2018 Backcountry Conditions Reports

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.
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CAMERONM
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Thousand Island Loop June 17-19

Post by CAMERONM » Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:04 pm

Reds>JMT>Island pass>return Middle Fork to Agnew Meadows
While there were a few snow patches left on the trails, notably on the south hill descent of Garnet, it is all soft stuff that will go away in a few days, absolutely no traction required. Patches of mosquitos near water, but quite tame. The real news is from the PCT hikers: apparently the postholing at Muir Pass the first and second week of June was really tough. One person mentioned Forester as well, but Muir was the common topic. Lots of people carrying crampons; no one used them. Lots of flowing water, but not as much as last year, and very manageable. Saw extremely few JMT hikers, and about 20 NOBO PCT hikers per day. One SOBO JMTer who had never fished in his life before caught 3x12" at Thousand Island. Others who were carrying poles caught nothing and were shocked to get this report. I saw many fish attempting to swim upstream or at least were hopping around a lot at the bridge at the end of Thousand island.








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BayHiker
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Red Peak Pass loop 6/23-6/26

Post by BayHiker » Wed Jun 27, 2018 10:57 am

Route: Yosemite Valley > Illilouette Creek > Ottaway Lakes > Red Peak Pass > Triple Peak Fork > Merced Lake > Yosemite Valley

Difficult sections:

Patchy snow between lower Ottaway Lake and upper Ottaway Lake, and again above the upper lake as you ascend Red Peak Pass. You can rock-hop around most of it, the snow quality is okay (not punching all the way through), and trail-finding isn't bad. There's a cairn just past the last snow patch on the south side.

The first switchback on the north side of Red Peak Pass is covered in snow, and the slope is maybe 30-35* with a non-trivial drop onto talus. I had my ice axe out for this section in case of a fall, but the afternoon snow was so soft (and the run-out not all that long) that I'm not sure I could have self-arrested anyway.

Most of the rest of the switchbacks down the north side of the pass are clear, but then the rest of the basin below the pass is covered in snow and pretty well sun-cupped. After crossing the main snowfield, you can get to a large section of exposed rock and then rock-hop most of the rest of the way back to the trail. The snow is still pretty deep in places: even in squishy afternoon conditions, sinking 8-10", I'd still find plenty of firm snow underneath. That said, it's melting fast, and the farther down I got out of the main snowfield, the more paranoid I became about punching through a snow bridge into water.

Special equipment needed/used:
- Microspikes
- Ice axe
- Trekking poles with snow baskets

I wore the spikes, but the snow was soft enough in the afternoon that I'm not sure they made a lot of difference. I had my axe out & ready for the one steeper section near the top of Red Peak pass and used it for balance but did not try to self-arrest. Traveling over the lower-angle snow, the snow baskets on my poles were helpful.

Possible alternative routes:

Not sure there are any yet. Extending farther south might work, but Isberg Pass still looked pretty snowy on the north side - not much better than Red Peak Pass. For now, going in the morning with firmer conditions would probably be better.
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KathyW
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New Army Pass / Cottowood Pass 6/29-7/1

Post by KathyW » Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:37 am

No snow going over New Army Pass. It is dry out there. There is no water between Cottonwood Pass and the crossing at Rock Creek.
Last edited by maverick on Mon Jul 02, 2018 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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redbear
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SF Big Pine>Southfork>Frozen Lake>Cartridge>Taboose 6/28-7/1

Post by redbear » Thu Jul 05, 2018 1:57 pm

Last week my friend and I done a loop from South Fork Big Pine creek TH. We started on Thursday, June 28th and returned on Sunday July 1st. Our route was: via the Southfork and Mather passes into Upper basin, then into the Lakes basin via the Frozen lake pass, then into the SF Kings River canyon via Cartridge pass, exited via Taboose pass.

I realize how fresh beta can help in trip planning, and am sorry I don't have time to post a complete report, but most of the passes and areas we went through can be seen on my Instagram account - serge_chalik.

Briefly:
SF Big Pine creek crossing was easy, water level at about knee high and flowing moderately at the crossing (around 8 am).
Approach to Southfork pass was mostly snow beyond Finger Lake and all snow in the West chute, snow was very good in mid-afternoon - semi-firm, we used axes and had no crampons.
Frozen Lake pass is free of snow in the upper part, some easy low angle snow on the approach but can be avoided if chosen.
Cartridge pass is free of snow.

Mosquitos:
Area near Willow lake - 4
Lake 11774 past Southfork pass - 0-1
Lakes basin - 3-4
Lake 10632 in Lakes basin - 4
Marion Lake - 5
SF Kings River - 2-3
Tarns past Taboose pass - 1

Take it with a grain of salt as conditions change daily/hourly.
I can also answer any beta questions via PM.
Below is an image of the upper part of Southfork pass:
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Last edited by redbear on Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:56 am, edited 4 times in total.

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cgundersen
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Re: 2018 Backcountry Conditions Reports

Post by cgundersen » Thu Jul 05, 2018 2:37 pm

Holy smokes redbear! That is one heckuva circuit! Nice work, cameron

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commonloon
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SHT Roads End to Mammoth 6/28-7/2

Post by commonloon » Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:16 pm

I did a mostly SHR point-to-point hike (e.g. I skipped the Palisades as I had just been thru last recently) from Roads End to Mammoth June 28 thru July 2. I found LOTs of wild flowers and mosquitos, very little snow in general, although the Bear Lakes basin, Gabbot Pass, etc. (north side) had bits. Never needed the ice axe, I brought as a precaution. I used it once on Feather Pass to make a quicker descend. All of it was in really good shape, except Snow Tongue Pass which was drier, looser and sketchier than it had been when I have previously been over it. No Snow tongue! I missed the safer glissade down the right side.

The only stream crossing of note was Mono Creek. It was still a bit high/fast. I crossed at the trail, but in hindsight it would have been safer likely via a blow down or at another spot.

Redbear: I think we briefly met at the top of Mather Pass(?).

Get out there! But bring your repellent and bug layers.

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redbear
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Re: 2018 Backcountry Conditions Reports

Post by redbear » Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:41 pm

Yes, I suppose we did meet!
You were the guy who just descended Frozen Lake pass, right?
I think I have you in one of my pics...
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commonloon
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Re: 2018 Backcountry Conditions Reports

Post by commonloon » Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:57 pm

Yes, that was me. Good to meet you guys!

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redbear
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Re: 2018 Backcountry Conditions Reports

Post by redbear » Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:38 pm

Likewise!

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adkins
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Pine Creek-Desolation Lake 7/10-7/14

Post by adkins » Sun Jul 15, 2018 1:30 pm

Subject: Pine Creek TH-> Desolation Lake -> Pine Creak TH 7/10 - 7/14


Route: Pine Creek TH -> Elba Lake -> Hutchinson Meadow -> Desolation Lake -> Upper Golden Trout Lake -> Pine Creek TH

Difficult section encountered on this trip

Rock slides on the switchbacks between Pine Creek TH and Pine Lake:
Rockslides on Pine Creek trail were caused by rains throughout the night of 7/12. Four switchbacks are blocked by rock slides in a significant way. I do not have pictures of the slides, as we were hurrying to get past them before nightfall. Locations are of varying accuracy, as noted in the descriptions below. Avoidance/navigation descriptions are from the view of descent.

- Descending from Pine Lake, obstacle (1) requires about 20 feet of class 2 navigation over top of loose talus. Least confident location, but location relative to other obstacles and start of switchbacks is correct.
- Obstacle (2) is one switchback below (1) and was avoided by skipping down to the next switchback with ~30ft of class 2 scramble. See above for location confidence.
- Obstacle (3) is the most significant, and can be avoided by taking an old/unused trail that meets back up with the primary trail one (large) switchback lower - about 300ft of travel according to google maps. This requires about 30ft of class 2 scramble over talus to get onto the old trail in addition to navigating around trees/talus that have fallen onto the old trail itself. Confident about location of slide, and start of old trail (which is right next to the "trail" sign and the intersection of the trail and the mining access road). I do not know exactly where the old trail meets back up with the primary trail, which would be necessary for an ascent. We may not have made it past this point without receiving advice from a ranger at the top of the switchbacks about the old trail.
- Obstacle (4) looks impassable upon approach, but is at the very edge of a switchback, and one can drop down the lower switchback with about 10ft of class 2 scramble.
- In addition to these major obstacles, the entire section of trail was covered in debris, and there were 10+ slides consisting of loose dirt and smaller rock covering the trail for stretches of 10-30ft.
pine_creak_trail_slides.png
Crossing Pine Creek below Pine Lake and above Upper Pine Lake:
- Above Upper Pine Lake the three bands of Pine Creek are merged at the trail. Water is thigh deep, not moving very quickly, 50-70ft wide.
- Pine Creek below Pine Lake has significant flow and is waist deep, 20-30ft wide at the point the trail crosses the creek. Successfully crossed as a pair, but would have explored alternative/upstream routes if solo.

Special equipment needed/used:
- Trecking Poles

Possible alternative routes:
- See above, and consider avoiding the area due to the dangers associated with active rock slides.
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Last edited by maverick on Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: subject updated

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