Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

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Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by WikiReader » Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:40 am

Hi, this is my first post in this community! I don't have too much shoulder season backpacking experience in the High Sierras. Can tolerate some wetness and cold but not snow camping.

I've permits to go up Kearsarge pass from Onion Valley to Rae lakes Oct 6th-8th. Planning to camp near BullFrog lake (10800') for 2 nights. There is a mild snowstorm on currently. NWS-NOAA http://www.nws.noaa.gov/wtf/ud ... %2C&area=9 says sunny days, max 45F, min 25F, winds 10-20 mph, 30% chance of rain/snow storm Sat night, 2" snow with snow level 10500'+ during the weekend. Would the snow melt soon or should I expect to camp and hike in the snow? Is winter gear (eg. crampons) required? It seems a little early in the season for that...

I apologize if this is not the right place; I tried searching but could not find relevant information elsewhere. I appreciate any insight from y'all and am excited to be here!








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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by rightstar76 » Wed Oct 03, 2018 3:02 am

Dear WikiReader,

After reading your post, I took a look at the NWS forecast discussions for Hanford, Reno, and Las Vegas. They mention light snow and unseasonably cool temperatures along with northeasterly winds. Even if it doesn't snow much, what does remain could become icy requiring crampons and mountaineering skills. At best, it will be windy and cold.

You didn't ask for advice, but I will give you it to you anyway. If it were me, I would change my plans and go backpacking someplace lower in elevation like the western side of the Golden Trout Wilderness near Quaking Aspen. That's what I did one October after a snow storm. I remember being in Grey Meadow and looking north toward the Great Western Divide which was covered with snow. Gorgeous view. Although temperatures were pleasant during the day, it got cold around 5 o'clock each afternoon and then dropped below freezing at night. Dress warm! :)

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by JayOtheMountains » Wed Oct 03, 2018 11:48 am

If it's snowing, you need winter skills. Navigation, travel, shelter, meals, clothing, and etc. Whether you have used them is another story. Though it's forecasted for 2", remember that it's snowing now and this is an additional 2" above what is already on the ground. Temps will be cold, the wind will be sharply cold. You could get by with trail runners and micro-spikes, but it would not be ideal. Probably would be better to have sturdy boots and crampons - just in case. But then you'd need to have the rest of the winter accessories.

That's not to say not to go, but you need to assess your skill and experience and determine whether this is something that you can tackle. Each individual is different; and don't assume that everyone in your party is on par with your assessments of skills and abilities. 1-3" today and tomorrow. 2-5" Saturday; plus wind.

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by TurboHike » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:22 pm

The last time I checked, Bullfrog Lake was closed for camping. Maybe someone else here can verify this. The switchbacks near the top on the south side of Glen Pass are somewhat steep. In snowy conditions, I would want traction devices.

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by WikiReader » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:35 pm

Hi @rightstar76 and @JayOtheMountains,

Thank you for your quick and helpful responses!

@rightstar76, I heard from the rangers that the snow melts fast but I did not consider the possibility of ice over rocks. Thanks for that. Definitely considering changing the plan. It's just that these permits were hard to get all summer and now that I finally have them, conditions unfortunately aren't ideal =/

@JayOtheMountains, where do you get these figures of snowfall from? The wind seems to be a mild 10 mph (not to underestimate its effects)? Thanks for those pointers - will definitely be going (if going) with all the layers, waterproofing, boots, yaktrax/microspikes, topo maps, hand warmers, extra nutrition, etc. I've not taken a mountaineering course, not done winter backpacking, and I've a low risk appetite so will factor this into account.

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by WikiReader » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:40 pm

@TurboHike , you're right. Meant to camp more than 1/4 mi from Bullfrog lake, maybe closer to Charlotte lake or Kearsarge lakes. Source: https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/ ... inal-3.pdf

Thanks for the heads up about Glen Pass.

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Wed Oct 03, 2018 2:42 pm

I would not write off the trip at this point, particularly if you specifically want to get some cold-weather experience. Watch the weather closely. Often a 30% chance now will be revised to 50% or more by the time you start. In that case you need a "Plan B". I doubt you would have difficulty getting a permit to any location this time of year.

Or it could be less. A 30% chance of 2" of snow is not that serious of a storm, but you do not want to get stuck on the other side of Kerasarge Pass, or worse, on the other side of Glenn Pass and have the storm get worse. You could just camp at Matlock Lake on the east side (there is a use-trail to this very scenic Lake), and day-hike over Kearsarge Pass to Kearsarge Lakes, if the weather cooperates. If you camp on the east side, it is easy to bail out. If on the other hand the storm does not materialize, you could then stick to your original plan.

If you want to gain experience in shoulder season weather, start with a little snow, camp at a location with an easy retreat and bring sufficient clothing (OK to start out with too much and pare down as you gain more experience).

Storm or not, it will be cold and it is likely not to be a very pleasant trip. If the storm is simply a skiff of snow, that is actually easier to deal with than a cold rain that then turns to a wet snow.

Because of the uncertainty of fall weather, I never reserve a permit. That keeps everything very flexible and I feel no obligation to do a trip just because I have a permit. I keep and eye on weather and "make hay when the sun shines" and simply get a first-come permit if I decide to go out

Camping is not allowed at Bullfrog Lake; may not apply in winter, but probably does early Oct.

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by WikiReader » Wed Oct 03, 2018 3:44 pm

@Wandering Daisy , terrific and very helpful advice! All duly noted.

On Caltopo https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=36.7671 ... o=n&n=0.22 I can see that this unmarked lake like feature is Matlock lake but I don't see the side use trail. Definitely added to list of options depending on weather. There seem to be other lakes as well (Gilbert, Heart, Flower lake, etc) on the eastern side which could be options too I guess.

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by TurboHike » Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:16 pm

WikiReader wrote:
Wed Oct 03, 2018 3:44 pm
@Wandering Daisy , terrific and very helpful advice! All duly noted.

On Caltopo https://caltopo.com/map.html#ll=36.7671 ... o=n&n=0.22 I can see that this unmarked lake like feature is Matlock lake but I don't see the side use trail. Definitely added to list of options depending on weather. There seem to be other lakes as well (Gilbert, Heart, Flower lake, etc) on the eastern side which could be options too I guess.
I'll second Daisy's recommendation for Matlock. Very beautiful setting, only about 3 miles or so from the parking lot, last time I was there my son and I were the only people there. As for the trail, it is there. You can see it on Google Earth, it connects the outlet end of Flower Lake to the north end of Matlock Lake, switchbacking up and over the obvious ridge on the topo map. I did not see a sign at Flower Lake, I just walked in the direction of Matlock and the trail became obvious once I got to the ridge and started uphill.

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Re: Early Fall mild snowstorm in SEKI Sierra Crest; how would conditions be?

Post by TurboHike » Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:17 pm

On Caltopo, click on the 7.5' map, it shows Matlock.

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