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#23881 - 05/11/12 07:34 AM "Low Snow Year"
MooseTracks Offline

Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 582
Loc: Bishop, CA, United States
My friend Bex posted this shot earlier this week as she flew over the Sierra:

Rock Creek is at the lower left, and you can see the long north ridge of Mt. Tom (grumble) just above it.

(On a lighter note, Bex asked jokingly about naming all the peaks in the photo. I simply replied, "Mine.")

From a slightly lower angle, just below the summit of University, looking north a few weekends ago:

And, finally, looking at Forester Pass from University:

Now, why post these?

I've seen an interesting trend this season, which I'm sure comes along every once in a while during a low snow year. I've only been around a few seasons, so it's new to me, but I'm a mite disturbed since I keep seeing the phrase "low snow year" bounced around to mean "no snow year". Yes, there are always the people heading out who ask about taking the "right" gear along, but the misconception seems to run a bit deeper this year (or maybe I'm just being my overly-sensitive self, as usual).

Yes, there was less snowfall in the Sierra than average this winter.

Yes, the warmer temps are starting the melt-out earlier (Tioga Pass is OPEN!).

Yes, really funky snow conditions still exist in most of the high country.

This winter, while drier than others, produced a solid ice layer, and many crust layers, since the storms were very much spread out. Huge temperature changes led to poor bonding and formation of more sugar than consolidation. Even the past few weekends have seen vastly different conditions on a daily basis. (You can see pics from The Matterhorn and the Hourglass Couloir from last weekend on my flickr page.

So, what does this all mean:

Nothing new. Nothing unusual. Be alert. Be prepared. Conditions WILL vary, sometimes from step to step (we went from crusty hard pack on the glacier to rotten sugar over ice in the NE Couloir of The Matterhorn last weekend). Don't assume ANYTHING. These slopes that we're climbing are not flat: microspikes are LESS than optimal, and completely useless if you have to front-point anything. Know how to self-arrest: the head of your axe is not the brake when you're glissading.

Just a note of caution to everyone. I'll resume packing for the weekend now.

Y'all be safe out there.

-L cool


Flickr Pics

Think outside the Zone.

#23886 - 05/11/12 11:17 AM Re: "Low Snow Year" [Re: MooseTracks]
RoguePhotonic Offline

Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
Sounds like solid advice.

I actually think the low snow year will put me at greater risk when I begin my hike this year. I'm sure to encounter nasty post holing on talus fields that could slice up my legs.

#23889 - 05/11/12 12:53 PM Re: "Low Snow Year" [Re: RoguePhotonic]
wbtravis Offline

Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...

I could not have said it any better. My last SoCal snow trip convinced me winter was over in these parts. The snow was not worth the fight. However, there are still freezing temperatures at upper reaches of the Sierra making climbing fun in the morning and glissading semi-safe in the early to mid afternoon.

One more paragraph of advice to those using these tools for the first time at Mt. Whitney...Don't leave your crampons on when glissading and don't sit your rear end down on any type of plastic bag while glissading. Doing either can put you into Southern Inyo Hospital or worse.

#23894 - 05/11/12 02:17 PM Re: "Low Snow Year" [Re: wbtravis]
saltydog Offline

Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1566
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
The shots from University are really impressive. Stark contrasts among areas that look completely clear and others socked in at the same elevations. Very telling
Wherever you go, there you are.

#24079 - 05/17/12 07:18 AM Re: "Low Snow Year" [Re: saltydog]
MooseTracks Offline

Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 582
Loc: Bishop, CA, United States
Just a little something out of Tuolumne from last weekend...

Getting Stronger.

Flickr Pics

Think outside the Zone.