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High Water

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: High Water

Postby KathyW » Fri Jun 17, 2011 7:26 am

Well, I wore those Columbia Drainmaker shoes up George Creek in the Eastern Sierra last Friday. They worked well, but were falling apart by the time I got back to the trailhead. I was planning on going up to about 10,000', camping, and then climbing Mount Barnard the next day. We did a similar trip in May of 2008, but climbed Trojan Peak on that trip. Everything was going okay with the creek crossings until the creek crossing at about 7500'. That crossing requires some bushwacking, and the damage to the vegetation along the creek from the heavy snow made the bushes flatter and even thicker than they were in 2008. The creek was divided into two parts at this point and the water was flowing like crazy. I got across one part in several places, but just wasn't comfortable going across the larger section with how strong the current was and having to deal with the dense vegetation at the same time. There was only one more crossing after this one before I'd be done with the crossings, but I figured crossing back over on the way out might be even harder as the weather was warming up; so I was done. I turned around and headed out. The next day I backpacked up Armstrong Canyon (a dry canyon). I'd rather melt snow for water than get swept away in a creek.



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Re: High Water

Postby East Side Hiker » Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:27 am

Well, KathyW, you did the right thing by turning back and using a back-up plan. Its always good to be thinking about back-up plans because your safety is important. Creek crossings will be tough for awhile yet as despite the days getting shorter, the temperature is increasing. There's a lot of snow-melt yet to come.
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Re: High Water

Postby kellymoe » Fri Jun 24, 2011 2:53 pm

I have to put a plug in for the Alpacka Raft, it is an amazingly fun piece of gear that can take you to some amazing places and is amazingly tough. This winter i did the East Fork of the San Gabriel River from just below the Narrows and took out at Cattle Canyon downstream. Carrying the boat upstream was effortless.
Two years ago I used it on Labirynth Canyon on the Green River in Utah. 6 days self supported in a tiny boat, it was a blast.

Two thumbs up for Alpacka Rafts.
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Re: High Water

Postby DoyleWDonehoo » Sat Jun 25, 2011 9:11 am

I just came back after a backpack in Yosemite (with a novice), and never in my many years of backpacking have I seen as much snow this late and this much water. I saw waterfalls I have never seen before, and small early season falls I have seen before are now major falls. All of the streams and rivers I saw are at the top of their banks and flooding in some areas. And there is still plenty of snow above 6800 feet. Be careful out there...
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YoFlotnBrdg2011June.jpg
This the Yosemite Valley Floating Bridge, which looks like its namesake with the water right up to the walkway. The pathway beyond the bridge slides under-water.
Doyle W. Donehoo
Sierra Trails:
http://www.doylewdonehoo.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: High Water

Postby wildrose » Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:19 pm

This web site http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/DLYSNOWDP has up to date snow depth information. Are the data accurate?

It says TUOLUMNE MEADOWS snow free and White Wolf has 0.2in on June 27.
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Re: High Water

Postby Mike M. » Tue Jun 28, 2011 6:32 pm

Apropos the dangers of stream crossings, check out this terrifying post from a PCT hiker, lifted from a recent message board:

TR from a PCT hiker from his crossing of Wright Creek a couple of days ago:
================

I woke up to one of the greatest campsites I've ever seen. I was on a bluff at 10,400 feet overlooking the western range of the Sierras as the sun illuminated their tips and began to move down the slopes. I got up really early because I needed to get across Forester which was 10 miles away through really rough terrain and high altitude. I knew I was going to need all day wandering around, looking for the trail. I hoped to be able to get up Forester before it got too soft. I didn't want to spent the whole day post-holing and getting nowhere. I was out of camp by 6am and really anxious to get to town.I was only ten miles from Forester pass and only 18 miles to the side trail that would take me out of the Sierra.

After about 20 minutes I came up to Wright Creek. Normally in the mornings the creeks aren't as swollen and easier to cross, although much colder. At 6:20 in the morning Wright Creek was still raging. It's not good to have your feet wet for days at a time and mine were beginning to feel the effects of it so I really didn't want to get them wet first thing in the morning. I walked up the creek bank trying to find a fallen log or some way to cross without getting wet. The manzanita on the banks was coated with ice and I couldn't find any obvious place to cross. About 100 yards upstream I saw a spot that looked like I could jump to. A rock that was sticking up about a foot above the rushing stream. I would have to jump about 4 feet across a deep channel of 35 degree water. I'm not sure what I was thinking but I decided to go for it. With my poles in one hand, I made a jump for the rock, not knowing that it had an invisible coting of ice on it just like the bushes on the banks. When my foot hit the rock, it slipped right over it and I landed on the rock in a split. I tried to hold on to the rock but it was covered in ice and I was pulled over backwards by the extremely powerful current. I went from bad decision to a life threatening situation in the blink of an eye. The freezing water took my breath away as I was quickly swept downstream. I had to get out of the water but first I had to keep from smashing my head on a rock. I got my feet downstream and flipped over, trying desperately to get my foot or hand on something. Suddenly my leg got caught between two rocks and the current flipped me over it. I thought my shin was going to break as the current pulled on me. My leg was stuck and my back hit another rock. The current had me pinned down and I was facing upstream with the water rushing over the front of my body. I knew a had only minutes to get out of the 35 degree water. I threw my oles over the the bank and tried to get my leg unstuck and still keep from getting swept downstream again. My hands were frozen and I couldn't grab anything. My fingers were useless. I was probably yelling and I managed to thrash through and get to an overhanging bush which I grabbed onto and dragged myself onto the shore. I was safe. I had to keep moving though. I grabbed my poles and hustled up the bank and into the woods, trying to jump and run and flex all of my muscles. I got to the trail and dropped my pack. MY PHONE! AHHHH! it was in my chest pocket and I managed to get it out with my frozen fingers. I had to get the battery out! My fingers were worthless, forget the phone, I needed to get some gloves on. They were wet but at least it was something. My clothes were all dripping. I opened up my pack and at least everything was dry inside. I managed to get my phone apart. It was soaked. I didn't allow myself to think about the consequences of that. I needed to get warm. I tried to hike a while, thinking maybe the clothes would dry but in a few minutes I decided it would be a good idea to get out of those clothes. I pulled out anything dry and put it on while I hung up all of my clothes on a tree as the sun climbed in the sky. I was going to be alright; however, I was going to lose a lot of time.

I took that time to eat some food and get warmed up. My clothes took about an hour to dry and then I moved on. Losing the phone was a big deal though, it had all my maps in it. I now had zero navigational tools. I knew I could get out by going east but it really wasn't as simple as that. I still had to find and cross Forester Pass and Kearsarge Pass and I had no idea where they were and there was no real path to follow. I was hoping someone would come up behind me but from what I had seen, the closest person to me was at least a full day behind. I was going to have to keep going, blind.

I knew I had to cross another river and that the climb to Forester began after that so I just did my best to find old footsteps or marks that looked like footsteps. It was scary and much of the day I spent in despair but I managed to somehow find the trail occasionally.I came to Bighorn Plateau and there was no way whatsoever to tell where the trail went. I just guessed and got lucky. Eventually I found some tracks that hadn't been melted and I followed them all the way to Tyndall Creek. I wasted about two hours wandering around, trying to find the Ranger Station, hoping for a map or anything. There were bear boxes and I looked inside them for maps or anything that might help. The only thing I had was the section from Yogi's guidebook which gave a written explanation of the approach to Forester Pass but no maps. I got across the creek and laid out my phone, hoping the hot sun might dry it. It did help but there was a lot of moisture under the screen and I wasn't going to try to turn it on until it was totally dry. I had no idea what it looked like over Forester Pss but I was hoping that maybe I might see a fire or tents or something. I sat at the creek crossing and ate lunch, drying my feet and hoping that someone might come walking up.

Most people camp there and leave early in the morning while the snow is very hard. It was 1:30 in the afternoon when I decided to make a run for Forester Pass. The snow was soggy and the sun had been very bright for the last several days and the snow was soft. Figuring out where the trail went was an exercise in voodoo and the snow made it really difficult to traipse around looking for it. The altitude became a huge factor and once I figured out the general direction I was going, I stopped looking for the trail and just headed toward the huge wall of granite in front of me. Just about when I stopped looking for the trail, that's when I found the tracks that would get me up and over Forester Pass.

I found what seemed to be a large person's tracks and I stayed in them exactly; hoping to avoid post-holing every step for five miles. It took me about 4 hours to go 5 miles. The climb up Forester Pass was grueling. Between the altitude, the snow, the steep climb, the uncertainty and the sun, I was exhausted when I got over the pass. Fortunately, the trail was more obvious going down Forester into King's Canyon National Park.

It was about 6PM when I started down toward Vivette Creek, although I didn't know that's where I was going because I had no maps. I followed the tracks down and it looked like just about everyone took the shortcut and glissaded right down into the valley. The glissade should have saved a lot of time but the snow was soft and I couldn't really slide. I ended up having to kinda run, post-holing and crossing the wide open valley. At some point it occurred to me that I could put my phone in a bag of ramen to dry it out. Man, I wish I had thought of it earlier. I put the ramen and my phone in a ziplock and continued into the woods. The trail was impossible to find but I followed the river and saw a tent. It wasn't a thru-hiker tent but it was pitched on the only flat, dry ground I'd seen in days so I hailed them and one of them poked their head out of the tent and didn't mind me camping there. He thought I was a ranger. They were section hikers going SoBo. I figured I'd ask them if I could borrow their map from the section they just did. I was so relieved. I cooked some Idahoans and went to bed.

(Found here in this thread: http://www.whitneyportalstore.com/forum ... =1&fpart=2)


This could happen to anyone. Two lessons: 1) when you travel solo, it's best to be very conservative in terms of the risks you take. The hiker could easily have died in that stream. He's lucky he didn't hit his head and knock himself out. Far better to get a little wet, with his boots on, then to risk that leap over an icy stream bank. I know, I know -- that's easy to say from the comfort of my office chair. 2) electronic devices are no substitute for printed maps. I know a lot of you are infatuated with your electronic gizmos, but the reality is they can break or malfunction -- or get wet. Then you're up sh**t creek without a paddle.

Mike
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Re: High Water

Postby Cross Country » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:26 pm

This is a story about some one who escaped (got out). The person (or people) who didn't escape are lying dead, unfound in the Sierra right now. We're not going to read their stories. We'll find out about them (maybe) when the snow melts. Hey people, lets make some intelligent decisions about where and when to go this year. Don't be stubborn and think you just have to get into the high country soon. You might never get out! I took too many chances in the BC, but still knew that I like BP in the summer which is not snow camping. I could have done that every April and May, but didn't. If you're so willing to fight the snow why don't you have two hight country trips under your belt already. July is usually the time for Summer BP, but not in the high country this year. I'll bet there is some Summer BP in North West Yosemite this July.
Last edited by Cross Country on Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: High Water

Postby richlong8 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:32 pm

This could happen to anyone. Two lessons: 1) when you travel solo, it's best to be very conservative in terms of the risks you take. The hiker could easily have died in that stream. He's lucky he didn't hit his head and knock himself out. Far better to get a little wet, with his boots on, then to risk that leap over an icy stream bank. I know, I know -- that's easy to say from the comfort of my office chair. 2) electronic devices are no substitute for printed maps. I know a lot of you are infatuated with your electronic gizmos, but the reality is they can break or malfunction -- or get wet. Then you're up sh**t creek without a paddle.

Mike



Well said. Be careful out there. That is a reminder to myself too as I take off at sunrise Friday am for 6 days at higher elevations.
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Re: High Water

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri Jul 01, 2011 8:26 am

And here's a story about someone who didn't make it: Yosemite hikers swept away by runoff. They were crossing the Wapama Bridge at the end of a 4-day trip*. One confirmed dead, another missing.



*Which makes it a much tougher call. Relatively easy to call off the trip or re-route on the way in, but when the stream is between you and getting home...
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Re: High Water

Postby Carne_DelMuerto » Fri Jul 01, 2011 9:04 am

That is terrible to hear. I think it gives us all pause.

I'm headed into Emigrant in two weeks and have been hammering my crew with warnings about creek crossings in an effort to prepare them.
Wonder is rock and water and the life that lives in-between.
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Re: High Water

Postby Ikan Mas » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:04 am

:soapbox:
This blog from the PCT through hiker that almost bought the farm really shows that there is some stupidity out there. I would call that a near miss to death. How many things did she do wrong? Makes me think there are probably a couple of bodies out there in the snow this season. Scary, truly scary. I pity the Boy Scouts that will stumble upon their bones in a couple of years. Sorry to be so grim, but this really steams me. I'll get off my soapbox now.
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Re: High Water

Postby Coolbreeze » Sat Jul 02, 2011 11:44 am

Mike M. speaks words of wisdom. I have to agree with Ikan Mas here, as well. Don't want wet feet? Relying solely on a phone for navigation? Looking in bear boxes for maps? #-o There's one hell of an alert guardian angel out there somewhere.
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