SNOW CONDITIONS

California section L conditions May 17th – May 22

By: Hank T. "A.D.D."
May 26th, 2017

As a section hiker I had completed 702 to 1157 last year 2016 and planned to restart again at 1157 in 2017. Due to the heavy winter I had purchased snow gear and practiced weekly in the 1157 to 1160 area (Boreal I-80exit to Peter Grub Hut). Settled on K-10’s being most effective for the snow conditions there. On May 17th the forecast showed 7 days of sunny weather even though it had snowed 3 to 4 inches in the area on the night of May 16th.
Start May 17th noon-mile 1157
Finish May 22 4:30pm-mile 1194.5
Plus 2 mile alternate
39.5 total

Short version:
1157 to 1184 snow 5-10ft deep.
No visible trail.
No tracks to follow.
K-10 crampons stayed on all day first 4 days.
Postholing starts early.
Steps needed to kicked for all steeper transverses in these approximate areas.
1165-1166
1167-1168
1176-1178
And one particularly scary one that I just refused to do and instead climbed thru manzanita a short distance up to the volcanic knob and down the other side,referencing the Gaia app, this was approximately between 1180-1181.
All camps on snow/ice/slush
No access to water.
Underestimated fuel needed for melting snow.

1184-1186 Passing east side of Jackson Meadow Reservoir.
Some exposed trail
First access to water.
Very narrow gorge between 1184.5 and 1185.5 no trail visiable, clogged w/fallen trees, rockfall, frequent surprise postholing.
Fell hard thru snow more than once in this area.

1188-1190
Constant intermittent exposed trail then kick steps for snow traverse. As the elevation dropped this was repeated over and over. Exhausting.

1190-1194.5 (Wild Plum Alternate)
Clear sailing but watch for many fallen trees

Sierra City:
Found wandering the streets by Susan of River Haven where I spent the night. I cannot begin to say enough positive things about Susan and her PCT hiker refuge of River Haven. If you’re lucky enough to get a chance to stay there ask for the room overlooking the river.

Please please please…. mileages are best guesses only using a combination of PCT Halfmile, Gaia app and Guthook app. Somewhere around the 3 or 4th day it was a battle to stay hydrated which lead to some fuzzy math.

Long Version: Too much whining to retell in public.

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

Early season snow has now covered section D

Sections:
By: Adda
October 26th, 2016

Recent storms have dropped significant early snow on this section. Snow line seems to be ~5300ft, so most of this section is now under snow. Some patches are only ankle deep, but a few days ago it was up to knee deep in other areas. There is enough snow to make spotting the trail challenging. Cut fallen logs are still visible, so that helps spot the trail. Blazing is so-so, and combined with limited visibility conditions to spot topographical landmarks non-GPS navigation could be challenging through this area. It has been raining on the snow so it’s heavy and wet currently. Melting may occur near 6000ft, but there is enough snow I think likely this section will not melt out again before true winter. Plenty of water from snow and snow melt streams. Forest road 60 up to windigo pass PCT trailhead has over a foot of snow on it near the pass, making trailhead access difficult. High-clearance 4WD vehicle with snow tires required.

Section J Stevens to Park Lakes

Sections:
By: inchworm
July 19th, 2016

The summer is coming very late this year and both natural conditions and trail maintenance are not yet to where they would be for a July hike. Several pieces of the trail have significant amounts of large downed trees, notably south of Deep Lake to Waptus Trail 1310, and from Lemah Creek south to Spectacle Lake. While most are passable by hikers (only once did I have to remove my pack), it will slow travel time significantly. Between Waptus and Escondido Ridge, the brush was thick enough to slow you down also. This stretch is impassable by stock.

Water levels are high for this time of year. The “potentially treacherous” ford just south of Deception Pass is still quite high and I have no idea how one hiker we met barely got his feet wet (he said he went far downstream). Everyone else got a thigh-high soak in cold, swift water. Many streams and creeks required knee high wet crossings where normally you could boulder hop or wade ankle deep.

Snow is still sitting in patches and in some cases in 1/8 mile traverses in the bowls at high elevation (Chickamin Ridge especially). You can see the trail, so you won’t get lost though, and it is crossable and good condition midday if you are comfortable with snow.

Bugs were really not bad with recent rain and cold. Deception Lake was awful, plan not to stop there yet. Temperatures were in the 50s by day and 40s at night.

All in all, this section’s challenges are as though it is late June, rather than July.

Oregon Section D –

Sections:
By: alex
June 27th, 2016

Recently did a section of PCT from Oregon Section D to E. June 10-20, 2016
From Miller Lake (Mile 1863) to Windigo Pass (1876) and then we followed the old Oregon Skyline Trail up until it connects back with PCT at Odell Lake (1905).

– Expect serious slow navigation with lots of downed trees that haven’t been cleared for the season yet. We were averaging only 1-1.5 miles per hour navigating up/under/around all the debris.
– Expect patches of snow up to 1′ in depth particularly south of Odell in shaded areas that also obscured the trail.
-From 1906-1920, the trails have been cleared, however we hit a small storm window which dumped 3+ inches of snow, where made for slow going and we weren’t prepared as our minimal mesh hiking shoes and lack of winter gloves made for cold+wet conditions. Weather cleared up by June 20, but we were on a schedule and had to stop the section thru hike.

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

Photo by: Nathaniel Middleton