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Crazy snow in the Sierras!
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John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
Crazy snow in the Sierras! on 07/08/2011 14:39:45 MDT Print View

That's what I'm reading in the online journals this year. I'm setting out on a Sobo Thru of the JMT with my son in a couple weeks and have a few questions...

1) GPS? I'm reading that I won't see the trail much of the time due to it being under several feet of snow. I've never been a GPS user, but am considering bringing one as my snow navigation experience is limited. Any suggestions for a light weight GPS that I can enter way points into just to steer me in the right direction?

2) Bear spray? This one might spur some passionate responses, but how many of you have taken bear spray with you vs not in the Sierras. Aren't those little black bears friendly like Yogi?

3) Fishing? I've read about how great the fly fishing is in the Sierras for years, and plan to take my Tankara kit with me, but with all the snow melt and crazy streams, is it even worth it? Or will the streams be too cold and rapid for fishing?

Thanks for your advice,

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Gps on 07/08/2011 14:54:45 MDT Print View

A GPS can be a huge help if the trails are covered. No one blazes the trees
anymore for travels in the snow. A simple eTrex works well. Someone will probably
chime in with something lighter.

Sierra bears as a rule are not dangerous. A few areas have problem bears
that will get your food if you don't do your best to keep it from them.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Crazy snow in the Sierras! on 07/08/2011 14:57:39 MDT Print View

I've been planning a trip to the central part of your route, and I'm also put off by the extreme conditions. The snow, I can deal with. The big problem will be the stream crossings, since the water is so high and so cold.

1) In many places, the trail will be underneath feet of snow. However, if you have never been a GPS user, it would be too much to expect to just pick up a GPS receiver and have it guide you over the snow. You probably don't have an accurate set of waypoints to punch into the receiver. GPS receivers are not good for guiding you ten feet this way or ten feet that way. They are excellent for locating a spot within 50-100 feet.

2) Bear spray? No, you don't need bear spray. I carry it when I am on the trail in grizzly country, but black bears are not that aggressive. Black bears are more like sneak thieves. If your food is inside a bear canister, then you don't need to worry about bear attack.

3) Fishing? Are you talking about ice fishing?


David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Re: Crazy snow in the Sierras! on 07/08/2011 15:46:21 MDT Print View

Most injuries I remember from early spring Sierra trips with Outward Bound had to do with
cold/wet feet, punching through next to a boulder and twisting a knee, slips on ice

The big hazard, as Bob points out, are stream crossings. This shouldn't be discounted as a concern. Streams over knee deep shouldn't be crossed. Training and experience are needed
in any case.

Avalanches may still be a concern with the big snows this year. Like changes in stream levels, the warm
weather in the Sierra can cause great variations in avalanche hazard within a few hours.

John Roan
(JRoan) - MLife

Locale: Vegas
Re: Re: Crazy snow in the Sierras! on 07/08/2011 16:25:11 MDT Print View

Thanks for the advice gents,

I agree the stream crossings will be a big danger. The plan is to be patient and find dry crossings, even if it takes going up stream a mile or two. I'd rather not finish by taking too long than by injury.

I do have a set of waypoints, and am thinking seriously about a gps. Any other suggestions for a lightweight simple unit are appreciated.

Thanks again!

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Crazy snow in the Sierras! on 07/08/2011 18:18:31 MDT Print View

I have never ever taken bear spray in the Sierras....absolutely no need to take that

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Crazy snow in the Sierras! on 07/08/2011 19:21:01 MDT Print View

"The big hazard, as Bob points out, are stream crossings. This shouldn't be discounted as a concern. Streams over knee deep shouldn't be crossed. Training and experience are needed in any case."

I was getting psyched up to do a backpack trip soon, and I had been checking the snow survey depth data on a daily basis for the station nearest my route. Finally, I could see that the snow depth was going to hit zero within a day or two. Then I read the trail conditions reports. All of the footbridges are washed out, and the white water is running thigh-deep.

I decided that I had to postpone. There are ways for two or more people to get across a big stream using ropes. However, for the solo person, this doesn't work, and it is very easy to become a statistic.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Crazy snow in the Sierras! on 07/08/2011 21:01:40 MDT Print View

The JMT will have tracks through any snow-covered portions due to the fact that PCT thru-hikers are passing through already and more will have done so by the time you hit it. So navigating will not be much harder than if it was dry.
Even with all the high water, there are still some lazier parts of various streams - Evolution valley comes to mind, and some parts of Leconte Canyon - where you might find good fishing. And I expect there will be some hungry fish in those lakes where the ice has just melted off.
And definitely no bear spray. Just pack your bear canister and use it properly and you'll have no bear problems.
And like you have heard already, be very careful with the stream crossings.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Snow on 07/08/2011 22:29:55 MDT Print View

I was up last week for a quick 3 day strike. 9k is ok, but there was solid snow at Tioga. I'm going up again next week S of Whitney. I'm pretty sure the lakes at 11k should be thawing, but NAP might be tricky. I've got my 3 day pack under 15 lbs. Including food. Copied zpack + enlightened for both myog pack & quilt. Stoked.

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Fishing with crazy snow. on 07/08/2011 22:33:39 MDT Print View

Will be great at Rae Lakes, use a fly with a clear bubble if not a fly fisherman. Plan on eating some to reduce the population. If you only eat some fish, keep them here, I set a pb for fish here in a day and a half.

Up here in the extreme northern Sierra, (no, not Yosemite) snow last weekend on the PCT in the Lakes Basin area north of Truckee was still 2'-4' most places at least, more like 6', the trail was only exposed a few places briefly. One tree well was 10' deep. Ask Frank. He told me many thru hikers were leap frogging further north.