CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

April 1 Backpacker Alert–SPRING THREATS ON FULL DISPLAY

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

 

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

Donner summit trees down

By: Chris fox
November 10th, 2016

Took a hike 11/9/16 from I-80 Pct trailhead. Connector trail was fine. Tree down about 50 yds so of I-80 tunnel. Then on n side, about 6-7 crossing trail between tunnel and back of rest stop (can see pond at same time). Only went as far as DLRT to loop by summit lake (and that trails fine). Most trees looked 8″ to 24″ in diameter.

Dangerous conditions north of Sonora Pass

By: frank gilliland
June 21st, 2016

Dangerous Trail Conditions: I’m a triple crown trail hiker (trail name Starman) and have been long distance hiking for nearly 20 years. I have never seen conditions more dangerous than what I’m experiencing north of Sonora Pass, in particular north of Hwy 4. I’m at mile post 1059.2; Coordinates 38.6187, -119.8436 and can see a pole and ice axe part way down an ice chute. [Editors note: A PCT hiker was rescued from this chute on Sunday.] I don’t see anyone so they may have self evacuated. However, I want you to know this is a very dangerous section of trail at the moment. It’s so dangerous that I recommend no-one walks it. If you don’t have an ice axe or crampons, you’re going to hit the bottom fast.

There are three snow chutes in the area. I crossed the first two chutes, then chose not to continue across the third chute. I turned around, scrambled back, and am hiking back to Ebbetts Pass.

If you don’t have an ice axe or crampons, you can’t cross that chute. The melt is happening so fast, that the steps are melting out and turning icy.

[Editors note: Conditions change. We’ve heard from others who say this area isn’t that bad. Be careful and cautious. Turning around is always better than hurting yourself.]

Raymond Peak

Chimney Fire between Walker Pass and Kennedy Meadows

June 6th, 2016

Last updated at 9:31 am on June 6, 2016

PCT thru-hikers sprint away from the Chimney Fire on June 1. Be safe! Photo by Elliot Schwimmer

PCT thru-hikers sprint away from the Chimney Fire on June 1. Be safe! Photo by Elliot Schwimmer

The Pacific Crest Trail is open again between Highway 178 at Walker Pass (mile 652) and Kennedy Meadows (mile 702) after the Chimney Fire closed the trail for a few days. The fire started on June 1st. It is reported to be a human caused fire.

The burn was near the PCT, the Chimney Creek Campground (mile 681) and the area around it. The trail has not burned.

Resources

Maps

Chimney Fire data from 6.2.16 at 6:47 am

Chimney Fire data from 6.2.16 at 6:47 am

Bucks Lake to Middle Fork Feather River bridge

By: David Greenleaf
May 27th, 2016

Did an overnight trip to the PCT bridge on the Middle Feather River, 5/11 – 5/12.

Trail Condition: Starting at Big Creek Rd the first few miles to Lookout Rock have moderate amounts of snow and a number of trees on the trail (8+), none are too bad to get over or around. Trail is well marked and easy to follow despite the snow. Large amounts of branches and debris on the trail.

From Lookout Rock down into the Middle Feather River Canyon the snow disappears. However the amount of trees on the trail and debris increases. The hiking is rough going due to the amount of stuff on the trail. Past the Bear Creek Bridge (in good condition, no issues) the trail goes along a super steep hillside and is covered in leaves, which can be very slippery, in sections the trail has eroded away and the leaves have accumulated enough to completely cover it, making it a bit sketchy to cross sections. Would be super scary with a horse due to the steepness of the slope the trail is on. In the last mile or so before the river, the trail is getting very overgrown.

The PCT bridge of the Middle Feather is in good condition, didn’t notice any problems with it. Camped at the nice sites just past the bridge on the North side of the river.

Insect Note: Below 6,000 – 5,500ft this section is absolutely infested with ticks. Due to the amount of debris on the trail and overgrown sections, the ticks were able to easily attach to me and my dog. Was stopping every 15 minutes or so to remove ticks, easily 50+ ticks taken off both of us while hiking and another 20 or so that I missed and removed at home.

Section “M” first 7 miles – UNSAFE

By: Sam Solace
May 17th, 2016

The initial switchback section is great, including across the middle to the post piles. However, beyond that gets dicey. Initially, you will find overgrowth within the rocks past the post pile, making a couple areas tricky as it is difficult to see where the outer edge is trail, a bush, or air. That is the minor issue.

The greater problem is the handful of rock slides (shale) that have blown out the trail on the upper switchbacks (Southwest facing). The first one I encountered was just a few feet of damage, and clearing was relatively easy to find foot holds. The others were worse, where the trail was effectively replaced (blown out) by the slide. One I cleared a bit, the other I had to create a few foot holds, wedge the trekking pole and jump! Any slip and it is 1,000 to 1,500 feet before you hit anything as you slide down to probably your final hiking memory!!

If anyone is planning to train in this area I suggest avoiding this section and using the Jeep trails (Sierra Buttes Rd, Butcher Ranch Rd, to Sierra Buttes Trail) to reach the PCT at the summit (roughly 7 miles in).

Photo by: Nathaniel Middleton