if I wait, can I find them in outdoor stores in the area?

 

Thanks again to everyone for all your help!

 

kaiman

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that is bizzaro. REIs around here sell the maps individually as do any other gear shops that stock them. I don't know what your shipping would be.. call up REI in eugene or bend about the green trails maps for 3 sis for instance and ask. The geographics one for 3 sisters i think is probably better than separate green trails, imo.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Sisters-Wilderness-Area-Map/dp/078341384X

 

even has a guy with an ice ax on it, so you know it is legit. hehe - only thing that sucks is it is paper that can deteriorate easily unlike those trails illustrated maps which are quite nice.

 

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There are some websites that have topo maps, some were recently mentioned on cc.com - maybe do a search or google some of them. The issue with standard topos is, while the scale is better - the trails are sometimes old and not up to date regarding approach roads, etc.

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Yep it's strange that greentrails.com requires you purchase the maps six at a time although I am guessing they are looking to sell directly to gear shops, etc. and not casual users.

 

I spotted that Three Sisters map on Amazon too and think I will get it. I was a bit concerned about it being paper, but it may have to do. I will see what I can find on REI's website. I have a store near my area so I may be able to order the maps from them via the Oregon stores.

 

I am surprised that there are no Trails Illustrated maps for Shasta at the very least. Oh well.

 

obwan, if I lived in the area I would order the topos but they probably won't do me much good if they are outdated. Thanks for the help though...

 

kaiman

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you can get brand spankin new USGS topos from USGS website. They do not have trails on them and of the few I have looked at (like Mt. Hood) they were grossly mislabeled (Leutholds Couloir for Sandy Glacier Headwall, etc). You just go to USGS and use their online system.

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All of the above info is spot on - even our best weatherman will agree July 12th - Labor day is the best time frame in the NW.

 

I would go further and say July 15-Aug 15

 

after Aug 15 things often go weird...shorter days too...then most often it will piss rain all labour day weekend long and then we get a wicked 3/4 of September.

 

I always plan my mountain vacations to occur near the end of July

 

good luck

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My personal preference is for the U.S. Geological Survey maps, specifically the 7.5 minute quads (1 to 24,000--or, 1" on the map = 24,000" on the ground ) for being the most accurate and showing the greatest detail. Green trails maps, (15 min., or 1/62,500) are beautiful, but at twice the size,that is, covering twice as much geographic area, usually cover such a larger area that it's difficult to read contours and get a close-up idea of the terrain.

 

The Geographics and National Geographic maps are terrific, printed on waterproof paper, also extremely accurate and regulary updated, but they also generally cover very large areas at a variety of scales from 1/55000,1/85000 all the way up to 1/375000, which is huge. These are maps useful for long-range navigation over large distances, such as flying into remote areas like the Wrangell-St.Elias or Brooks Range. They also include really useful features like GPS Waypoints and time/distance estimates.

 

But for on-the ground routefinding you need the 7.5 min. scale to do you any good.

 

Compare, for instance, the beautiful National Geographic map of Mt. Rainier Nat. Park at a scale of 1/55000, with the area of just the mountain itself which is covered in 4 different USGS 7.5 min quads at the 1/24000 scale. See which you find more useful for providing up-close detail for navigating right there on the mountain. My guess is you'll leave the beautiful plastic waterproof Nat. Geo. map in the car( those big maps are also heavy!) and take the one or two USGS 7.5 min quads covering the route of your climb, or even cut weight and size further by getting a color photocopy of just the area on the USGS quad you need. And of course, on the copier, you can even enlarge sections on the map for even greater detail, to a point. Just remember to use percentages that correspond to a scale that will make it easy to convert distances, such as enlarging by 50%, 75%, 100%, 200%,etc. So, on a 7.5 min quad,if you enlarge it by 200%, it will take 2" on your map to equal the corresponding distance on the un-enlarged map.

 

The big maps are great for pre-trip study and planning, but on the climb the USGS 7.5 min quads are indispensable.

 

 

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Mtguide - I won't argue with you on the usefulness of USGS 7.5 Quads. It is true, they can be quite useful and I have numerous ones for sections/parts of ranges in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California and other places where I have been climbing/hiking off trail or in areas that weren't covered on other, broader maps.

 

That being said, as a first time visitor to the southern Cascades, I will be climbing established routes and am looking for more of the broad overview maps that also show access roads, etc., and are updated more frequently then the USGS ones.

 

My argument was simply that I am surprised that there are no maps by Trails Illustrated for Mount Shasta and the southern Cascades (Three Sisters) given their popularity, particularly when the northern Cascades are covered so well by TI (Rainer, Baker, Crater Lake, Glacier, the Olympic Peninsula, etc.)

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I have used the waterproof map stuff to help the longevity of the paper maps, but generally use zip-loc bags to keep them dry, and fold them accordingly for the right area. Again, I agree that the scale is not the greatest on Green Trails - but the "big picture" and "current" issues are invaluable.

 

ps. The comment about Labor Day being unreliable is true - I've been caught in some real gully washers. To bad the best window is only 7/15 - 8/15, I used to remember NW summers lasting 3 months. MtGuide has some good map tips.

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