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Prospects for the summer, 2012

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Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby Cross Country » Sun Feb 05, 2012 8:40 pm

This year might be a landmark year. 2011 was the highest snow year for (I think) any of us (it seems like I'm the oldest person writing regularly on this forum). It was the most snow since I started BP as an adult (1969). The amount of snowfall in the Sierra Nevada REALLY matters (in case you haven't noticed). So far this year, the snowfall is really low.
A really high snowfall year, followed by a really low snowfall year yields very interesting potential. I can't imagine a better scenario (just for backpackers) than this. Having said this, I want everyone to remember this: In the late 80's there was VERY little snowfall one year until almost March. In Mammoth they refered to it as the March Miracle. It could still happen. Neverless:

If this Winter continues the same:

What are your plans to take advantage of this "windfall"?



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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby rlown » Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:38 pm

ok.. I'm sitting here at my home office, watching the crows mate, and the thunder plums starting to push out a bloom. That usually means we're screwed on weather, even if we need it.

I'd guess skeeters earl(ier). I'm worried about water in Sept, unless i go places I know.

Still going, a few trips planned. :)
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby RoguePhotonic » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:08 am

Hopefully I can take advantage by leaving June 1st and staying out into October. I'm crossing my fingers. :D
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby Wild Bill » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:00 am

Living on the east slope of the Sierra, it is my observation that this winter has been very mild, temperature wise. What that equates to is thinner ice on the backcountry lakes. I predict open water much sooner than normal.

For us fishing fanantics, that means more available fishing days. I've had some memorable days getting in early during the spring.

Last year, and summer 2006, getting wet at the water crossings stands out in my mind. I also have fond memories of wearing a headnet so I didn't breathe in swarming clouds of mosquitoes. "THAT" shouldn't happen.

Winter isn't over yet; but we can re-examine this topic in a couple of months. I, too, remember well the "Miracle March." It could happen again!

I hate to admit this, so please forgive me: I might have put the "Whammy" on winter by purchasing a new pair of snowshoes! Sorry!
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:54 am

If you started backpacking as an adult in 1969, you are not the oldest on this forum. I think "old ranger" beats that. Depending on when it is deemed we become an "adult" (some of us may never reach that milestone), I was backpacking and mountaineering in 1967.

I have no definite plans for the Sierra, but it will be nice to get out in June and early July without the normal difficult river crossings. I have heard that a dry year after a previous wet year is prime forest fire risk because of excessive undergrowth that then becomes dried out. I have been in the Sierra late season in a dry year, and I really do not like it. Everything is so dried out and brown, and there always is smoke in the air from some fire.

I am headed to Wyoming for mid-July through early Sept. They are at about 80% normal right now. I actually prefer a normal snow year to a dry one. Water sources are more available, it just is greener, particularly late season. I like to have a bit of snow left late season.
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:25 am

Gee Daisy!

Don't rub it in! I started as a kid in the 50's. Don't know that I could yet be classified as an adult. You know growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional! Cross country is older than I am, by a few years. At any rate I ain't ready to quit for a few more years.

As to the the kind of year we will have this summer, a "normal" year which I consider between 80 to 120% of average is still within the realm of possibility but less likely with every passing day. So I am kind of expecting a 50 to 80% year with March and april key months this year. Even less would not surprise me because the sierra is subject to such incredible variation from year to year. There is no such thing as "normal" and an "average" snowfall virtually never occurs,

Happy planning.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby Cross Country » Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:46 pm

After reading the above I've had my mind changed a bit. I'm nothing if not open-minded. I think I always preferred 70 to 90 percent of normal.
My first backpacking trip was in 1954. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. My son Mike had the same reaction to his first trip(s). My first trip(s) was not in the Sierra. That was in 1971. Those of you who had parents or some adult to take you BP to the Sierra had it lucky. I didn't have such luck.
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby tim » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:09 pm

My plan to take advantage of the windfall would be to climb Mt Lassen on the afternoon of Sun May 20. Of course that requires the road to be open.

The reason for that date? It's the annular eclipse and the central zone includes Shasta, Lassen, Great Basin National Park, Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyon. Lots of great viewing locations and the lack of snow would definitely help to make some of them more accessible.
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby Rosabella » Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:53 pm

Sooo, my first Mt. Whitney hike was in 1959 and I was 7 years old.... that puts me right up there with some of you guys! :)

This summer I've got another JMT hike planned; I'm SOO excited!! I've got my permit starting out of Yosemite on July 15th. I'll be stopping at some of my favorite places, I've got a couple new off-trail adventures planned, and I think I might do a couple night hikes when I've got a full moon going.

It's gonna be a GREAT summer!!
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby SSSdave » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:47 am

Was going to start a similar thread. My first backpack was in 1972 and I've averaged about 5 trips per year. So have seen a lot of seasons living in the SF Bay area all that time while backpacking summers and skiing Tahoe winters. And have been a keen student of our weather all that time. So I've seen this situation before.

Excellent El Nino/La Nina graph:

http://meteora.ucsd.edu/~pierce/elnino/history.html

http://ggweather.com/enso/calenso.htm

Table 1. El Niño and La Niña Seasons
El Niño - Weak to Moderate 57-58, 65-66, 77-78, 87-88, 92-93, 94-95, 02-03
El Niño - Strong 72-73, 82-83, 91-92, 97-98
La Niña - Weak to Moderate 50-51, 56-57, 64-65, 70-71, 71-72, 74-75, 98-99, 00-01
La Niña - Strong 55-56, 73-74, 75-76, 88-89

In recent years winters of 2002/2003, 2004/2005, 2006/2007, and 2009/2010 have been El Nino's. Interestingly our big winter of 2010/2011 was an La Nina even so the correlation between La Nina's and California droughts does not always correspond. Also note the El Nino of spring 1986 through 1988 was a droughty period except for the one 11-day monster storm in February 1986, so that correlation is also not always true.

One of the deepest droughts was 1976 and 1977. Then 1978 had heavy precipitation. Looking at the graph, note 1975/1976 was a La Nina, while 1976/1977 was not. However 1977 was a very droughty until winter 1977/1978 a moderate El Nino. So I've seen this situation before.

Most likely the rest of this rainy season will be near average creating an overall very below average season total. The snowpack would then be thin. By early May one will be able to begin backpacking like one normally does in June however that will be dangerous unless one pays close attention to NWS weather forecasts as major snowstorms can readily occur in May when the jetstream dips. Wildflowers peaks for each species are likely to occur from dates snow cover melts so will move up while the end of summer becomes much drier and brown with considerable bone dry creeks. Backpacking in late summer could require paying attention to solid water sources. One of the more interesting advantages will be, one will be able to cross what are usually major rivers and streams early season. For example in 1977 on the July 4th weekend I could rock hop cross lower Bear Creek in several places.

For this landscape photographer, the aesthetic prospects will generally be below normal however some types of subjects will not be affected. The key will be to hit areas of interest when snows are still melting, keeping streams flowing and living things green.
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby sparky » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:41 pm

I dont have any plans of yet, a new SO has taken priority. She has never backpacked before or been to yosemite so i plan on BPing there with her early summer. Any suggestions there I would appreciate. I might start a thread about it.

I might try triple dividepeak via table lands. I really love that area. I am invited on a trip to CO which isnt that exciting to me. Just no where near as beautiful as asthe sierra.
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Re: Prospects for the summer, 2012

Postby tim » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:52 pm

sparky wrote:I dont have any plans of yet, a new SO has taken priority. She has never backpacked before or been to yosemite so i plan on BPing there with her early summer. Any suggestions there I would appreciate. I might start a thread about it


I went Cathedral Lakes (night 1) to Sunrise Lakes (night 2) via Sunrise HSC a couple of years ago with the kids. It was their first loop trip and a perfect intro to Yosemite. You can climb Clouds Rest on the way out on Day 3 and use the shuttle bus to get back from Tenaya Lake (perhaps not really early season though). Permits can be tricky.
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