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BACKPACKER ALERT: April 1, 2017. PCT High Sierra Spring Threats on Full Display
This Alert will be in effect as long as this massive snowpack sits upon the Crest. That is uncertain, but will likely last through at least the middle of July, depending on weather. Good chance for this snowpack to see next season's Winter.
See updates through comments below, and the 2017 High Sierra Backpacker's Calendar.
Snowpack officially Vast:
April 20 reading puts state average near 200%
STILL IN EFFECT April
SPRING THREATS ON FULL DISPLAY
April 1, 2017
The most important topic of this date is the massive snowpack on the Sierra Crest and the extreme danger it poses to PCT hikers. The dangers of High Altitude Snow Travel will soon be supplemented by very dangerous fording conditions when this snowpack begins to thaw.
These conditions require skills, gear, and fitness to assure any level of safe travel as of this date. Undercutting and safety along the banks of creeks emerging from snow cover is currently increasing, as will the difficulty of travel conditions increase as the pack softens under the increasing heat of Spring.
Extremely difficult travel conditions will soon shift from hard snow that defies traction to wet snow offering no foundation. We will shortly transition from barely clinging to the mountain-side to sinking up to our waists with each step. As Spring progresses cold mornings will bring the former condition, warm afternoons the latter.
The same temp shift driving the changing character of the snow pack will soon drive even the highest river fords to levels unsafe for fording, and make the major rivers raging torrents of destruction. These temp shifts change the character of the Sierra.
The snowpack itself will become sopping wet, saturating anything and anyone in contact with it. These are the times that hikers without sufficient insulation can find cold combining with exhaustion to degrade decision making as well as technical execution & style to create very dangerous situations. I see Wet, cold, and tired PCT hikers surrounded by a sea of deep, wet, energy-sucking snow divided by an endless series of raging torrents of typically tiny High Sierra creeks surging like rivers, each supercharged by Spring's mighty flows.
The trails will be flowing like creeks, when we get down to them. And they will lead to the mighty rivers, which will be downright scary, once this massive snow pack begins to melt in earnest.
On March 25th Cayenne added her observations about this Spring,
"I just checked their site (PCT) and no mention or discussion about the fact that the PCT will not be 100% open this summer. Mammoth, last summer was a shit show of backpackers between the PCT and the JMT. People are planning their trips now with no clue and all “positive vibes & intentions”.
For example, during the 2011 (heavy snow) summer we planned to camp in the meadow (Tuolumne) and ended up camping in Lundy Canyon instead. Did the hike up to Lundy Falls in ankle deep water, the trail was a creek. That is what I expect for this year in the Sierra’s.
I did not even go into how many down trees, eroded trails and washed out bridges will be encountered. Not a good year for the novice backpacker or hiker. Can anybody say, “backcountry glissading accident or swift water rescue?”
Dude, we had 180 mile ridge gust out here – INSANE!!! The cornices on some of the high altitude passes will not melt out on the north facing aspects this summer. NOAA is calling for over a foot of snow this weekend. The high country just keeps getting hit.
I am happy the drought is over and the CA & NV water table will be refreshed. I hate fording rushing creeks in waist deep water and big rivers freak me out.
I honestly think that very few people will complete the PCT this year because the Cascades have had an amazing amount of snow too. Crater Lake, Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker are all having record snow years too. We lived up there from 2000 – 2006 and drifts take a long time to melt out up there in record snow years.
I will do my best to keep people informed as “The Great 2017 Thaw” begins!
Take Care and Bee Safe
Spring Thaw Conditions
Calendared Status with Reporting Resources
Week of April 9 to 15
PCT Hiker Snow Accident & Conditions Report,
Whiteblaze, March 24, 2017.