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  1. #41
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Thanks.
    Wayne

  2. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan428 View Post
    Does anyone have any experience with the classes offered through REI? I just took a mountaineering course that covered ice ax usage, quality of snow, crampons, etc. Wondering if anyone has specific recommendations for another course. Would really love to not have to skip the Sierra/flip flop. I'm starting the PCT on April 28.
    In addition to the AMC, the Alpine Institute, Sierra Mt Guides, and Backpacker hold winter backpacking classes. AI and SMG hold them in the Sierra which may be advantage if you're following up with JMT, PCT or Sierra heavy winter or normal winter conditions hikes.

  3. #43
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    BTW, I know of PCT thrus who took Sierra based winter backpacking skills classes pre high PCT snow yr NOBO thrus with early starting times. I didn't but in conversation virtually all said it assisted being more comfortable on their winter hikes including their PCT thrus.

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Out of Mind View Post
    I started the thread becauseI am heading into the Sierra for the first time - Backpacking the JMT - & in the course of research & planning, the current conditions began to unfold ie; the barrage of heavy snow storms (in some cases record setting) the region has been experiencing over the past month. This led me to research conditions in "high snow years". I have a healthy respect for wilderness and the indispensable value of knowledge-applied. These forums are a resource to exchange such knowledge. Suggesting that people, "put on your big boy pants and deal with it" helps no one and encourages the kind of foolish bravado that puts people in dangerous situations.



    Malto - You’ve shared a wealth of great firsthand info, per your earlier post in the thread. Judging from the quality of that earlier advice, I’m sure you mean well.
    Same team-It’s all good man ✌
    I have to apologize for my harsh post. It wasn’t directed at you or anyone else in particular. In no way was I encouraging foolish bravado that put people in dangerous situations. Rather, I believe if folks did a bit of real homework vs. relying on random Facebook post they would be better served. (In reality that is what this thread attempts to do.) To make up for my unhelpful comment I give you a link to what I believe is the smartest tactical hike of the PCT, Daniel entered the Sierra in May 2017 with both major snow AND raging streams. If you look at the listing under Pacific Crest Trail 2017 you will see some great actionable info. But more important is his blog, couple of highlights. See how he handles San Jacinto. I knew after reading that post that he make it to Canada. Second, when he gets into the Sierra, read how he scouts out the stream crossings. That is textbook how you can directly reduce the risk of stream crossings. A skill that makes it easier is knowing how to read a topo map. Rather you use a paper or an electronic map, knowing how to accurately read terrain is critical in knowing how to bypass dodgy crossings. Here’s the link and again sorry about the harsh tone.

    https://www.dwinsorphotography.com/n...g-new-website/
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  5. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    Yeah, but to some it can be misinterpreted as a callous disregard for the dangers by simply saying "just deal with it" when something like 3 people lost their lives trying to "deal with it" just a couple of years ago.
    Yes, seems the OP is taking the right approach to getting all the info. With increasing numbers of hikers, and some with less experience, we'll continue to see increased deaths this season I'm sure. You see enough videos out there of people who are "terrified" of a certain crossing, it "should be ok", and proceed anyway.
    Maybe only 1/1000 times they will fail, but if there are 5 such crossings and 500 people do it, then someone is likely to fail. I cringe watching people with overweight packs and mediocre footwork walk over thin log or "branch" bridges.

    The post below from the blog Malto referenced has the classic creek crossing conversation. "Is THAT the only option? ok!". High stakes decisions that need a high level of knowledge to have confidence in continuing.
    https://www.hikerbeta.com/sierra-sec...-to-fish-creek

  6. #46
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    As I was walking through the snow this morning I reflected back on my Sierra traverses and what makes a high snow year tough and what can be done to successfully hike the PCT in continuous snow. I suspect my conclusions will surprise many.

    1) Stream Crossings. This is the most overhyped discussion related to a high snow year. Can it be dangerous, yes. Can that danger be minimized? Absolutely! What does peak runoff look like? This picture shows what is normally Evolution Meadow.
    4DB3AE3A-1419-4026-94D0-811B111E59CB.jpeg
    June 20, 2011

    While a high snow year means the total runoff for the year will be higher that does not means that any particular day will be worse than any typical day in a lower snow year. Three things to help tactically manage stream crossings.
    -Scout the location. See the link in my earlier post. Patience is the key.
    -Day to day variation. Weather has a huge impact on the daily stream flows. Sun, high temperatures, warm rain and wind will increase flow. Cloudy, cold and misty days will decrease the flow. If you know there is a nasty stream crossing, you may be able to time that crossing to a more favorable window.
    -Time of day. Generally mornings have lower flow than evenings. You can see this variation along with day to day variations in this chart. Would you rather have crossed this stream on June 7th or June 12th? Sometime you just need to be patient. As a friend of mine likes to say “ Mother Nature doesn’t have a copy of your itinerary.”
    55391976-E6DD-4284-8DB0-FFEB3AD76B0E.jpeg

    2) Dangerous snow traverses. Can a misstep happen? yes. I took a short ride down the Forrester Pass snow chute before I self arrested. See the slide mark just below the crossing.
    72CEAADA-2FFD-4F04-9E48-8488FE5DD90A.jpeg
    This was one of two learning experiences that I had. The second was a fairly stressful crossing of the cornice on top of Mather. But even with these, the vast majority of hikers will be able to easily traverse these passes without issue. In my case the same issue contributed to both incidents, I hit those passes in the afternoon which I suggest avoiding like the plague especially on warm sunny days. Mather was was second pass of the day and was going great until the snow softened on the run up to the pass and I slowed to a crawl leaving me with a 2:00 crossing. Taking a less aggressive schedule and being more patient could have avoided both of these incidents. What else can be done to minimize this risk?
    - Fitness. Being able to move a bit faster will allow you take advantage of favorable windows.
    - Hike early, very early. In the morning the snow is generally rock hard and you can do some serious miles. Push later in the day and you will spend a lot of time slogging through muck.
    -Don’t be afraid to bypass sketchy traverses. When the trail is snow covered you are hiking a route not a trail. North of Sonora Pass we encountered a very sketchy snow traverse. While it was early evening, the snow on the north side was rock hard and the rocks a hundred feet below were even harder. The map snip below shows the PCT in blue. The red was the straight up and over that we did in 2011. The yellow was the SoBo route in May 2018 where I went low. Both routes safer. Net, don’t think you have to flow the trail. Learn to read the terrain and a topo map and plot out safer routes if needed.
    25C9562D-28A3-482C-AC99-F74A05526D89.jpeg

    In 2011 I slipped a half mile before this area and dislocated my shoulder from an old injury. Luckily I was hiking with someone for that section. They pulled my arm back into its socket then cut steps right up that mountain (red route) allowing gimpy me to follow in his footsteps. Here is a photo from below.
    F4E651C3-122D-4F5A-A043-7709C28D5E46.jpeg

    -Snow Travel. Learn to read the snow. Especially watch for signs of buried rocks and logs. The snow will melt out around them and the snow will collapse and postholing can’t even describe it, sometimes you can be waist deep in a hole. Be very careful on snow fields as you reach the edges or rocks, you often will get cavities in the snow. This is especially important on traverses. Take your time in those areas and morning is also your friend.
    3) While I believe stream crossings and dangerous snow are overhyped, the area that is a much bigger cause of people leaving is that the trail is physically and mentally tough. Your feet are at weird angles, you fall or posthole and have to pick yourself up. Walking through miles of soft snow makes you dream of the dry desert trail. Suncups drain energy. And imaging walking through miles of these drifts every time your drop below treeline.
    380A11D7-C1B4-4AFF-90CB-D1902D99B46A.jpeg

    Blowdown are also a much much bigger issue in high snow years and can be physically challenge to climb through hundreds in a day.
    2018FC7D-4F08-4FAB-8F82-2BF4D179AAA3.jpeg

    Your feet will be wet for hundreds of miles and you will see fish swimming up the few feet of trail that are visible. You can’t imagine the sheer amount of water everywhere. (I always laugh when folks suggest changing shoes for stream crossings.)
    6A29F002-6F43-456E-BA15-3AB46B637277.jpeg
    The Golden Cascades aka Golden Staircase just north of Mather

    Now here is the cool part. There is little training needed for this, this is pure grit and toughness. I saw many, including very experienced hikers quit the Sierra because it just wasn’t fun, and only a sadist would think it is. BUT, it is highly rewarding and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Why? Because you get to experience this.
    FF244CB0-80DA-49A8-9913-A1831348EFE0.jpeg
    And this
    C893EBE3-D1D7-4BE5-8E68-3B68EB26EE15.jpeg
    And this
    AB742529-BFE7-4FF2-ACB4-09CAE1308B2D.jpeg
    Attached Images Attached Images
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  7. #47
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    Thank you for such a detailed post Malto. Thanks to everyone for additional class recommendations! Appreciate all the info.

  8. #48

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    Glissades

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    As I was walking through the snow this morning I reflected back on my Sierra traverses and what makes a high snow year tough and what can be done to successfully hike the PCT in continuous snow. I suspect my conclusions will surprise many.

    1) Stream Crossings. This is the most overhyped discussion related to a high snow year. Can it be dangerous, yes. Can that danger be minimized? Absolutely! What does peak runoff look like? This picture shows what is normally Evolution Meadow.
    4DB3AE3A-1419-4026-94D0-811B111E59CB.jpeg
    June 20, 2011

    While a high snow year means the total runoff for the year will be higher that does not means that any particular day will be worse than any typical day in a lower snow year. Three things to help tactically manage stream crossings.
    -Scout the location. See the link in my earlier post. Patience is the key.
    -Day to day variation. Weather has a huge impact on the daily stream flows. Sun, high temperatures, warm rain and wind will increase flow. Cloudy, cold and misty days will decrease the flow. If you know there is a nasty stream crossing, you may be able to time that crossing to a more favorable window.
    -Time of day. Generally mornings have lower flow than evenings. You can see this variation along with day to day variations in this chart. Would you rather have crossed this stream on June 7th or June 12th? Sometime you just need to be patient. As a friend of mine likes to say “ Mother Nature doesn’t have a copy of your itinerary.”
    55391976-E6DD-4284-8DB0-FFEB3AD76B0E.jpeg

    2) Dangerous snow traverses. Can a misstep happen? yes. I took a short ride down the Forrester Pass snow chute before I self arrested. See the slide mark just below the crossing.
    72CEAADA-2FFD-4F04-9E48-8488FE5DD90A.jpeg
    This was one of two learning experiences that I had. The second was a fairly stressful crossing of the cornice on top of Mather. But even with these, the vast majority of hikers will be able to easily traverse these passes without issue. In my case the same issue contributed to both incidents, I hit those passes in the afternoon which I suggest avoiding like the plague especially on warm sunny days. Mather was was second pass of the day and was going great until the snow softened on the run up to the pass and I slowed to a crawl leaving me with a 2:00 crossing. Taking a less aggressive schedule and being more patient could have avoided both of these incidents. What else can be done to minimize this risk?
    - Fitness. Being able to move a bit faster will allow you take advantage of favorable windows.
    - Hike early, very early. In the morning the snow is generally rock hard and you can do some serious miles. Push later in the day and you will spend a lot of time slogging through muck.
    -Don’t be afraid to bypass sketchy traverses. When the trail is snow covered you are hiking a route not a trail. North of Sonora Pass we encountered a very sketchy snow traverse. While it was early evening, the snow on the north side was rock hard and the rocks a hundred feet below were even harder. The map snip below shows the PCT in blue. The red was the straight up and over that we did in 2011. The yellow was the SoBo route in May 2018 where I went low. Both routes safer. Net, don’t think you have to flow the trail. Learn to read the terrain and a topo map and plot out safer routes if needed.
    25C9562D-28A3-482C-AC99-F74A05526D89.jpeg

    In 2011 I slipped a half mile before this area and dislocated my shoulder from an old injury. Luckily I was hiking with someone for that section. They pulled my arm back into its socket then cut steps right up that mountain (red route) allowing gimpy me to follow in his footsteps. Here is a photo from below.
    F4E651C3-122D-4F5A-A043-7709C28D5E46.jpeg

    -Snow Travel. Learn to read the snow. Especially watch for signs of buried rocks and logs. The snow will melt out around them and the snow will collapse and postholing can’t even describe it, sometimes you can be waist deep in a hole. Be very careful on snow fields as you reach the edges or rocks, you often will get cavities in the snow. This is especially important on traverses. Take your time in those areas and morning is also your friend.
    3) While I believe stream crossings and dangerous snow are overhyped, the area that is a much bigger cause of people leaving is that the trail is physically and mentally tough. Your feet are at weird angles, you fall or posthole and have to pick yourself up. Walking through miles of soft snow makes you dream of the dry desert trail. Suncups drain energy. And imaging walking through miles of these drifts every time your drop below treeline.
    380A11D7-C1B4-4AFF-90CB-D1902D99B46A.jpeg

    Blowdown are also a much much bigger issue in high snow years and can be physically challenge to climb through hundreds in a day.
    2018FC7D-4F08-4FAB-8F82-2BF4D179AAA3.jpeg

    Your feet will be wet for hundreds of miles and you will see fish swimming up the few feet of trail that are visible. You can’t imagine the sheer amount of water everywhere. (I always laugh when folks suggest changing shoes for stream crossings.)
    6A29F002-6F43-456E-BA15-3AB46B637277.jpeg
    The Golden Cascades aka Golden Staircase just north of Mather

    Now here is the cool part. There is little training needed for this, this is pure grit and toughness. I saw many, including very experienced hikers quit the Sierra because it just wasn’t fun, and only a sadist would think it is. BUT, it is highly rewarding and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Why? Because you get to experience this.
    FF244CB0-80DA-49A8-9913-A1831348EFE0.jpeg
    And this
    C893EBE3-D1D7-4BE5-8E68-3B68EB26EE15.jpeg
    And this
    AB742529-BFE7-4FF2-ACB4-09CAE1308B2D.jpeg
    Great stuff !
    When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. - John Muir

  10. #50

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    I was camping in SEKI this weekend. Rangers said they’re over 150% snow pack. There’s another foot coming tomorrow and more snow later in the week.

  11. #51
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    Malto, there were fish swimming down the trail? Any Cutties, Goldens or big browns? LOL.

  12. #52

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    The best advice for trying to hike the PCT in a high snow year is to wait and do it another year.
    The difference between hiking the Sierra when there is loads of snow, and when the snow is gone, is night and day. It's way more fun when the snow is gone. If you really want to hike the Sierra in a high snow year hit it kinda early, and bring skis!

    Also, the PCT near Baden-Powell is terrifying when it's snowy/icy. Hiking on snow just sucks.

  13. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Malto, there were fish swimming down the trail? Any Cutties, Goldens or big browns? LOL.
    I couldn’t identify what kind of fish. They were traveling UL light and just looking to do the miles.
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  14. #54
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    Hey Hikers!
    I am tracking the evolution of Spring Conditions on Tahoe to Whitney here;
    1> HIgh Sierra Backpacker's Calendar
    https://tahoetowhitney.com/2019-back...alendar.html#3
    2> Spring Thaw 2019
    https://tahoetowhitney.org/content/s...erra-snow-thaw
    3> High Sierra Weather Page
    https://tahoetowhitney.org/content/f...ns-reports#top

    The Calender features entries from previous years (2017!) with which hikers can compare that year's evolution to this year's, to best ascertain when contemporary conditions reach a safe level for hikers with different skill and fitness levels.

    About daily conditions? Expect extreme slickness and icy conditions early, then transitioning to postholing later in the day, as the pack softens during the day... The rivers & even creeks go through a, "phase," of the thaw when they are impassable...

    Happy Trails!
    Al

  15. #55

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    Quote Originally Posted by hike1 View Post
    Hey Hikers!
    I am tracking the evolution of Spring Conditions on Tahoe to Whitney here;
    1> HIgh Sierra Backpacker's Calendar
    https://tahoetowhitney.com/2019-back...alendar.html#3
    2> Spring Thaw 2019
    https://tahoetowhitney.org/content/s...erra-snow-thaw
    3> High Sierra Weather Page
    https://tahoetowhitney.org/content/f...ns-reports#top

    The Calender features entries from previous years (2017!) with which hikers can compare that year's evolution to this year's, to best ascertain when contemporary conditions reach a safe level for hikers with different skill and fitness levels.

    About daily conditions? Expect extreme slickness and icy conditions early, then transitioning to postholing later in the day, as the pack softens during the day... The rivers & even creeks go through a, "phase," of the thaw when they are impassable...

    Happy Trails!
    Al
    Good stuff 👍🏼

  16. #56

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    FYI -
    Yosemite announced they will not be opening any of their high Sierra camps this season due to the snowpack, which as of May 1st was recorded at 176% of normal - putting in on par with 2017’s snowpack: which came in at 177% @ Yosemite.
    Tioga road opened June 29th in 2017 so that’s probably a reasonable benchmark for this season.
    Mammoth is currently planning on being open through early August 🏔⛷⛄️

    info on the opening dates of Sierra passes -
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/clsdlst.htm[/QUOTE]

    Strength & perseverance to all those already out there blazing the trail this year ! 🏔 ✌🏼
    Last edited by Out of Mind; 05-31-2019 at 11:41.

  17. #57
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Meanwhile....
    Little Skittles and friends reached Mammoth Lakes recently.
    Day 59. Mile 903.3.
    https://youtu.be/MfnQrs0V-nY
    I wonder if the folks at Yosemite National Park will allow them to use the Backcountry?
    Wayne

  18. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    I wonder if the folks at Yosemite National Park will allow them to use the Backcountry?
    Wayne
    Why wouldn't they? As long as they have a permit, they can use the backountry til the cows come home.

  19. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwschenk View Post
    Why wouldn't they? As long as they have a permit, they can use the backountry til the cows come home.
    What does this mean? The part about not opening high Sierra camps? Are they different from Backcountry campsites like those in Yellowstone, Glacier, etc. ?
    “Yosemite announced they will not be opening any of their high Sierra camps this season due to the snowpack, which as of May 1st was recorded at 176% of normal - putting in on par with 2017’s snowpack: which came in at 177% @ Yosemite.”
    Dazed and confused in the North Carolina Rain Forest.
    Wayne

  20. #60
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    From the Yosemite web page. The closure of Backcountry Camps might pose a problem for PCT hikers. Only the NPS Rangers can answer that question.
    “Since there are only a few designated campgrounds, you can camp anywhere you like, provided you follow all the regulations. The exceptions are near the five High Sierra Camps and in the Little Yosemite Valley area, where you must you camp at the designated campgrounds.”
    Wayne

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