It’s (hopefully) common knowledge that if you want to climb a Colorado 14er in the summer, you should be on your way down from the summit by noon so you can avoid finding yourself in the middle of like-clockwork afternoon thunderstorms. This is a good practice, and I’ve abided by it on many mountains. But I’ve also developed an alternate strategy: Wait until the afternoon thunderstorms pass, and then start hiking to the summit.
This strategy also works for avoiding crowds on some of the more popular summit hikes, as the majority of folks start their climbs in the early morning, following conventional wisdom. (They also probably would rather be having a burger and a beer when the sun goes down, not standing on top of a mountain, hours away from a brewpub.) Instead of “dawn patrol,” we call it “dusk patrol,” and it’s not for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try—I’ve done multi-pitch rock climbs, easy mountain bike rides, trail runs, and plenty of summit hikes in the early evening in the summertime.
One Friday last September, my wife Hilary and I took a look at the weekend’s crappy weather forecast and decided to have an afternoon jaunt up Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak near Denver. We made a short video about it for Outside and it’s online now: