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2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Discussion related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
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Re: 2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby oleander » Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:30 pm

Wanted to submit a smoke report, just back from 10 days wandering portions of the northern third of Kings Canyon NP. (August 13-22)

Route was South Lake - Dusy Basin - northbound JMT - Black Giant Pass - Ionian - upper Goddard Creek - basin immediately to the east of Finger Peak - Reinstein Pass - Martha Lake - Davis Lakes - JMT north - Darwin Bench - Lamarck Col.

I got smoke EVERY day from the Rough Fire, but it varied considerably in seriousness. Some days I had clear skies and only whiffs of smoke here and there, usually in late afternoon/early evening. Other days I had smoke all day. A couple of nights (Ionian) I had bits of ash fallen on my tent. But even on the worst days, it was never "choking" or thick or eye-watering smoke. Never enough to make me want to change my plans.

The biggest lesson for me was that you can't game/guess where the wind will take the smoke on a given day. One of my very LIGHTEST smoke days was the one when I was physically closest to the fire (basin east of Finger Peak). A pleasant northwest wind took the smoke in a different direction than me and I had blue skies. I think that was August 18. Whereas one of the HEAVIEST smoke days was August 21 going over Lamarck, many dozens of miles distant from the fire. The smoke arrived not only heavy, but early in the day (10 a.m. versus around 1p.m. most days).

So don't think you're going to avoid the Rough Fire smoke just by keeping a few dozen miles distant. Wind has a way of making up the distance.

The strategies that helped the most were:

1. Camp high. Very high. 11k+ if possible. 10k might be okay. You may/will still get some smoke, or even (on the worst nights) ash falling, but it won't be NEARLY as bad as in the lower basins.

2. Hike very early in the day. Days start out very clear around 5 or 6 a.m. (I could even get some great non-smoky morning photos!), but the smoke was sometimes noticeable enough by 1 p.m. to cause me to cough a little when exerting myself uphill.

3. It's the altitudes/basins under 9,500 where the smoke looks overwhelming. There is some kind of inversion effect happening? So if you're going into the region, just plan to not only camp high, but do a very high-altitude trip in general.

The worst-looking places (from my vantage point) were the Enchanted Gorge and the lower (under-9500 feet) Goddard Canyon. Fairly heavy smoke also seemed to settle in the lower (under-9500) South Fork San Joaquin, below Maclure Meadow, but it didn't look as bad there as it did further south.

A party who tried to go into Ionian (Black Giant Pass) about 3 days after me, said it was terrible and that they had turned around and left. I had found it just fine there. They probably got unlucky with wind direction. Or else the smoke haunting the lower basins has started blowing up-basin.

As of at least August 20, the rangers at both Maclure Meadow and Leconte Canyon have posted signs and are actively patrolling the trails, encouraging southbound JMT'ers to exit the trail. This morning both the North Lake and the South Lake trailheads had disoriented, recently exited JMT'ers trying to figure out their next plan. Also met a party who'd left their car at Wishon and exited the east side instead, stranded.

On the drive from Bishop back to the Bay Area today (8/22), smoke the whole way. On the 395, midday, you could not see the mountaintops. In Lee Vining it was slightly less bad than further south. Through Yosemite the smoke seemed thickest in the middle part of the park (Mt. Hoffman area), then thinned out a bit again on the west side.

Now time to turn in after a long drive.

- Elizabeth



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Walker Fire Update 8/23

Postby maverick » Sun Aug 23, 2015 11:18 am

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Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Rough Fire Update 8/23

Postby maverick » Sun Aug 23, 2015 11:21 am

HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Smoke Prediction Website

Postby oldranger » Sun Aug 23, 2015 11:58 am

Just found this a few minutes ago when planning our next road trip. You can pull up smoke maps for most of the west.

Then select the data and tools menu and select Blue sky daily runs,and then then the map you want. The cool thing about this is that it projects smoke for the next couple of days not just current conditions.

mike
Last edited by oldranger on Tue Aug 25, 2015 8:29 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: 2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby austex » Sun Aug 23, 2015 2:31 pm

In lone pine have cottonwood lKes permit. Lots of Whitney folks. Hazy but very doable. I'll b out Wednesday. Report back then
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Re: 2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby schmalz » Mon Aug 24, 2015 10:55 am

Man, the Rough Fire is seriously impacting the season this year. I'm starting to wonder if I'll have to come up with an alternative to a trip I was planning on starting in two weeks in Devil's Postpile.
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Backpacking Mineral King

Postby jpfranklin » Mon Aug 24, 2015 3:28 pm

Looks like a lot of people in this thread are reporting heavy smoke in areas NE of the rough fire, which is consistent with the some of the smoke reports I've been reading. Was going to do the Rae Lakes loop later this week but obviously that's out. Had my permit changed to the Mineral King area of Sequoia NP which is SE of the fire, so I'm trying to gauge the smoke there. Does anyone have any reports of conditions in areas SE of the Rough Fire? Looks like austex will have a report by Wed but since I'm leaving that day, I'd love to hear if anyone else knows anything.
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Re: 2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby maverick » Mon Aug 24, 2015 4:04 pm

Had my permit changed to the Mineral King area of Sequoia NP which is SE of the fire, so I'm trying to gauge the smoke there. Does anyone have any reports of conditions in areas SE of the Rough Fire? Looks like austex will have a report by Wed but since I'm leaving that day, I'd love to hear if anyone else knows anything.


Here is the webcam shot taken at MK 10 am: http://www.mk-webcam.net/ :(
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Re: 2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby jpfranklin » Mon Aug 24, 2015 4:31 pm

maverick wrote:
Had my permit changed to the Mineral King area of Sequoia NP which is SE of the fire, so I'm trying to gauge the smoke there. Does anyone have any reports of conditions in areas SE of the Rough Fire? Looks like austex will have a report by Wed but since I'm leaving that day, I'd love to hear if anyone else knows anything.


Here is the webcam shot taken at MK 10 am: http://www.mk-webcam.net/ :(


Thank you, that's very helpful. Found a direct link to the webcam images with their history too, looks like yesterday was clear, day before that was just as bad as today. Looking like a high chance of smoke and bad visibility for our trip so far...might have to explore other options.
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Re: 2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby MountainMinstrel » Mon Aug 24, 2015 5:03 pm

I've been watching this for daily smoke info. It is looking better by the day south of the fire. Weather reports show a continuing south wind so it should stay good for the foreseeable future.
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Re: 2015 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby markley » Mon Aug 24, 2015 6:49 pm

MountainMinstrel wrote:I've been watching this for daily smoke info. It is looking better by the day south of the fire. Weather reports show a continuing south wind so it should stay good for the foreseeable future.

I found this link very useful...the daily image updates sometime midday.
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Rough Fire Health Advisory

Postby maverick » Tue Aug 25, 2015 1:50 pm

Stage 1 Health Advisory

Affected Communities: Owens Valley and Mono County Communities

Smoke Source: Rough Fire

Based on air pollution levels at 11:00 AM on August 24, 2015 a Stage 1 Air Pollution Health Advisory has been issued for Owens Valley and Mono County communities. Due to elevated particulate pollution levels, children, the elderly, people with heart or lung problems, or people with current illnesses such as the flu, are advised to stay indoors and avoid strenuous outdoor activities in the impacted areas. If you have any questions please call the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District office in Bishop at 760-872-8211.

Rough Fire Update: http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/4456/ Scroll down, click on the "And for today's air quality" link for air quality in the Sierra.
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