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Date range for first big snow in fall

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Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby patmegowan » Fri Feb 20, 2009 3:21 pm

I am planning a multi-month walk this coming summer in our favorite range, and wonder what when the first big snow tends to hit in the fall--what might be considered a season ender if you don't plan to continue equipped for steady and/or deep snow. What has your experience been? Any suggestions for historical summaries - typical and record highs/lows, precip, and so forth that reasonably represent the Sierra backcountry as opposed to Bishop or Mammoth?

Thanks!



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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby BrianF » Fri Feb 20, 2009 4:56 pm

First of all you must know that it can vary year to year. Personal experience; I backpack regularly in October in the high country - 10,500 and up. Most trips I get a light snowfall (afternoon thunderstorm) that melts off fast except on north facing or shaded slopes. In October, I have never encountered enough snow to end a trip, but I have had enough snow to make north facing talus slopes treacherous and scary. I have done a couple of trips in November in dry years and found conditions to be similar but even colder to what I expect by Mid October. But that was a dry year, I would imagine that November often sees significant snow even early in the month.
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby maverick » Fri Feb 20, 2009 5:58 pm

Second half of October can bring in some heavy snow, but as Brian wrote
it varies.
I've been up in October with no snow fall, and then another year I got dumped
on by several feet in 2 days up near Emerald Lake out of Lake Sabrina.
If you are going out in October just be prepared for anything especially
the second half of the month.
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby hikerduane » Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:28 pm

Try this: http://www.raws.dri.edu/

Can't remember if I got the link or not from HST. Seems like it was here. If you have time to digest it.

In the last 8-10 years, I have had snow on three trips now. Seems just like my early days of bping, if it rained I headed out. Now it is snow, so I will make adjustments to it too. With snow though, usually comes cold too and I know I won't be able to function if I get too cold or wet, especially my hands. Last year in Yosemite in early Oct., I hit four inches of snow the second day out around the Sunrise Camp area. Weather turned great after that. When I got back to my low riding car, I had a flyer on it saying the Tioga Pass road was closed. By the time I left, the snow had melted off around TM so I was able to head home over Tioga Pass.
Piece of cake.
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby rlown » Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:38 pm

I've backed off from October trips. I'm not a snow fan or an extreme cold fan when fishing, except when i'm on the way out and i know i can do it safely. I plan my yosemite trips a week after the high sierra camps shut down. Less people, hungry fish. I should note that fishing get's a lot tougher when your rod guides are constantly freezing over (if you fish.)

We still do get snowed on after the 20th of sept, but it's generally a short snowfall/flurries and we can be on a trail at that point if it get's rough.

Russ
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby paul » Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:59 pm

I can't recall a snowfall in September big enough to cause real problems unless you're off trail and have to hop talus to get out - a few inches of snow on a trail is no big deal, a few inches of snow on talus can be dangerous as all get out. October is often very nice, but you can get a couple feet sometimes in october, and that can change the game right quick. I personally don't trust any weather forecast past about 4 or 5 days at that time of year, so I wouldn't plan a trip after about the first week of October that required me to get from Point A to Point B in a certain number of days, unless it was a short trip and I could go when the next few days looked to be good. September I would trust. On the other hand, If you can allow plenty of time and are prepared and equipped for a big snowfall if it comes, October is a great time to be out there and enjoy your own private mountains.
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby dave54 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:33 pm

Wow!!

Brings back memories. I did my thesis on determining the probability of a fire ending event in the Caribou Wilderness. (A fire ending event is a precipitation event sufficient to stop the spread of a natural occurring fire -- or a 'let burn' in the lay parlance).

Without going into the techo jargon and way more weather and fire modeling I want to list here, Sept 20 in the Caribou wilderness is the 50th percentile date for sufficient rainfall. This is not the first snowfall that shuts down the backcountry, just the first significantly wetting storm. If you want the probability by date I can provide it.
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby rlown » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:41 pm

When i used to Mule Deer hunt in Southern Utah, I got trapped (in october) on a lava bed/scree pile under about 8" of snow. 8 inches in i think 4 hours as that's about how long it took for me to get up where i thought the deer were. I fell through once and ripped the leather on my boot right down to the gortex lining. I was really lucky. Still kinda upset i ruined a great pair of boots.

October is great for the crispness of the air (in the sierras), but it also requires one to carry more warmth. My batteries dont seem to like October either.

Russ
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby patmegowan » Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:37 pm

Many thanks for the collective experience and wisdom of the group--I really appreciate it!
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby homeranch » Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:07 pm

Often there is bad weather on Labor Day, some communist thing I suppose:)

Please keep in mind that snow is not going to be your danger key. Wet is. If it is a classic fall wet snow, or rain, you must stay dry.

Often folks have not made the gear switch for fall weather. Make sure you can stay dry.

When I lived in Truckee we often skied at Mt Rose Meadows in September, a few inches of snow on DG.

I did a ski tour from Mt Rose to Kings Beach in the middle of October 10 years ago, three to four feet of snow on the ground.

That much snow is a real problem without skis or sno shoes.

A few years ago I recollect some hikers caught by an early season snow at Rae Lakes, they got cold and wet, which is a bad thing. I do not recollect more details, perhaps someone else does.
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby gdurkee » Sun Feb 22, 2009 8:45 pm

Dave54's September 20th date for the Caribou wilderness is not bad for the Sierra. I'd say that anytime after that date, you stand a fair chance of every storm being a snow storm (above 9,000 feet). After about October 10th or so, I'd sure pay attention to places to bail out. It's true that until about October 10th, the snow is likely to melt in a day or two, but it really starts getting chancy.

In my experience, most people start losing the trail at about 8 inches of snow -- that's not much. Although a fair number of people hike after Oct. 15th, I wouldn't recommend going out for longer than the last good long-range forecast you've got.

This has come up recently in backcountry NPS discussions because there's been several searches in the fall after people are overdue when it snows. I'd recommend:

Make sure someone knows exactly what route you're taking as well as contingencies in case of bad weather. That is, "if it snows when I'm here, I'll go this way...". Then stick to the agreed plan.
The person should also have the make, model and license number of your vehicle. And that you've agreed on a date that person is to call you in as overdue.

If it's a self-registration permit when you leave (often the case in October) also leave that information attached to the permit you fill out as well as the contact number of a friend who you'd check in with. Remember that even with that information attached to a permit, no one will look for you unless you've got someone to report you as overdue (or your car is found buried under 5 feet of snow in December...).

There was a guy last November who headed out and got dumped on by Red Peak Pass. Decided to hunker down -- not a bad decision, but NO ONE was responsible for knowing where he was or when he was coming out or what his route was. Bozo. NPS spent probably $10,000 on that (which is to say, you, the taxpayer).

Like I said, people do it, but I really wouldn't recommend a long-distance alpine trip after about October 10th.

George
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Re: Date range for first big snow in fall

Postby maverick » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:16 am

Hi George D

Are you the ranger stationed at Crabtree with his wife? If yes, I met the both of
you several years back.
You are one of the few rangers that I have met in the backcountry, besides the rangers
at Pear Lake(young Austrian fellow maybe 10yrs ago), woman at Rae Lakes, a couple
coming from Washington State(Cascades NP) at Bench Lake junction, Randy who's name
I recall because of the long chat I had with him near Arrow Peak back in the 90's, and
the ranger stationed at Little Five Lakes, who I met recently(2yrs ago), really nice guy.
Oh yeah and the ranger station at Leconte who was on his way to meet the ranger stationed
at Colby Meadow (latin name, maybe starts with an "M") to go fishing in Ionian Basin.
Sorry but I am not great with names.
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