2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra | High Sierra Topix  

2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra

Questions and reports 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.

Pioneer Basin 7/10-7/15

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:47 pm

Just got back from Pioneer Basin, 7/10 -7/15.

Mono Pass. On 7/10 Mono Pass had snow on the lower switchbacks, steep enough that a large group decided not to go. On 7/15 enough day-hikers had made a path and enough had melted that it was being used. Otherwise, you can avoid these by going off-trail, snow-free, and intersecting the trail higher up. The upper part, once you turn around the corner, had two distinct steep snowfields covering the trail. The first is in shade until about 9:30AM and on 7/10, was still very hard and icy at 10AM. I used crampons, and was glad to have them. It was still freaky, as there is a rock band below (not a good safe run out). Once into the upper bowl, the trail also traverses high, and here it was sunnier in the morning, and in spite of being icy, if one were to fall, there was a good safe run out. On the last part of this traverse my left crampon broke, which caused a bit of worry. Returning on 7/14, at about noon, both snowfields were very soft, and there was a much more definite path. The danger now, is that in late afternoon the snow is actually unstable. I did not use crampons. Just out of curiosity, I dropped down below the cliff band to traverse, and then climbed on class 2 rock back up to the trail. I actually felt safer doing this. But everyone else was just going across on the beaten path. The sun cups surrounding Summit Lake are a real pain. Coming back, I instead, went up the high use-trail (not on the map) to avoid Summit Lake. My original plan was to go around Golden Lake to avoid the crossing of Mono Creek. The east side of Golden lake IS NOT SAFELY PASSABLE! A very steep snowfield goes to the lake, and the bottom part as split off the upper part. I went back up and over the regular trail, which was just fine. It is almost all snow-free except for a short part on the north side as you drop into Mono Creek, which was really easy to cross (knee deep).

Pioneer Basin. Amazingly melted off. I tried to follow the trail on the map, and the middle section got lost in snowdrifts. It is easy to just go up any way with plenty of choices for a snow-free ascent to the first lake (which really is a flooded meadow). The crossing at the trail was too swift when I arrived in the afternoon, so I went out into the "lake" and crossed crotch deep, but with no current. All the lakes are melted to some degree. Even the uppermost lake is ice-free at the outlet. There are still plenty of deep snow drifts, but they can be easily avoided. The snow is firm- even in afternoon never sunk in more than a few inches. Hard as a rock in the morning after one night when it froze hard. About an hour of sunlight softened the crust. There are plenty of nice dry places to camp.

Ruby Lake. The day I went in the lake was mostly frozen. When I came out it was half covered with drift ice, all wind blown to the north side. Steep snowbanks on the south (north facing) side. Good dry camping on the hill north of the lake.

Fourth Recess Lake. Also just breaking up when I went in. When coming out, it was mostly ice-free, with a bunch of float ice at the outlet. I did not try to cross Mono Creek at the trail crossing, so cannot comment on that. I dropped down the steep west hillside from Trail Lakes. This hillside was really wet in places and very cliffy, but snow-free.
Last edited by maverick on Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra

Postby Harlen » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:04 pm

Thanks a lot Daisy; that helps Lizzie and me as we are looking for another dog-friendly hike (BTW, did you take your dog?).
It sounds like things are changing fast. If I am remembering the elevations correctly for Summit Lake and the Pioneer Basin, then it would seem that the more easterly Sierra is melting out faster than the central, for example the Bear Basin area where I've just returned from. (See my TR for photos of very frozen lakes, some as low as 10,600. Nice going on your trip! Harlen.
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Little Lakes Valley 7/13-7/16

Postby LMBSGV » Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:03 am

I returned last night from a three night trip in Little Lakes Valley to Gem Lakes. The snow begins about 10,800 feet a little beyond the last side trail to Chickenfoot Lake. From that point, most of the trail up to Morgan Pass remained snow covered. Around Gem Lakes there was still lots of snow. The third lake still had ice.

There must have been a lot of people camped at Chickenfoot from the large number of day hikers coming up to Gem. There were at least five other parties camped around Gem, especially congregating on the non-snow covered campsites on the cliffs between the second and third lakes. I was camped at the south end of the second lake beside a large snow bank that ran down to the lakeshore.

Campsite-GemLakes-1-1.jpg


Sunrise-GemLakes-3-1-1.jpg
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Last edited by maverick on Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:22 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra

Postby SSSdave » Sun Jul 23, 2017 10:04 am

Perfectly exposed image of Dade and Abbott with a very believable look throughout the frame for a situation that more often results in areas in shadows being too dim due to dynamic range limitations. One of the best images I've seen on the board this year, well done.

Appears to be a cloud under lit situation that on clear air days can provide strongest orange-red phase sunrise light as the warm light becomes funneled below clouds. The light off the cloud bottoms does a nice job providing some light on the shadowed fore and mid ground landscapes. I like that the clouds are not dense while showing some blue behind. The broken ice on that Gem Lake is an ideal situation of a mix of some reflection plus an interesting complementing geometry of floating ice that is better than if it was just a reflection because its higher luminance helps balance the strong illumination of the peaks in the background. You bothered to adjust your camera position so a pointing piece of ice bisects Dade's peak top reflection and there is a small hole in the ice at right shows orange. Good technique showing careful tripod attention to exact positioning. Note how the peak reflection is correctly more muted than that of the peaks above that is the natural experience. Many similar web posted images during the split ND filter era ended up with reflections brighter than peaks above that showed a lack of familiarity of natural light. The whitebark pine branches also catch some of the cloud light giving center frame elements a much better look than if that zone was simply all pine green. And then there are the black and white granite bands of the rock which is common in upper Rock Creek areas. The sky appears to have some spots that could be near mosquitoes you may need to clone out?. Did you use HDR? What are the original pixel dimensions?

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Sabrina Basin 7/21-7/22

Postby Matthewkphx » Sun Jul 23, 2017 10:54 am

Just another data point...

I was in Sabrina Basin on fri/sat and encountered snow on the trail starting at 10,700. I heard there were "icebergs" in Moonlight Lake but turned around and descended before I got there due to my hiking partner encountering symptoms of AMS.
Last edited by maverick on Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra

Postby LMBSGV » Sun Jul 23, 2017 7:56 pm

Dave, thank you for your kind words and analysis on the photo. Coming from you, it means a lot to me since I admire your work so much.

You're right about the cloud underlit situation. A minute later, the orange-red was gone. Dade comes out too bright or too granite-gray on the subsequent photos I took that morning. (Still being a film person in my consciousness, I try to get it right once instead of firing away and hoping one manages to get what I want.) I thought about using a graduated ND filter and decided not to. Like you, I got really tired of the photos over-using one and so I've tried to avoid using one and work harder at getting the exposure right. The Leica M262 and Summicron 35 mm lens have wonderful dynamic range. The only post-processing I did was using Lightroom to better bring out the light on the trees. I didn't take the time to take out the spots/mosquitoes to post it here since it was a post dealing with conditions. I never use HDR - I don't like it since to me it makes things look unnatural. The original DNG file is 20,858 KB.
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Re: 2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra

Postby riverwalker » Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:28 am

Agreed on the image of Dade and Abott...amazing light and well captured! I pray for light like that and have been skunked recently.

BTW, what were the skeeters like in LLV?

Jon Walker
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Re: 2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra

Postby LMBSGV » Mon Jul 24, 2017 1:37 pm

Thanks riverwalker.

Since I was there over a week ago, I doubt the conditions are the same. At that time, they were about a 3. Deet worked for keeping them from biting.
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Minaret>Cecile>Iceberg Lake Route Conditions 7/22-7/24Update

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:26 am

Inyo NF:

Here are some photos from last weekend of the the pass from Minaret Lake to Iceberg Lake courtesy of Samuel Loy. He reports at least 10 ft. of snow on the pass and that Cecile and Iceberg Lake still mostly frozen. The pass from Cecile Lake to Iceberg Lake is dangerous and slippery and requires crampons and ice axe and knowledge on how to use them.

As a reminder, much of this area does not have a trail and requires orienteering. Thanks Samuel.
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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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Re: 2017 Current snow conditions for E. Sierra

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:06 pm

July 24-29. Pine Creek Trailhead loop. Note that in every location it was easy to find snow-free and dry campsites.

7/24 - below Pine Lake- no snow (but one snow patch to cross at Pine Lake, which I did 7/25)

7/25- Steelhead Lake via Pine Creek Pass, French Lake: Pine Creek Pass pretty clear except the top 200 feet. Still, amazingly free of snow. The snow is solid- no post-holes. In fact it gets hard enough at night to need traction devices, but the top inch or so softens with about an hour sunlight. French Lake 1/3 frozen, lots of snow on the south shore. Steelhead Lake 1/2 frozen. The lake actually totally re-freezes at night if calm and melts in an hour or so of sun. Went down to L Lake to fish- still spotting snow, but mostly thawed.

7/26 Royce Lakes. Parallel long low-angle snow on the plateau. Lower two lakes totally thawed, but still have huge snowbanks along the shores with 4-8 foot high cut-offs that occasionally calf off. Pass between Merriam and Royce is snow to the top on the north side, with a cornice, unstable and very unsafe. The upper two lakes are nearly totally frozen, thick with snow on top of the ice. The lake between Lk11656 and 11725 is mostly frozen, with a small outlet area open. Then entire east side of the lakes have snow covered slopes. Amazingly, the camping area on the southeast shore of Lake 11725 has dry sandy camp spots. I used crampons to traverse from Lake 11656 to the pass between Pt 12470 and Pt 12563. The saddle is snow free. Northeast side of this class 1 pass is a snowfield, but you can go on open rock slabs and the lower snow is low enough angle. It gets early AM sun and by 11AM was easily plunge-stepped. Snow-cups are moderate, typically less than mid-calf deep. Crampons or micro-spikes are not absolutely necessary, but allow you to travel on snow any time of the day and you can more easily stay on the top of the sun-cups. It just speeds up travel and gives you more flexibility.

7/27 Granite Park. The trail is mostly snow-free to the "swamp" at 11,600. There are some patches that make finding the trail hard. The swamp and the snow above did not appeal to me, so I went above the snowfields and traversed the ridge between Granite Park and Chalfant Lakes. Upper lakes (the two big ones on the way to Italy Pass and the round one southwest of the "swamp" are all totally frozen.

7/28 Chalfant Lakes. All lakes are open, but have some snowbanks along the shores. The drop directly from Granite Park all have steep snow. In fact the north side of the ridge has steep snowfields until you reach 11,350 feet elevation. I traversed the ridge until 11,350 and dropped through snow-free forest north-northwest to the outlet of second highest large lake.

7/29 Returned off-trail down the outlet creek. The entire gully is snow-filled except one small rock stringer at top that allows you to get to the northeast side. You can cross on rocks at the bottom of the slope to get to the southwest side to intersect the trail above Honeymoon Lake.

The snow becomes very hard or frozen at night. About 1-2 hours of sunlight softens the surface enough to imprint about 1-2 inches. You do not absolutely need crampons or micro-spikes, but they allow you flexibility to travel at any time. Even with these, you are restricted to lower angle slopes. You really need full-on mountaineering crampons and ice axe to do the steep passes. All of the north-facing passes out of Granite Park look unsafe now. I used the class 1 pass that drops towards Golden Lake, and it is OK. I was surprised that the sun-cups are not that deep, indicating the melt is still in its early stages.
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