The 2018 Hiking Season has officially begun! Hooray! Though, given what I saw on this first hike, it could have probably started a couple of weeks ago. They said they had a light winter in the mountains this year and they are right. I use Flattop Mountain in RMNP to restart the season as it gives a good idea of how much snow is left above treeline and in shady parts of the trail - and it's a good length hike.
It was a beautiful sunny day in RMNP and very warm. At the trailhead at Bear Lake there was a light breeze once in a while - that would change as I got closer to Flattop Mountain. There was very little snow on the trail, not even enough to use any kind of traction footwear. Just below treeline the wind picked up and did not let up until my way back down below treeline. There are Marmots everywhere, and eager to have their pictures taken after going all winter without anyone taking their picture; they're hams for the camera.
The wind was memorable, it was so strong and consistent once above treeline, that I finally got out my handheld anemometer and measured the windspeed. It was consistently above 16 mph and at the horse hitch just below the final pitch to the top of Flattop Mountain it was consistently above 20 mph; the max I recorded was 26 mph - and that is below the summit.
That much wind saps the energy and water out of you. I decided that if it's 20+ mph just below the summit, you can tack on a good 5-10 mph up on the summit. So the hike was a bit short of what it is normally, but I managed to get in 8.2 miles roundtrip; a good start to the season. I do live this hike, and when the wind is not howling at the summit it is very peaceful up there. Checkout my GPS tracks here.