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Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

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Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby tim » Mon Dec 26, 2011 11:38 am

Although we won't know for sure for another couple of months, it looks increasingly like it could be a low snow year in 2012. For example, the Mammoth Weather site (http://mammothweather.com/) states "if we do not get any more snowfall up until New Years Day, there is only a 1 and 10 chance for a normal winters worth or greater amount of snowfall for the season based upon 42 years of data".

So with the Inyo permits now online (and available 6 months out), it looks like this is the week to think about what to do in the week of July 4. Last year we had a great trip to (a somewhat snowy) Miter Basin, so that wouldn't be a problem, but I'd appreciate some thoughts on experiences in previous below average years around July 4 (this year its a Wednesday so we could go starting the weekend before or running into the weekend after). We're looking for mostly on trail, 4-5 days, preferably high altitude (where possible this early) for me and my two 11 year olds (we've been backpacking together for 4 years, trips of up to 5 days and 30+ miles, we can manage 6-8 miles per day). I'm happy to book something now and then see whether it looks feasible later (in fact there is less penalty than in previous years for making multiple Inyo reservations).

A few musings of my own: JMT Tuolumne to Mammoth (the plan we abandoned last summer in favor of Cottonwood Pass/Miter Basin - though this is not an Inyo reservation so we can think about it for longer), Kearsage Pass to Charlotte Lake, North Lake to Humphreys Basin (is crossing over and exiting at Pine Creek feasible), Mono Pass to Pioneer Basin.



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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby mokelumnekid » Mon Dec 26, 2011 12:00 pm

I don't know about ideas, but yesterday (Xmas day) flying from LA to Seattle right over the crest of the range, it was absolutely shocking how much bare ground there was. Especially in the northern area, Sonora Pass - Tahoe, which normally catches a lot of snow.

Of course that could change in early Spring, but looking very thin now....
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby balzaccom » Mon Dec 26, 2011 7:05 pm

So last year for 4th of July we left Lake Edison and headed up Mono Canyon---and were stymied by high creeks and lots of snow.

I'd love to go back if this year is going to be an early one, and see what we missed!
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby paul » Mon Dec 26, 2011 8:40 pm

I can think of no better way to ensure plenty of snow between now and the end of april than to plan for an early start to the summer.
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby DAVELA » Tue Dec 27, 2011 1:59 am

Last winter we had record snow thru December then no snow thru january and then a ton of snow after that.Hopefully we'll get a ton of snow in January as i have a snowshoe trip planned at the end of month with the old man.Thankfully i took advantage of the early october snowfall in the sierra and got in 3 days of snowshoeing.Pray for snow!
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby hikerchick395 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:44 am

paul wrote:I can think of no better way to ensure plenty of snow between now and the end of april than to plan for an early start to the summer.



Yeah, plan your early season trips now!


What comes to mind as an early season backpack from the past (1989)...we hiked over Shepherds Pass into the Williamson Basin area and topped Mount Williamson on the 4th of July. In shorts and tshirts. Also, at that time, we avoided the bighorn restrictions.
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby tim » Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:18 pm

hikerchick395 wrote:
paul wrote:I can think of no better way to ensure plenty of snow between now and the end of april than to plan for an early start to the summer.


Yeah, plan your early season trips now!


Very true. I'd be very happy to have lots of snow for our ski trips this winter :)

On the subject of low snow years, in 2007 it looks from previous trip reports like the vast majority of the snow had gone before July 4, so all of the passes (except perhaps those with tricky stream crossings?) should be OK if we end up with a similar extremely dry year. Of course its more tricky if we end up with only marginally below average snow pack or a slow melt like the last couple of years. As a result, what I'm really interested in is which of the high passes are known to melt more or less quickly than average (and/or are easy/hard with patchy snow cover) - Kearsage, Bishop, Piute, Mono and Donohue in particular. Thoughts?
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:20 pm

For me the biggest game changer with an early snow-melt or low snow year is early access to trailheads. It would be a good year to put in for those early permits in May and June for the more heavily used trailheads. Early melt also means the mosquitoes should be gone by mid-July.
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby calipidder » Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:01 am

In 2007 (a low snow year) we did the Yosemite High Passes loop over the 4th. The passes were all clear but my GOD the mosquitoes. Worst skeeter trip ever.
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby SweetSierra » Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:10 am

Thanks Calipidder for posting your Southern Yosemite trip. I love that part of the Sierra. The one big loop that we did there we saw, I think, one person on a 9-day trip.
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby East Side Hiker » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:34 am

Lots of good early season opportunities in the Southern Sierra - South Fk of the Kern, Golden Trout Wilderness... Heck, we haven't even been able to ski yet...
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Re: Early season ideas for (potential) low snow year

Postby rlown » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:18 pm

The plan should be the standing plan every year. You put in for permits, thinking a normal year, and then have the backup plans, if the winter is heavy or light..

If you get a bug to get out early, based on the current weather conditions, call the ranger station or show up and get a permit..

the "North Lake to Humphreys Basin (is crossing over and exiting at Pine Creek feasible)" is way easy.. assuming puppet pass, but there are at least 4 ways to get over that.
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