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Tracking Historical Weather Info??
#57493 06/27/20 01:25 PM
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Hello All!


I've been trying to find the best way to track the historical weather for Whitney's Trail Camp and Summit for the month of October. I'm a few short months out and I want to do my best in securing the most appropriate gear for the adventure!! I know it will be cold, but how cold? I want to measure over a decent amount of time what the average temperatures for those elevations were in the past so I know what to expect; additionally how much snow will be on the ground? Will I be sinking into 1' of snow?!

Any and all insight/suggestions/help is greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Re: Tracking Historical Weather Info??
Saximus03 #57494 06/27/20 02:59 PM
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October weather high on the mountain typically varies between balmy summer temps to several feet of snow. If you find a good database and calculate carefully you will find that the precise average falls somewhere in between. If you look back here just a week ahead, you can find out whether it has snowed already, but no accurate prediction of temperature.

If snow has fallen, you may find that the summit ridge has less snow depth that trail camp because high winds can strip it off while it is falling or afterwards.

It -will- be cool at night. You can quote me on that.

Good luck!

Dale B. Dalrymple

Re: Tracking Historical Weather Info??
Saximus03 #57500 06/28/20 08:45 AM
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I have been on top of Whitney 11 times. 9 out of 11 of those times have been in October (all parts of October too - early, mid and late). I have seen it all with regards to weather during October summits. From 18" of snow at Outpost camp, heavy snow falling at the trail-head, sub-freezing temps (not to mention bone chilling wind chills), white outs less than a mile from the summit, crazy windstorm at trail crest.. all the way to perfect cool sunny weather the entire hike. One time on the summit in mid October, it was 10F with a wind chill that felt like death! Then a year later it was sunny and 50F!!!

So, looking back I can say that out of those 9 times that I have day hiked Whitney, 3 summits have been perfect weather.

What to expect? Well, from my data and experience there will be a 66.7% chance that you will have unfavorable weather.

Keep your eye out for weather by checking the NWS weather link on the left of this page. Be prepared for anything.

Best of luck.

Re: Tracking Historical Weather Info??
fit2climb #57504 06/28/20 02:25 PM
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Saximus03:
fit2climb's experiences give you a good idea of how variable it can be. It's just the luck of the draw, so watching the forecast just before you go is the best you can do. This sounds like a first-time trip, so I'd suggest you cancel if weather looks anything other than pleasant.

If I were you, I'd try to go earlier -- first two weeks in September are better chances of good weather, and the days are definitely longer. Starting mid-August, check the recreation.gov site often, and see if you can grab a no-show or canceled permit. Some show up just a day or two before the hike date. Not sure about this year, though, since it is all on-line, and it depends on how Inyo N.F. is handling the check-in process.

If you have all your gear ready to go on short notice, this would make for a better trip.

Re: Tracking Historical Weather Info??
Saximus03 #57509 06/29/20 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Saximus03
! I know it will be cold, but how cold? I want to measure over a decent amount of time what the average temperatures for those elevations were in the past so I know what to expect;

Saximus03, I can't help with the snow part of of your original query, but if you want to do a mini study of temperatures at Trail Camp and the Summit, there's a decent source for some proxy data using the "Mount Whitney Weather" link on the left side of the page. Click on that, then click on the "Cottonwood Lakes" link. That brings up a searchable record going back nearly 20 years, charting daily temperatures - sometimes 20 readings a day - including high and low. They report it in graphical form for 7 day periods, so it's easy to see the temperature swings over the day and across the calendar.

The reporting station is roughly 5-6 miles south of Trail Camp. The State Department of Water Resources, which manages the station, indicates that it sits at 10,150 feet. So, it's not exact, but if you use a rule of thumb - something like 3 degrees cooler per 1000 feet gained - for differences in elevation, you can get a rough estimate of Trail Camp (12,000+/-) and Whitney summit (14,500+/-) temperatures.

Re: Tracking Historical Weather Info??
Saximus03 #57510 06/29/20 12:58 PM
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There can be a big difference between October 1st and October 31st. Several years ago the Labor Day forecast indicated rain, but then the temperature dropped and the Sierra were blasted with blizzard conditions for four days over that weekend. Two people died on Whitney and two more died in the Bishop Creek drainage. Our SAR team carried out the bodies. You need to be prepared for whatever Nature throws at you. Snow historical statistics are not always an indicator of how low the temperatures will be. Cold without much snow can still be deadly. Always check weather forecasts for at least a couple of weeks ahead and equipment yourself accordingly.

My rule of thumb after October 1st is do be ready for full-blown winter conditions, and bail-out if things get gnarly. Meaning that if snow-fall accumulates over an inch an hour for an hour, this means potential trouble ahead and be prepared to head down-hill.

How cold you asked? Cold enough to make hiking and camping really uncomfortable and potentially life-threatening. Water bottles and toes freezing, etc, etc. It isn't the beach.

Last edited by Bob West; 06/29/20 01:09 PM.
Re: Tracking Historical Weather Info??
Bob West #57511 06/29/20 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob West
....Several years ago the Labor Day forecast indicated rain, but then the temperature dropped and the Sierra were blasted with blizzard conditions for four days over that weekend...Cold without much snow can still be deadly.

Yes, even clear skies in September doesn't mean safe weather. We last spent the night at Trail Camp on 9/22/16. Perfectly clear skies, but the temperature that night was somewhere below 15. I found the Cottonwood Lakes temperature link while trying to answer the question: "How cold was it?" (17 was reported). I know that wasn't normal, but be prepared for life-threatening cold, even before 10/1.


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