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Snow and Water levels 2011

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: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby dharmali » Tue Jun 07, 2011 7:24 pm

John Dittli wrote:
dharmali wrote:T Any info on that area from you or other backcountry aficionados will be more that appreciated.


Upper Big Pine Cr drainage is currently ~100% of April 1. Bishop Pass (Dusy Basin) ~135% of April 1.

JD


Thanks again, JD. Sheesh - how far south should I look? Mexico? :wink:



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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby oldranger » Tue Jun 07, 2011 7:41 pm

Kpeter wrote:

So the answer to the question "Now what" is, in my view, is that in comparison with our normal backpacking experiences, we should either
1) go further South in the Sierra,
2) go to lower elevations,
3) go later in the season, or
4) go prepared for lots of snow.


Kpeter given your restrictions you should have figured out those alternatives on May 1 rather than now. Waiting in the hope of a hot spring kind of screws up your planning. Rather than being hung up on all the details of different years the May 1 snow data should have rang a bell that it was very likely going to be a late season. I know that rlown has been moaning for months that his planned late july trip was not likely going to work.

Mike
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby Mike M. » Tue Jun 07, 2011 8:21 pm

Kpeter given your restrictions you should have figured out those alternatives on May 1 rather than now. Waiting in the hope of a hot spring kind of screws up your planning. Rather than being hung up on all the details of different years the May 1 snow data should have rang a bell that it was very likely going to be a late season. I know that rlown has been moaning for months that his planned late july trip was not likely going to work.


I don't buy that, Mike.

With the data available on May 1, there was no way to know what kind of conditions we might face in mid July. Fresno saw unseasonably hot weather in early May, with several days in the 90s; nobody expected such a cool spring, with its rash of late spring snow events. It is quite a contrast to last year, when we had a relatively warm spring and a quick melt. If we are lucky enough to see a few weeks of hot weather, we could easily catch up to the 2006 example. Or not. Only time will tell.

For me, snow at high elevations is not a problem. I like it. It's the skeeters I don't like. And at this point in time, there is no way to predict mosquito severity, especially at the 10,000+ elevations we all favor. I hit the trail on 8/3 and am hoping for the best!

Mike
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 07, 2011 8:33 pm

I thought last year was a rather cool spring! At least up here in Sacramento. We never even had many 110 days last summer. Last year I recall going thorugh the same- cool June, lots of snow, so I finally went out to try the snow- and there was snow! Lots. At least the Mammoth Area had lots of late snow last year. Remember, that the southern Sierra can be in a different weather pattern than the central or northern Sierra. Last year I did the High ROute north-to-south starting Aug 4. Quite a bit of snow up high actually lingered into August last year, particularly in the Mammoth area. In late August when I got to the southern Sierra it was very dry. So I think our "experience" of the spring weather last year depended on where you live.
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby oldranger » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:37 pm

Mike.

Anytime May 1 snow is 150% of normal I"ll assume snow will linger. I know that it may not but the odds are pretty high it will. These big snow years I like to head for the s. trending drainages in N. Yosemite in September because there is more water than usual those years and fewer people that time of the year. My late July trip is kind of borderline but if the main destination doesn't work I have a bunch of alternatives from the same trailhead that will.

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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby eliburakian » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:39 pm

Hey all, new to this forum.

I did most of the Sierra High Route last summer, but am planning a trip to complete the section I skipped, from Humphrey's/Piute Pass to Mammoth/Red's Meadow. I will be hiking from June 27 to July 6.

Yes, I know it's early and I know there is a ton of snow. Too much? We'll be bringing crampons, ice axes and snowshoes (so much for ultralight!) but wondering if it will be passable. Seems like the biggest hassle with snow involves timing, trying to climb when it's hard, and heading down when it's fairly (but not totally) soft. Seems like a north to south route would make better sense.

If we decide against it, we'll either end up doing the High Sierra Trail, which being farther south and an actual trail, will most likely be passable, or even heading to the Trinity Alps.

Has anybody here been to the Trinity Alps, and would that be a good alternative for an early trip during a high snow year?

Looking forward to participating in this forum, and I'll try to post conditions reports from wherever we end up. Right now though, I'm leaning toward toughing it out with the big snowpack and still doing the SHR.
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby rlown » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:43 pm

Um.. I always have backup plans. This year, regardless, it'll mean a LOT of DEET!

Sept will be very nice. July, not so much. Even if it melts fast, that creates other problems that i don't like.

eliburakian, repost that request in it's own thread, please.
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby Mike M. » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:46 pm

Well, I live in Portland, Oregon, where it always seems to be winter until July 5!

I watch the Sierra weather closely from here. This year is quite a contrast to last year. A good litmus test it to look at daily temperature highs for Fresno. The last 30 days have been brutal -- quite cool by normal standards. That was not the case last year. Nor did we experience the succession of late spring snow storms we saw this year. If May had been more on the normal side in terms of weather and temperatures, we would be looking at Sierra conditions close to what we saw last year.

That said, a few hot weeks in a row may change everything. Look how quickly Charlotte Lake melted out last year.

I thought last year was a rather cool spring! At least up here in Sacramento. We never even had many 110 days last summer.


I wouldn't expect 110 degrees in May. Last year, if my memory serves me, the big melt was over, except in the highest elevations, by mid July -- pretty normal by Sierra standards. (I grew up in Sacramento, not far from Fair Oaks, and 110 degrees was unusual for Sacto back in the day -- not unheard of, but definitely not the normal 95 - 100 degree summer day, with cool Delta breezes at night.)

To get a feel for how much more snow is still out there compared to last year, check out MooseTracks' photos in this thread over at summitpost: http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/piute- ... 58727.html. I attribute this to the combination of a heavy snow year and a very cool spring.

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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby Mike M. » Tue Jun 07, 2011 10:00 pm

Mike (fellow Oregonian) wrote:

My late July trip is kind of borderline but if the main destination doesn't work I have a bunch of alternatives from the same trailhead that will.


Sensible, much like Kpeter's approach:

I can't be gone after mid August so this necessitates some changes. In my own case I am delaying my early season trips by two weeks each and bunching everything closer together. I'll evaluate the long alpine trip in early August when we get closer. I may cancel a trip with the kids altogether since they can't handle mosquitoes well--we will see.


Yet you chastise him for wallowing in snow gauges and other details of the snowmelt.

It's fun to watch (the progress of the snowmelt, I mean). You know what? Regardless of the amount of snow and the skeeters, we'll be out there when our personal schedules allow and it'll be great.

Mike
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby kpeter » Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:32 am

oldranger wrote:Kpeter given your restrictions you should have figured out those alternatives on May 1 rather than now. Waiting in the hope of a hot spring kind of screws up your planning. Rather than being hung up on all the details of different years the May 1 snow data should have rang a bell that it was very likely going to be a late season. I know that rlown has been moaning for months that his planned late july trip was not likely going to work.

Mike

Of course you are right, Mike, as you usually are. I did have these options in my mind but someone in this thread optimistically pointed out the 2006 example and that gave me hope that things might improve. But I did let family and friends know that we might have to change plans. And now we do.

But the Bishop Pass example shows that my optimism was not completely unjustified. It was data like this that kept my false hopes alive:

The May 1 manual survey of water content at Bishop Pass
2011 48"
2006 53"
1998 48"

The June 8 mechanical water content at Bishop Pass
2011 42"
2006 26"
1998 43"

Final melt out at the mechanical station at Bishop Pass
2011?
2006 June 25
1998 July 19

I find looking at this stuff interesting given that I can't be doing what I would really like to do. But I think my posts are getting irritating to some, and since there probably is not much use in continuuing them now that we are getting trail reports in, I'll make this my last entry in this thread. Hopefully next post I will have some real trail information!
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby oldranger » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:46 am

Guys and Gals

Of course it is a gas to pay attention to the different sensors and daily changes. I do it all the time. Just doesn't makes sense to have your hopes go up and down with them. By the way I think last year was a huge screwball because the snow generally was above "normal" (normal never happens in the Sierra. Seems like at least 80 or less or 120% or more. This is much more fluctuation than in the Oregon Cascades where the range is usually between 80 and 120% and anything outside that range is unusual.) but what really distinguished the year was the cool, wet spring. This year as we all know the snowfall was much greater (at least from near the Crest west) and the spring has been even cooler and wetter.

What does this mean? Be prepared for snow or stay low. There will be no respite from skeeters until there is a good freeze (hopefully sometime in August but usually shortly after Labor day. Some great examples. (I know ancient history for most of you) 1969--huge snow year. An acquaintance did a high trip right after labor day--skeeters still there. I went about Sept. 20--no skeeters. 1982--good snow year, my first year as a bc ranger mosquitoes at Rowell meadow when I arrived around June 20 and still present when I left a couple of days after Labor Day. 1983--Huge Snow year. A few skeeters when I arrived at Rowell, patches of snow near station to keep beer cold. Road to Sunset Meadow TH not opened until after July 4. But skeeters gone by Labor Day.

Variety--the spice of life. You can't count on mother nature. Be prepared and go anyway!

Mike
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Re: Snow and Water levels 2011

Postby bigd » Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:08 am

For you analytical types (kpeter etc), check out:

http://weatherspark.com/#!graphs;a=USA/CA/Mammoth_Lakes

It will give you an historical temperature timeline which will allow you to compare different years.

Click (and hold the mouse button) on the left side of the little slider control at the bottom-right of the graph and move it to the left to compact the time.

Not every weather station has a lot of history. Mammoth is less than Reno for example. But you can compare various springs or summers or answer the question, how hot/cold was it during my trip relative to the entire season or past seasons.

BigD
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