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#35933 - 04/21/14 09:27 AM Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal
mwood Offline


Registered: 03/31/14
Posts: 6
Loc: United States
I am planning a hike from Onion Valley to Whitney Portal First week of May. As far as I can tell Bear Can is not required (correct me if I am wrong) However would it still be recommended? Do I have to worry about marmots that early in season? Any advice about this trip is welcome. Thanks

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#35935 - 04/21/14 10:19 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: mwood]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7392
Loc: Fresno, CA
First week of May? Over Forester Pass? Are you taking snow shoes? Ice axe and crampons?

Did you see the pictures of the snow level at Tioga Pass here? Tioga Pass is at 10,000' elevation. That is about the average elevation of your hike.

Not sure about the canister, but they offer peace of mind. You might need a shovel to dig snow away from the bear boxes.


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#35938 - 04/21/14 11:51 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: Steve C]
John Sims Offline


Registered: 04/20/12
Posts: 530
Loc: Sunnyvale, California
Even more daunting, how to get to top of Whitney, and down to the portal. Unless you are taking crampons, ice axe, and have good self arrest skills you may want to consider the timing of this hike.

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#35940 - 04/21/14 12:21 PM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: John Sims]
mwood Offline


Registered: 03/31/14
Posts: 6
Loc: United States
I don't intend to bring snow shoes, I was hoping to get away with microspikes but crampons are an option and yes I am bringing a Ice axe. I am hoping with the drought and low snowfall it will be easier than most years. I do keep in mind I am planning a mountain trip from the comfort of sunny florida and my options are very open. I would like to safely make the trip from Onion Valley to the portal first week of May. I do understand risk involved and safety is first.I could use advice more then warnings at this point. Thanks. I am really hoping someone will post some current trip reports and pics soon.

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#35941 - 04/21/14 12:52 PM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: mwood]
John Sims Offline


Registered: 04/20/12
Posts: 530
Loc: Sunnyvale, California
mwood,

Yes, very few trip reports this year. You can use the search function, and go back to 2013. Use the advanced function, and specify trip reports, and dates (not sure why not further back). Two reports from Late May, 2013:
http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads...s_Of_#Post31460

http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthreads..._5_26#Post31559

Although this year has so far been dryer than last, we did get snow later, so conditions may be similar/better/worse????

I have seen one report that mentioned lots of ice on the back side of Whitney. Who knows by the time you get there, but the decent down the East side will certainly involve snow/ice. Depending on the time of day, the temp, etc... the conditions could be either great for glissade, or very icy.

Keep watching the trip reports section. very possible there will be some posts with more current information.

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#35942 - 04/21/14 03:02 PM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: mwood]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7392
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: mwood
I don't intend to bring snow shoes, I was hoping to get away with microspikes but crampons are an option and yes I am bringing a Ice axe. I am hoping with the drought and low snowfall it will be easier than most years. I do keep in mind I am planning a mountain trip from the comfort of sunny florida and my options are very open. I would like to safely make the trip from Onion Valley to the portal first week of May. I do understand risk involved and safety is first.I could use advice more then warnings at this point. Thanks. I am really hoping someone will post some current trip reports and pics soon.

Ok, you are serious, and going into this with both eyes wide open. So not trying to warn you off...

Here is my take: I am 99% sure you won't meet anyone else doing the Onion Valley to Whitney trip the first part of May. It is rare for people to head out that early, so it is extremely rare to see a trip report. When you go in to pick up your permit, rangers will probably give you the same cautions that you are reading here.

Whether drought or not, I am 90% sure you will be tramping for miles over snow. Granted, it should be pretty well consolidated this late in the spring, but travel will definitely be slower than hiking on dry trail. Crampons work fine on flat consolidated snow, so take them. They will be extremely helpful on any steep sections. Heavily waterproofed boots and gaiters will help keep your feet dry, but no guarantee -- hours of snow tramping usually make for wet boots if they are leather.

Please view this: Google images of "Forrester Pass ice chute" Forester Pass is the toughest section for PCT thru-hikers in heavy snow years, and they usually hit this by mid-June, so there are lots of pictures on the web. Even though it is a dry winter, you WILL encounter similar conditions the first week of May. So be SURE you descend the south side in the afternoon, giving the snow time to soften so you will have better footing rather than consolidated ice.

Just so you know... There one moderate stream crossing, Wallace Creek, at elevation 10,400'. It is in tall pines, so shaded. You will probably be stepping from snow into icy water, and back onto snow.

You have more will than I! If you accomplish this trip, I would sure love to see the pictures!

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#35960 - 04/22/14 09:34 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: Steve C]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1242
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Currently, there is a bunch of snow on north side of San Gorgonio (11,500') and Mt. Mallory, almost 14,000', near Mt. Whitney, friends climbed both of these places this past weekend.

Forester Pass from northside did not appear to be a major to do from my observations hiking in the early fall but I would not want do deal with descending its south side in the in the spring, if there was any ice around.

I would not attempt doing your proposed trip without ice axe, crampons and a basic to medium level skill set.

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#35963 - 04/22/14 11:01 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: mwood]
RoguePhotonic Offline


Registered: 12/08/09
Posts: 558
Loc: Bakersfield CA
I would certainly bring crampons. Microspikes just don't cut it on the steep angle snow you will encounter.

Also keep in mind that although as a whole the Sierra is very low this year it looks like up high above 10,000 feet there is allot more than previous years. This article outlines this:

http://www.pcta.org/2014/state-snowpack-pctjmt-high-sierra-18573/

It shows the Kern as being 42% of normal compared to 20% last year.
_________________________
FlickR

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#35970 - 04/22/14 05:49 PM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: RoguePhotonic]
mwood Offline


Registered: 03/31/14
Posts: 6
Loc: United States
Thanks guys I really appreciate the advice and hope there is more to follow. I would be interested in any other areas that you think will be troublesome.

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#35974 - 04/22/14 09:56 PM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: mwood]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1116
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: mwood
Thanks guys I really appreciate the advice and hope there is more to follow. I would be interested in any other areas that you think will be troublesome.

"Troublesome" kinda depends on your level of experience. Your concerns about marmots and bear cans are nothing compared to the steep icy slopes you'll be facing in early May. The backside of Whitney will also be dicey between the summit plateau and Trail Crest. The 99 switchbacks down from there will also be icey and dicey in spots as well, especially near the chains. This is all doable for someone experienced in winter mountaineering with proper equipment and knowledge, but we should be warning you if you're talking microspikes and marmots. People die doing this stuff so we should not be cheering you on blindly. Can you tell us a little more about your winter mountaineering experience outside Florida to calibrate our perspective.

I'm thinking you just need to rethink your start date to make this a great trip instead of a miserable epic undertaking that could lead to an undesirable outcome.

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#35976 - 04/23/14 12:20 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: SierraNevada]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7392
Loc: Fresno, CA
> I would be interested in any other areas that you think will be troublesome.

I think everything else is just covering miles of trail or snow, none of it significantly steep.

Now for a different perspective. Bob R hiked to Bighorn Park, and posted some pictures. Here's one. Bob's caption: Maria, Tracy, Davey, and Chris just dayclimbed Whitney

Maria is an Olympic speed skater from the Sochi Olympics, long program. Tracy and Davey just took over the Whitney Portal Hostel management. Tracy and Davey are hardcore distance hikers, but I've seen them shy away from the Mountaineers Route, so light on the technical side. If they are able to get up and back in a day, then I am thinking mwood will do fine. Davey has posted in the past, but doesn't write much. Mwood, you might phone up the Hostel and ask to talk to them. They can tell you what they encountered.


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#35980 - 04/23/14 06:43 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: Steve C]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1116
Loc: NorCal
Here's a link to a good article for some perspective on wintery conditions, which is what you'll see in May. You'll be traveling and camping mostly in the 10,000 - 13,000 ft range from Onion Valley south. Ned teaches winter mountaineering courses and often does an early check on Forester Pass conditions for the PCT hikers coming through (typically in June). Ned may have trail broken for you with some good beta on conditions at Mountain Education .

PCT Communicator Article

Here's a link from PCTA with comparison photos from early season and later season through the Sierra. This year in early May should be less difficult than June 2011, but it's still very early for any year, as we've been saying. There's a lot of snow at the higher elevations and it will be at or near peak runoff.

Sierra Comparison Photos

If you decide to take this on that early in the season, a trip report with pix would be valuable for others coming through. Just be sure to make a realistic assessment of your skillset relative to the challenges you will face.

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#35984 - 04/23/14 10:13 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: SierraNevada]
Paul Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 181
Loc: Santa Clarita, CA
SierraNevada......great link to comparison photos. They really tell the story of what it's like in early Spring. What they don't show is what happens when crossing a stream and you lose your footing, or losing your footing on a steep and icy slope.

This will be my 50th year of hiking in the Sierras and I have encountered all conditions, and cringe at the thought of people not understanding how easily it is to get into trouble.

thanks for the link.

Paul

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#36015 - 04/24/14 10:34 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: Paul]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1242
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Paul,

You mean you can still get into trouble if you have clampons, ice pick and cell phone?

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#36016 - 04/24/14 11:06 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: wbtravis]
Paul Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 181
Loc: Santa Clarita, CA
As Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory), would say, "sarcasm?" Rats, I can't get it right.

Paul

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#36039 - 04/24/14 07:53 PM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: Paul]
mwood Offline


Registered: 03/31/14
Posts: 6
Loc: United States
Here is a video all the traditionalists will enjoy....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFO6edbFCH8

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#36044 - 04/24/14 11:59 PM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: mwood]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7392
Loc: Fresno, CA
Thanks mwood! I hadn't seen that one before.

Here's a link to the Mile mile and a half thread -- The Muir Project was a group of people hiking that same year, and they made a video that has been showing in theaters around the country

Here's the thread: Mile mile and a half

There's another JMT video thread here, but I can't find it just now.

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#36048 - 04/25/14 07:35 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: mwood]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1116
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: mwood
Here is a video all the traditionalists will enjoy....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFO6edbFCH8

Another fun video from the epic 2011 season, thanks for the link. Many PCT hikers skipped the High Sierra in 2011 and then flipped back later in the season after the snow melted out.

This might be similar to what you're looking at in a couple weeks in early May. We're forecast to get another foot of snow this weekend in the Tahoe area, snowline dropping to 4,000 ft.

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#36100 - 04/27/14 12:46 AM Re: Bear Can in Early May Onion Valley to Portal [Re: Steve C]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7392
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: Steve C
Thanks mwood! I hadn't seen that one before.
...There's another JMT video thread here, but I can't find it just now.


Ah, found it. 1 hour 25 min long. Lots of nice views, great fishing, too. By John Amorosano:

John Muir Trail 2013 - A Journey Through The Range Of Light

18,285 view at this point. Good to watch. The intro still picture is Marie Lake, just north of Selden Pass.


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