An Early Sierra Trail Conditions Report

Early hiker David Cully sends a Sierra trail conditions report from Mammoth via Tom from Kennedy Meadows and Facebook:

It is a breeze from KM to Crabtree Meadow, and the climb up Whitney is not too bad. Starting with Forester pass, though, there are consistent patches of snow above 10,500 feet, and around 11,000 or so, this turns into continuous snowpack. This makes the trail very tough to follow. I spent miles off trail before and after every pass. The tops of the passes are mostly clear, so on Forester and the other ones where it is important to be on the switchbacks to dodge cliffs, you can make it over okay. Good map navigation is a necessity. Keep in mind, however, that I don’t have a GPS or a compass, so it’s not impossible, just a pain in the ass. Also, you posthole a lot in the afternoon – it’s good to start the passes early.

The blowdowns are the other thing that suck. The ranger in Devil’s Postpile told me that this winter they had a 150mph windstorm that hit most of the Sierra pretty hard. The worst areas are the Palisade Creek drainage, San Joaquin River drainage (853-856), the switchbacks down to VVR (876-878), and the last few miles before Reds Meadow (899-906). Those mileages are from Halfmile’s maps. The Forest Service has crews working daily on the Reds Meadow blowdowns, which are the worst – however, I doubt they can clear all of the blowdowns before the wave of hikers gets there. As far as the other blowdown areas go, the Forest Service didn’t even know about them until I gave them the same mileages I’m giving you… The ranger told me that blowdowns are bad in Yosemite as well.

It was a tough, fun 200 miles, but postholing sucks, so I’m going to flip north and hike southbound back to Mammoth Lakes. I hope this info helps the incoming class of 2012!