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Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
California - Sierra Nevada conditions on 05/01/2011 19:44:44 MDT Print View

This is May 1, and lots of PCT backpackers are heading out. Probably more are starting from the south to head north. Pretty soon they will hit the Sierra Nevada snow, and since it was such a big snow year, the old snow drifts will remain well into summer. Eventually all of the high passes will be beaten down into muddy trails, but this won't happen as early this year as it would on a normal year.

The question is this. Compared to a normal year, how late should you delay trail activities in the Sierra Nevada?

For example, if normally you could consider crossing Glen Pass on July 1, for this year would you prefer to delay until July 15 or August 1, or what?

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: California - Sierra Nevada conditions on 05/01/2011 20:01:21 MDT Print View

"For example, if normally you could consider crossing Glen Pass on July 1, for this year would you prefer to delay until July 15 or August 1, or what?"

Unless you're a thru hiker, it's too soon to worry about it. Wait and see what the weather is like in May/June. If it turns real hot, like it did 2-3 years ago(I can't remember off hand if it was 2, or 3)when we had another heavy snow year, most of the snow will be gone by late July. If not, you're probably going to have to wait or go in heavy with ice ax and Kahtoolas. In any case, the trail reports will be coming well before July 1, in time for you to decide a couple of weeks before.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: California - Sierra Nevada conditions on 05/01/2011 20:51:23 MDT Print View

I understand what you are saying, Tom, but I have several different trips and events for the summer, and I have to fit them together into a 2-month or 3-month schedule.

I understand about most of the snow being gone by late July. However, I'm trying to time one event for about 2-3 weeks after the snow has melted off a high pass.

To think about this differently, when do we expect that the bears will be out and about on the JMT? The answer is not "now." Black bears do not den up high. They den down in the middle forests, and they don't move upslope until they think that there will be good food up there.

From about where you are, throw a rock west so that it falls on the JMT.

--B.G.--

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
snow on 05/01/2011 22:28:08 MDT Print View

As you may have read in the article 'vortex of fear' from a month or so ago, last year people were worried with somewhat good reason about the snow levels. This year its obviously escalated. This is a good reference to keep checking..

http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/PLOT_SWC

definitely higher than last year..


I am in the same boat with you bob. I don't exactly have trips all planned out but definitely have intentions of doing some high sierra trips.. but looking at this i won't go up till at least mid july.

I went up to emigrant wilderness last June 15-20th or so and there was still a LOT of snow.. at least 40 of the 50mi we did was completely snow covered..

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: snow on 05/02/2011 11:04:56 MDT Print View

Those plots of the water content in the snow are important to the water resources people. However, they don't really say how deep the snow is or predict how fast it is melting off. Yes, we can make some guesses, but I am 150-200 miles from areas of interest.

The late June trip was slid to mid-July. The early July trip was slid to late July. Now I am considering to slide it to early August.

--B.G.--

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: snow on 05/02/2011 11:19:19 MDT Print View

The final snow survey of the season is today--results should be available late in the day. It supplements the sensor data with field measurements and offers the best estimate of actual snowpack, going forward.

April was quite dry (no significant storms) but also quite cool, so melt and runoff were retarded from what they could have been with a warmer month. A warm or hot May can help a lot while a cool May would leave a lot of snow in palce. My sense at this point is we're looking at trails opening up four to six weeks later than usual. Folks comfortable with travel across snow can still do just that, but creative campsite finding will be the order of the day. Roads to remote trailheads will be a nightmare.

Cheers,

Rick

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: snow on 05/02/2011 11:28:16 MDT Print View

"trails opening up four to six weeks later than usual."

That is a lot more pessimistic than what I was hoping to hear.

I don't have any problem hiking over hard snow, if it were simply trail miles that I was seeking. But I am looking at other activities that should occur 2-3 weeks after the snow melts off.

Some of the high passes get cornices from local wind conditions. Some of the passes don't have that problem.

Let's take a different high pass for example. Anybody want to guess when 99% of the snow will be gone from Muir Pass?

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: snow on 05/02/2011 16:40:10 MDT Print View

"That is a lot more pessimistic than what I was hoping to hear"

I can empathize with your anxiety, Bob, but the mountains don't really much care. I don't know how much flexibility you have, either in timing, or the planned activities, but the amount of snow left from mid July onward is totally dependent on the weather between now and then, and there's not much to be done about it except be prepared to adjust. Maybe start looking at alternate routes or activities that are less dependent on the amount of snow, just in case it turns out to be a cool spring?
Up here the forecast is for continued cool weather through July. I'm not sure how that relates to what is going on in California except to note that the meteorologists say it is due to cool water in the Central Pacific associated with La Nina. A good first step might be to check the long range forecast for the Sierra and, if it is for a cool spring, maybe start recalibrating your plans or choose some appropriate alternatives. It's better than having your whole summer ruined. The Sierra will be beautiful, no matter how it turns out. My 2 cents.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Muir Pass on 05/02/2011 17:53:30 MDT Print View

While Muir can have miles of snow on both sides it is one of the easiest pass due to gentle nature vs Glen or Mather for example. Watch when Tioga opens and compare with previous years. I had one in the know tell me that he expects Tioga to open in mid to late June.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Muir Pass on 05/02/2011 18:05:14 MDT Print View

Yes, Muir Pass is gentle. Tioga, too, for that matter.

I would be downright shocked if Tioga opened by Memorial Day. Mid to late June sounds about right for this year. If memory serves me, they didn't get it open one year until right before July Fourth. That infuriates the Mono County businessmen. On some years, they spend a lot of tax dollars to try to open Tioga earlier, and it only makes the difference of about one week. It is a lot cheaper to let Mother Nature do the solar snow removal.

That means that the Yosemite high country won't really be accessable to backpackers until July. That will upset some of the backpackers who thought they needed to make early permit reservations.

--B.G.--

leonie sherman
(leonie) - F

Locale: central coastal california
sierra summer on 05/03/2011 08:32:43 MDT Print View

as a fellow high sierra fiend i sympathize with the desire to make plans and get up there in due haste. i've been in the high country december, january, march and april this past year and been somewhat apalled at the wide variety of terrible conditions. but only fools and newcomers predict the weather in mountain ranges. of course the snow is often NOT hard in spring and summer (after about 10 AM anyways it often turns to collapsing slush), but if you have plans that cannot be held off or you don't want to make alternatives for, just bring snowshoes and an ice axe and be prepared for less than optimal conditions.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: sierra summer on 05/03/2011 13:20:41 MDT Print View

I guess you missed my point. I don't have any problem hiking over hard snow, if it were simply trail miles that I was seeking. I cross country ski as well. But I am looking at other activities in the high passes that should occur 2-3 weeks after the snow melts off. Not two weeks before, and not five weeks after.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: sierra summer on 05/03/2011 17:10:24 MDT Print View

"But I am looking at other activities in the high passes that should occur 2-3 weeks after the snow melts off. Not two weeks before, and not five weeks after."

OK, I confess to being curious. Could you let us in on these mysterious activities that are so dependent on timing? Flower photography? Insect hatches? It might make our input a little more useful.

BTW, I talked with a friend who spent a few days down around/in Yosemitelast week. He says the bears are out, at least around Wawona Campground. That is below 3000', but they will inevitably move higher as the snow recedes.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: sierra summer on 05/03/2011 17:20:25 MDT Print View

FWIW they threw you southern Sierra folks a bone in yesterday's press release:

"Electronic readings indicate that water content in the northern mountains is 159
percent of the April 1 seasonal average. Electronic readings for the central Sierra
show 144 percent of the April 1 average. The number for the southern Sierra is 127
percent. The statewide number is 144 percent."

Only 127 percent! By contrast, some of the sensors where I typically go are at well over 200 percent. Sigh.

First mini heatwave of spring starts tomorrow, so some melting is on the way.

cheers,

Rick

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Southern Sierra Snow on 05/03/2011 17:49:02 MDT Print View

I am expecting that the snow will likely drop below last years level within a couple of weeks. The SWC graph lags by a few days and it has been very nice out here and expected to be nice and warm for the next few days.

The nice thing for the PCT hikers is that the snow gets progressively worse heading north allowing further melt over time. I expect to leave Kennedy Meadows on June 18th and it is possible that this year could be unremarkable. But the Vortex of Fear that Ryan wrote about is in full swing.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: sierra summer on 05/03/2011 18:17:52 MDT Print View

" The number for the southern Sierra is 127
percent"

Whew! Thanks Rick. 127, I can deal with a whole lot easier than 159. This is starting to look like a replay of a couple of years ago.

Rob Vandiver
(ShortBus) - M

Locale: So Cal
Snow Conditions on 06/03/2011 15:14:35 MDT Print View

I personally would appreciate any updates anyone has on snow conditions in the Sierras. I am planning a July 9th Rae Lakes Loop trip and I am wondering if it will work (I dont have any real winter travel gear).

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Snow Conditions on 06/03/2011 15:28:07 MDT Print View

By July 9th, the place to worry about is Glen Pass. The north side is shaded snow, and the south side is steeper snow.

--B.G.--

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Snow Conditions on 06/03/2011 16:03:26 MDT Print View

I'll be north of Rae Lake on July 5th in the Reds Meadow area.