TARGET: CHEYENNE, WY
Our initial target was Cheyenne, WY but as luck would have we wouldn't need to travel that far. We started in Raton in the far NE of New Mexico with the Rocky Mountains our companion to our west as we travelled. Way off in the distance one peak towered above the country side. After some investigation the mountain turned out to be Pikes Peak, the famous time trial route. We decided we needed to have a look so we made a detour to experience what 14,110ft of altitude was like. The mountain was still covered in snow from record snowfall in May, which would end up costing us the trip to the summit. There was still 10ft of snow further up which would not permit us rthe full trip to the top. Still we were able to achieve an altitude of 13,000ft in the vehicle which is almost twice as high as any point in Australia. There was a short stroll through snow to a high point which would give us an extra 200ft of height. I've always wondered what the effects of high altitude would be like and we soon discovered breathing was a bit harder than what we are accustomed to. The walk was only about 100m long but with the incline and altitude it felt alot longer than that. The effort was worth it though with a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside. Tie in a few weak thunderstorms in the area and it was an awesome thing to witness. We spent a short time taking photos and taking in the view. The temperature would have been close to 40F/6C with the wind chill thrown in, perfect weather for shorts and shirt! We had to move to have a chance at seeing some storms so we began the trek back down. As we started back down a shower began to pass over us, but it wasn't rain it was like a mix of hail and snow! Next thing FLASH!! Then BOOM!! Thunder echoed of the mountains! We were core punching a storm at 13,000ft. We stopped and watched for a bit until the novelty wore off then we headed to our storms which were NE of us. We made a beeline for a cluster of cells which were showing severe characteristics. As we got closer we could see impressive updrafts boiling up into the sky. The radar had a hail signature of 3.75" and the green colour high up in the storm reflected this cell had lots of hail aloft! We moved to a position to observe and marvelled at the structure. We saw a few funnels and powerful lightning however another cell was aproaching from the west and we were hoping that it wouldn't kill off the other one. Instead the interraction of the two cells was very interesting, they did a sort of merge and the resulting scene was breathtaking. Lightning was flickering and the updrafts still remained strong. Eventually the cells begun to move away from us so we decided to see if we could find some hail. We begun to see some on the side of the road so we pulled off onto a side track to have a look. Whoops it turned to mud and we got briefly stranded but luckily Rodney was able to pilot the car out. Once we were out we watched some nice sunset colours with the storm retreating into the distance, occasionally spitting out some bolts. The next few days looks like we will targetting the Northern Plains, before heading home later in the week.