Author Topic: Crossing the Rockies west-to-east - how late?  (Read 3814 times)

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Offline rvklassen

Crossing the Rockies west-to-east - how late?
« on: March 01, 2010, 06:23:41 pm »
We're hoping to do most of a loop starting in Pittsburgh PA in July (not this year), across western Canada to Vancouver or thereabouts, and then turn south.  Herein lies the question.  The last part of the route, which can finish in December, is some combination of Southern Tier and Atlantic Coast.  We'd like to connect via Kansas, which means either Transam or Western Express to Transam to Great Rivers or some alternate.  We should have no trouble getting across the Rockies on the western leg before the weather turns.  What's our approximate deadline for heading East, and are we better off riding further south (to the Western Express), or will the time it takes to ride south make up for the gain in later arrival of winter?

The ACA notes on the TransAm say  "This route can be ridden from May through September."  I would assume that means that the high altitude portions are best avoided after September 30, but once you're past (where, Pueblo?) you should be able to go into October, and then at some point we're heading south off the TransAm, well before hitting the eastern mountains.

Similarly the notes on the Western Express say "This route can be ridden from mid-May through October, depending on weather. "  Where would we have to be past by the end of October?  And with the more rugged terrain, would it be slower?  And just how long does it take to get from the western terminus of the TransAm to the western terminus of the Western Express?   If it takes a month, but buys us a month we might as well go for the TransAm (we're on a tandem, so the steeper routing is not a plus).

I just noticed another option, which is to take the Northern Tier to Whitefish, drop down to Missoula on the Great Parks North, and then proceed on the Transam.  This would presumably get us back across the mountains sooner.  Better? Worse choice?

We're not afraid of cold, even tiny amounts of snow, but any significant accumulation, or big wet flakes that stick to the sunglasses are just plain dangerous.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2010, 06:53:05 pm by rvklassen »

Offline valygrl

Re: Crossing the Rockies west-to-east - how late?
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2010, 09:31:04 am »
Early September is when you start getting a few short storms in Yellowstone (although it can snow there any time).  The weather in the central CO Rockies starts a little later, you can always get a thunderstorm or hail storm, but mid September you should be OK.  By late September / early October, storms that last a few days are more common, and you should be prepared to wait them out, preferably indoors.  "not afraid of a few snowflakes" may apply on the plains, but doesn't cover 20-mile descents in hail, freezing rain, 0 visibility - hypothermia is a real possibility.

Don't rule out the Lewis and Clark to around Bozeman, then south through Yellowstone and on to the Transam.  L&C is awesome. (I haven't done the NT or WE, so can't compare).  Also, don't rule out a make-your-own connector route, by the time you get there you'll know how.

A few years ago I did L&C to my own mid/northern route, starting August 1, finished in New Jersey Oct 13.  The weather was great, but I would not have wanted to be much later - I had snow & hail in Yellowstone, otherwise great weather, but the days were getting short and cold by the end.

Notice on the WE that you do still have to go through high mountains - St. George, Telluride and Monarch Pass are ski areas!  So you want to pay attention to when you will be around there - heading south onto the WE is not going to get you around the south side of the mountains, it just gets you to the south *end* of the mountains.  Late September would be about the latest I would want to be getting out of the mountains into Pueblo.

My gut feel, FWIW, YMMV, $0.02 - if you aren't heading East by mid-august, you should head all the way south onto the ST.

Hope this helps - your trip sounds fantastic.

Offline rvklassen

Re: Crossing the Rockies west-to-east - how late?
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2010, 05:14:31 pm »
In fact, freezing rain is worse than light snow.  Light snow, without accumulation is about as far as I'd go.  Cold, down to -5 or even -10 Celsius is not a problem, but precipitation at those temperatures can be, and usually is.

And yes, Lewis and Clark is in the running too.  I noticed that one after printing out the full page US map of ACA routes.

Offline MrBent

Re: Crossing the Rockies west-to-east - how late?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2010, 11:00:10 pm »
One point to keep in mind for, Colorado at least, is that October is one of the driest/lowest precipitation months.  You're getting close to the cut off point for the highest passes, but the odds are in your favor.  I entered the Rockies at Canon City about the end of the first week in Oct., and it was PERFECT!  I had frosty mornings in Salida, but from there I headed south over Ponchas Pass and into New Mexico, but took the high route from Taos to Santa Fe--again super ideal.  Keep an eye out for the storms, but fall is my preferred time to travel in North America!