Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

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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markskor
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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by markskor » Sat Jul 24, 2010 7:51 pm

Just returned Yosemite, albeit a few days early (TR to come...promise), with a few pertinent thoughts on this exact subject.
Now, I am somewhat skilled on ice and snow/ have practiced self arrest/know the importance of getting it done - now! Once upon a time, even took a class or two at Mammoth...never had to use it but...hike safe always my motto. I do have some backpacking experience; wear Vasque boots and carry poles - no ax or 'pons this trip. Anyway, just returned from this summer's route that foolishly included Red Peak's Pass, ..the north side was the only snow to be encountered...starting at Quartz Mountain TH, ending in Yosemite Valley.

FYI, Hiking solo sometimes requires some big Brass "Huevos"; even with all the self-knowledge and confidence, sometimes you just have to make that leap from granite to snow and hope.

There I was, atop the frickin’ 11,000 foot pass- solo, maybe 10:30 AM, not a cloud in the sky, looking down on 2 miles, maybe 2000 feet of elevation to immediately lose… the known trail lost somewhere under a stubborn white blanket, maybe 5% granite poking through, mostly just miles of snow with ‘cups.
The first 1/8 mile went well – a teaser…little did I know I was focked. Well, those big Brass ones soon came into contact with maybe 50 post-hole-to the-crotch delights (Big Brass soon turns into shrinking BB’s). Looking back, it would have been easier to go up immediately and abandon the route, but foolishly still thought it “easier” to go down.

There were three types of snow/suncups encountered that day: the ones that hold your weight, the ones that are snot-slick and ice-solid, and the ones where water has percolated beneath and appear solid, but are, in fact, only a dangerous crust. The trouble is that all three looked/look exactly the same.
I suppose that the worse part was falling through to the armpits, feet flailing, ice cold water visible …having to take off the pack…hoping not to watch it fall through…(it was the only way to get free). This happened twice. It took me 4+ hours to cover those 2 miles. I actually kissed the trail when I found it - dry.

The moral here is, no matter how experienced you are, traversing snow can be tricky and unpredictable. Be extra careful out there.


Mountainman who swims with trout






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Snow Nymph
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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by Snow Nymph » Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:14 pm

and always take the crampons off before glissading.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by fishmonger » Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:54 am

copeg wrote: - Stream/creaks and rivers - on average (and in spring) run lower in the AM rather than the PM.
last summer I had a few opportunities to test this - and in each case where I camped near a crossing and then checked water levels in the AM again. Well, in each case the water level was actually higher in the morning. This was mid July at Bear Creek and Evolution Creek. Water levels were high to begin with and in both cases, by morning they were about 2" higher than the evening before. Both days were sunny, no precip for days in advance on both crossings.

I suppose the warm weather could have driven a faster melt and then the water rose anyway, just not as much overnight as it would have over the coming day? Both crossings were at high water level for the season, so I would have expected some slowdown in the morning, but none of that happened. At 7-8am on the morning the water was higher than at 8pm the night before.

Perhaps the key to the water level change is frost in the upper elevations. That's a rather unpredictable thing, even in very early summer. Looking at air temps for Bishop Pass over the season, it can have a minimum temp above 50 starting in May, but can also freeze in late July if the conditions are right. If this is a frost related thing, it'll be a hit and miss with the stream crossings, but I guess if you're lucky and it gets really cold overnight, you can make a sketchy crossing a little easier if you wait for the morning. I just wouldn't abort a hike mid day expecting that the water level will be much lower in the AM. It may actually be higher!

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richlong8
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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by richlong8 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:42 am

This is an interesting post about someone who had a snow bridge break underneath them and was stuck in the creek under snow for three hours!
Location: Mineral King
Time:yesterday

http://www.nps.gov/seki/parknews/upload ... -15-11.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:47 am

Very lucky. Glad everything turned out OK. Another hypothermic trail runner. When doing an early season climb up Cloud's Rest, we were on top and up came two trail runners- with nothing on but shorts and tank tops- no pack or gear. One got a severe bloody nose. We had to loan them clothing as it took nearly half an hour to get the bleeding stopped. I suspect the trail runner at Mineral King had few warm clothes in her pack. I find this totally unprepared condition typical for many trail runners. Nobody plans on having an accident, but it happens. Given this story, I am further convinced that bright colored gear is good for safety. Did not say what color her pack was, but it sure was lucky that others saw it. Also in snow, it is good to have some kind of gear that works as a digging tool- ice axe, trekking pole, pooper scooper.

This reminds me of walking on a crevassed glacier. It can be really hot out in the sun on top of a glacier. But we are trained to have on warm clothing becuase if you fall in a crevasse it is like going into an instant ice box.

Given this news release, I assume the road to Mineral King roads end is now open. Is that correct?

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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by Troutdog 59 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:55 am

Very timely post Rich. Thanks! Reminds us all to be careful as we start heading out. And WD, the road must be open as I saw a Red pick up on the web cam about two days ago.
Once in a while you can get shown the light
In the strangest places if you look at it right.

The Grateful Dead

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richlong8
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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by richlong8 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 8:12 am

Yes, I heard they finally got it open. It was only open to Atwell Mill until recently. Stories like this is why I carry what I need to survive in the wilderness. Even on day trips, I have a minimum of a goretex jacket, water filter, compass, map, tiny first aid kit, and a way to start a fire. I am no "pack that walks like a man". I go as light as I can, but the object is to get back home, so I can go again. I recently watched that movie, 127 Hours, about the guy who cut his arm off to survive, Aron Ralston. Bad stuff sometimes happens to good people. Noone is invincible.

richard

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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by East Side Hiker » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:01 pm

I hope people take "the crampons off before glissading" (sounds like something the "Trailer Park Boys" would do). Glissading can be one of the most fun things to do if one is experienced, snow conditions are right, and one has an ice axe, and knows how to use it, in case of a mistake; but it can be extremely dangerous. I had a friend who got a compound fracture of his leg hitting rocks at the bottom of a great, exciting, long, glissade, from the Sierra Crest, and then couldn't properly arrest himself after he went out of control. The other three of us, who had gone before him and had been singing in glory, watched him hit the rocks full speed. This actually was in in the upper Green Cr. drainage (which has been in recent strings), and it is not fun to have to get a buddy out of the wilderness with a compound fracture, even in an area that's not "that" far from a trailhead.

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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by rlown » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:51 pm

East Side Hiker wrote:I had a friend who got a compound fracture of his leg hitting rocks at the bottom of a great, exciting, long, glissade, from the Sierra Crest, and then couldn't properly arrest himself after he went out of control. The other three of us, who had gone before him and had been singing in glory, watched him hit the rocks full speed. This actually was in in the upper Green Cr. drainage (which has been in recent strings), and it is not fun to have to get a buddy out of the wilderness with a compound fracture, even in an area that's not "that" far from a trailhead.
ESH, can you tell us what your group's procedure was for getting someone out with a compound fracture?

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Re: Snow Travel for the Inexperienced

Post by hikerchick395 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 8:31 am

I saw nice glissading tracks yesterday near Kearsarge Pass...straight down, crossing switchbacks, ending with a pile of snow against a small pine... :)

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