April 1 Backpacker Alert–SPRING THREATS ON FULL DISPLAY

April 4th, 2017
By: Alex Wierbinski, Tahoe to Whitney

 

SPRING THREATS ON FULL DISPLAY

April 1, 2017
The most important topic of this date is the massive snowpack on the Sierra Crest and the extreme danger it poses to PCT hikers. The dangers of High Altitude Snow Travel will soon be supplemented by very dangerous fording conditions when this snowpack begins to thaw.

These conditions require skills, gear, and fitness to assure any level of safe travel as of this date. Undercutting and safety along the banks of creeks emerging from snow cover is currently increasing, as will the difficulty of travel conditions increase as the pack softens under the increasing heat of Spring.

Extremely difficult travel conditions will soon shift from hard snow that defies traction to wet snow offering no foundation. We will shortly transition from barely clinging to the mountain-side to sinking up to our waists with each step. As Spring progresses cold mornings will bring the former condition, warm afternoons the latter.

The same temp shift driving the changing character of the snow pack will soon drive even the highest elevation river fords to levels unsafe for fording, and make the major rivers raging torrents of destruction. These temp shifts change the character of the Sierra.

The snowpack itself will become sopping wet, saturating anything and anyone in contact with it. These are the times that hikers without sufficient insulation can find cold combining with exhaustion to degrade decision making as well as technical execution & style to create very dangerous situations.
I see wet, cold, and tired PCT hikers surrounded by a sea of deep, wet, cold, energy-sucking snow fields all divided-up by an endless series of raging torrents of typically tiny High Sierra creeks surging like rivers, each supercharged by Spring’s mighty flows.

The trails will be flowing like creeks, when we get down to them. And they will lead to the mighty rivers draining the Sierra, which will be downright scary, once this massive snow pack begins to melt in earnest.

Take Care and Bee Safe

for

Happy Trails,

Alex

More Information

All Backpacker Alerts

http://tahoetowhitney.org/forum/high-sierra-backpacking-topics/high-sierra-backpackers-news-health-science-environment-and-m-1

Latest (April 1) Snow Course Measurement

http://tahoetowhitney.org/content/backpacker-news-april-may-2017#10

All Tahoe-Whitney Snow Tracking & Links: Backpacker Calendar

https://tahoetowhitney.com/2017-high-sierra–backpackers-calendar.html#4

Weather Page: Snow Links

http://tahoetowhitney.org/content/fall-2011-backpacker-weather-trail-conditions-reports#8a

Weather Page: River Flows

http://tahoetowhitney.org/content/fall-2011-backpacker-weather-trail-conditions-reports#4c2

PCT Hiker Snow Accident & Conditions Report

https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/124075-Fuller-Ridge-Mile-178-190

High Sierra Mountain Safety: Wrecks & Rescues

http://tahoetowhitney.org/content/high-sierra-rescue-disaster-index#2

Photo by: Nathaniel Middleton