Considering the snowpack which is the better option

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waninggibbous
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Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by waninggibbous » Wed Apr 05, 2017 4:01 pm

Hi, just came across this forum and was excited to see all of the helpful conversations. I'm hoping to get some advice from some veteran Sierra backpackers as my experience has been limited to my lovely state of AZ. Before the deluge this winter I reserved a permit for 6/20 in Yosemite for a Cathedral Lakes TH start cutting over to Clouds Rest via Sunrise Lakes then down to the Valley. When it became very possible that Tioga Road may not be open by then, I reserved another permit for 7/18. Still worried about Tioga status, I made alternate plans on 7/5 for the Agnew Meadows, Ediza, TI Lake loop, hoping that the roads to that area would be open. My question is assuming both roads are open by early July, which would be the better option for a first time backpacking trip in the Sierra? Snow, mosquitoes, cold, crowds? My teenage son and husband will be with me and I want them to still love me at the end of the trip!

I should add - Both trips will be 3 nights. We are avid day hikers and have a few short backpacking trips under out belts. My son and I are very fit and my husband is getting there...We have never done any hiking in the snow. I hiked Mt. Humphreys in Flagstaff at 12K feet, and did have some altitude effects, so that may be a concern. We don't have many mosquitoes here in AZ, so a little worried about that as well.








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AlmostThere
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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by AlmostThere » Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:29 pm

The thing is, they plow Tioga Road. If your concern is snow on the trail, and you really don't want to be walking in snow for miles, judging the trip by the open road will probably make disappointment happen. You have to know how much snow is actually left in the high country.

Consider that Tuolumne Meadows campground is not allowing anyone to reserve sites for July - part of that is snow, the rest is just the fact that the staff have to repair and remove downed trees. Also, rockfalls and washouts that occur while snow is melting can close a road longer as well.

So I would call the Inyo office and the Yosemite office in May and ask them about the roads. Chances are good they'll have a better estimate than anyone here what's going on with the roads in late June and July. I know already because snowmobiling friends have been up 168 that that highway may be delayed even longer in opening because washouts are already obvious... and they do not plow that road.

As for me, my plans are to save trips from higher trailheads for August and September, to start from known good roads to lower trailheads for trips before then and to be prepared to walk in snow.

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maverick
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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by maverick » Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:35 pm

Hi Waninggibbous,

Welcome to HST!
Agree with the above comments, hold onto your permits, and wait till we get closer to you trip dates to make a decision. My preference would be the Minarets trip. :)
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waninggibbous
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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by waninggibbous » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:22 am

Thank you both for the info and advice. I don't think we would mind walking in the snow in July as it would be a welcome break to the brutal heat we will be enduring here at home in the desert, but I say that without knowing what hiking in the snow really entails. I would prefer to wait until August or September as well but, unfortunately, my son has to be back to school in early August. Do you suggest any type of traction devices for our shoes? If we do the Yosemite route, Cloud's Rest is on the itinerary and as the prospect of walking along that very narrow ridge is a fear I am attempting to overcome, the added danger of slippery snow or ice makes it even more daunting to me.

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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:34 am

So what you are actually saying is that you don't know if you would mind walking in the snow. What you're up against will be relatively firm, suncupped snow in the morning, and slushy junky postholing in messy, wet melting snow in the afternoon. Wet pants, wet socks, wet shoes, miles of it. Smashing through into melted snow beneath the snow (think icy cold water several inches deep). Slowing Waaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy down -- expected daily mileages dropping the deeper the snow gets.

Gear? I'd be thinking neoprene socks over thin wool socks, long waterproof gaiters, and avoiding Clouds Rest. Snowshoes would be a waste of weight unless there were still a couple feet or more of powder snow. By that time of year it'll be consolidated, so I leave snowshoes at home.

You would probably not need crampons, but microspikes and trekking poles might do the trick. But not on solid ice sheets. Without the wearer ever having practiced at all or ever receiving instruction, I don't advise just picking up crampons/ice axe -- avoid steep icy slopes altogether.

Water crossings are extremely dangerous -- avoid walking across snow over streams, it's a quick trip to hypothermia to fall through into running water. And the streams not covered by snow bridges will be deep, very fast, very cold, very dangerous -- avoid ropes and learn stream crossing techniques that are more likely to lead to actually getting across. Example: http://www.trailspace.com/articles/how- ... reams.html

Water is ALWAYS MORE DANGEROUS IN THE AFTERNOON during snowmelt. Sun on snow most of the day = increased water flow. If you are day hiking and intend to come back across something, and it is barely crossable in the morning, don't do it. Turn around. Plan water crossings earlier in the day if at all possible.

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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:11 am

I have done an early season route similar to your Yosemite trip (Memorial Day weekend, when Tioga Road was closed the night beforet due to short snowstorm). We started at Tenaya Lake, first having to cross the inlet, which was waist deep. Then it was almost total snow to the top of Clouds Rest. Lots of breaking trail, sometimes up to thighs. Not something you want to do if not experienced at this. On the other hand, I also hiked up Clouds Rest early, from Yosemite Valley, and there always is a well worn path in the snow up from that side, so at least you do not have to break trail. Personally, I do not mind getting soaked in snow. I just plan on getting wet and bring a few extra pairs of socks and have long johns to sleep in. By late June, if there is still a lot of snow, there usually are well worn paths on the more popular trails and you really do not sink in very much, but will post through when the snow is thin and the trail under it is a water. Yet, I would not recommend this as your first snow trip. There are other trails from Yosemite Valley that melt off early leaving only short sections of snow (such as Merced Lake), although some of the trail is knee deep in water. Hard to say until we see how the melt goes in May and early June.

Another thought, if you are coming from Arizona, Pine Creek (First - Seventh Lakes) is really pretty and tends to be dry, at least to Third Lake. You could camp at Thrid Lake and day-hike the upper lakes, which would still have some snow, but at least it would be without your big packs. There is nothing that is steep enough to need an ice axe.

Last year I did an early season (6/25-7/1) trip from South Lake to Dusy Basin. There is plenty to see even east of Bishop Pass, such as Chocolate Lakes, and Treasure Lakes. The east side of Bishop Pass holds snow on the steep upper part- usually a well-worn path, but very exposed- not the best if you do not have experience on snow, so getting into Dusy Basin is not likey to work for you.

Another nice early season trip would be to go to the west side first (Tehachipe Pass), do a trip from Kings Canyon (Like to Castle Domes on Woods Creek) and drive to Yosemite via Wawona entrance, drop to the Valley, day-hike, and return to the east side via Tioga Pass and if snow conditions are good, do an overnight into Ediza Lake via the River Trail in the Minarets. That definitely is more driving.

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waninggibbous
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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by waninggibbous » Thu Apr 06, 2017 1:19 pm

Thanks everyone. Looks like I need to do some more thinking. Thanks for the other options, Wandering Daisy. I will check them out, but wonder about the feasibility of getting new permits now. Also our dates are in July so maybe a little better than your early season treks? We do have reservations for the River Trail going to Thousand Island Lake and Ediza for July 5th. Do you think snow conditions would be better there? I think I'd rather do that one anyway as it seems less crowded than Yosemite.
Almost There, do you foresee the same type of conditions you described on the Minarets hike?

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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:02 pm

That's the way snow is in spring. The elevations are going to be similar -- 7000 - 10k, deeper the higher you go. Nearly everywhere -- it'll melt and refreeze at night until it consolidates, and keep doing it as it melts.

It's April and it's snowing again. Predicting a few feet more will fall over the weekend. I think Golden Trout in July. We might get into Dinkey for trail crew in August. The Dinkey lake basin is 8500-10000 feet.

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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:33 pm

Another thought. Keep the permits but make a Plan B, somewhere else, such as southern Utah. Trips this year in the Sierra, before mid-July, are all likely to have some if not a lot of snow. Maybe your plan is better for another year. But, keep an eye on conditions, you never know.

Even in a lower snow year, waiting until after mid-July is better in the Sierra. Late June-early July trips often have horrible mosquitoes. I usually deal with snow and do early (June) trips until the mosquitoes drive me out of the mountains. Usually that means a 2-week break early July.

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Re: Considering the snowpack which is the better option

Post by oldranger » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:23 am

Personally I like peak mosquito season! Usually good flowers, good fishing, fewer people. What more could you ask for?
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!

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