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Winter Backpacking | High Sierra Backpacker

You are hereWinter Backpacking Conditions and Gear.

Winter Backpacking Conditions and Gear.


Winter Backpacking Conditions and Gear.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

High Sierra Mountain Safety. Hazards & Alerts: Winter of 2018 sticky icon

 

 

Hazards & Alerts: High Sierra Winter of 2018

 Also See
General
Observation & Analysis

THE WINTER of 2018
 

Previous Report
Fall 2017 Hazards & Alerts

 

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Northern Forests in Deep Trouble

 

 

PLANTS, FORESTS, & TREES

The Changing Snowy Forest Scene
Found clear signs of a decline in frost and snow days and other indicators of winter that could have lasting impacts on ecosystems, water supplies, the economy, tourism and human health, by MaxPixel.
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found clear signs of a decline in frost and snow days and other indicators of winter that could have lasting impacts on ecosystems, water supplies, the economy, tourism and human health, by MaxPixel.

 

Northern Forests in Deep Trouble

UNH Researchers Find Northern Forests Have Lost Crucial Cold, Snowy Conditions,
University of New Hampshire, October 4, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

Winter Changes
"...have found clear signs of a decline in frost days, snow covered days and other indicators of winter that could have lasting impacts on ecosystems, water supplies, the economy, tourism and human health."

Snow to Rain
"Whether precipitation falls as snow or rain makes a big difference, whether you're talking about a forest stream, a snowshoe hare or even a skier."

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Planning and Preparing for a late Winter-Early Spring snow backpacking trip in the High Sierras

Snow?
Climbing to the Headwaters of the East Fork of the Carson River, Feb 2014.
Climbing up to the Headwaters of the East Carson.

Considerations
on
Preparing and Planning for a Snow Backpacking Trip in the Sierras

(Well, although it is Fall, the principals explored below apply to Fall as well as Spring....)

Video Prep Guide
I have constructed this four-part video guide to preparing for a High Sierra backpacking trip. Though it is designed for a Winter-first day of Spring trip, the basic principals discussed are applicable to backpacking during any season.

NOTE: Site Video Links Broken. See these Backpacking Food Prep videos on YouTube.

Factors of Success or Failure
Part one covers the range of factors you may encounter and must prepare for when backpacking in High Sierra snow. These considerations will control your preparations. These considerations are interrelated, and your measurement of each will affect the others.

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High Sierra Spring Snow Backpacking II: Round Top to Round Lake Coyote, June 8, 2010

Spring Backpacking

Video
Coyote Video, Meiss Country Roadless Area,
Tahoe to Whitney, YouTube.

 

Next Video: Spring Snow Backpacking trip, Round Lake to Showers Lake, June 6, 2010

South Tahoe Basin & Roundtop Review
These are two of the many videos I took of a grand snow shoe loop from Meyers to Showers Lake, from Showers Lake out of the Lake Tahoe Basin to Round Top Lake, then back into the Basin via Round Lake to exit the snow at Meyers, where we first started.

Spring Fun
This was a delightful Spring Snow backpacking trip, full of fun navigation challenges, route finding, terrain reading, and other Spring Snow delights.

Gotcha
On the fourth day, as we were working our way from Meiss Meadow down to Round Lake, I heard a coyote coming through the underbrush, and even caught a glimpse of her before she heard or saw us.

I signaled for complete stop and silence, then pointed to my estimated point of emergence from the underbrush of the coyote, who soon popped through the spot I anticipated.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

SEKI WARNS: Lots of Snow on the South Sierra Crest & Flanks

 

MOUNTAIN SAFETY

Seasonal News of Note

Buried
Sherman Tree Parking Area and Comfort Station
Sherman Tree Parking Area and Comfort Station, Image by SEKI, NPS.
Image by SEKI, NPS.

 

Lots of Snow on the Sierra Crest & Flanks

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Expect Some Late Facility Openings Due to Heavy Snowpack and Hazard Trees,
Sequoia National Park, April 5, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

Expectations
"...have become accustomed to the light winters that the drought has produced."

Reality
"...Sequoia and Kings Canyon is 153% of normal."

Caution
"Azalea Campground closed on Tuesday, April 2, due to the large number of hazard trees in the campground."

"In an abundance of caution for park visitors, crews are working to address these tree hazards before facilities open for the season."

"...there are currently no open campgrounds in Kings Canyon."

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Yosemite Announces Delayed Facility Openings, & Beware Snow-Covered Trails through July

MONSTER SNOW PACK of the WINTER of 2019

Seasonal News of Note
Yosemite Announces Delayed Facility Openings

Note the Snow will Affect High Trail Access, & Damages will Affect Trails Too

Yosemite National Park Announces Late Seasonal Openings for Several Park Facilities,
Yosemite National Park, March 13, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

Damaged Facilities
“...that there will be late seasonal openings to facilities throughout the park...due to the exceptionally heavy snowpack in Yosemite National Park and the subsequent extensive damage to many park facilities.”

Stormy Winter
“...significant storm systems in January and February produced high levels of snow, which resulted in temporary road closures, rock and debris slides, and falling trees. Additionally, these storms resulted in extensive damage to facilities throughout the park. Damage to facilities includes trees falling on and damaging campground restrooms, utilities systems compromised, tent cabins damaged or destroyed, and falling trees impacting campsites, parking areas, hiking trails, and roads.”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

March of 2019 All High Sierra Outdoors & Nature News Index

 

Updated
March 31, 2019

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA TRAIL NEWS
BELOW

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA GENERAL NEWS
BELOW

 

NEXT MONTHS' NEWS

LAST MONTHS' NEWS

 

Latest
High Sierra Backpacker's News
 Man and Nature

 
March
, 2019

Happenings in the relationship between Man and Nature affecting our hike down life's trail through both worlds. We study both the reality created by humans and the uncreated reality reflected in, and tended by Nature. 

The vast majority of our reporting on Nature comes from the American Association of Scientists summarizations of each day's bounty of the peer-reviewed research published by academic institutions and journals around the world.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

2019: Arctic Seasonal MAX & MINS on Steady Warming Trajectory

OCEANS, ICE, WATER, & FISH

Arctic Sea Ice
 NASA, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, & unknown.
Credits: NASA, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, & Linette Boisvert. Big.

 

Arctic Seasonal MAX & MINS on Steady Warming Trajectory

Arctic sea ice 2019 wintertime extent is seventh lowest,
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, March 20, 2019

MAIN POINTS

Date
Max Ice Extent on March 13

2019 Maximum
5.71 million square miles

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Search Continues for Missing Marine

MOUNTAIN SAFETY

Badass Behind Schedule

Update: Multi-agency search for missing Marine,
Sierra Wave, March 10, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

Departed
Kearsarge Pass on Feb 24

Conditions
See Calendar, End of Feb
Heavy snow fall from 25th to 27th, followed by short break with lite to moderate snow through the 7th.

Planned
Arrival Date:
Twin Lakes on the 5th

“This is the sixth day of an intense multiagency search for missing Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Matthew Kraft...”

"1st Lt. Kraft’s planned itinerary is the 195-mile Sierra High Route; he is believed to have hiked out of Kearsarge Pass on Feb 24 with a plan of concluding his hike near the Twin Lakes area by Bridgeport, CA on March 4 or 5."

"Both aerial and ground search operations have been utilized; however, weather conditions in the Sierra have been a significant challenge."

"In addition, two Marines from Kraft’s unit are assisting authorities with search efforts at the Search and Rescue Coordination Center."

 

MAPS
Start

Alex Wierbinski's picture

February of 2019 All High Sierra Outdoors & Nature News Index

 

LAST
Updated

February 28, 2019

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA TRAIL NEWS
BELOW

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA GENERAL NEWS
BELOW

 

NEXT MONTH'S NEWS

LAST MONTHS' NEWS

 

Latest
High Sierra Backpacker's News
 Man and Nature

 
February, 2019

Happenings in the relationship between Man and Nature affecting our hike down life's trail through both worlds. We study both the reality created by humans and the uncreated reality reflected in, and tended by Nature. 

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Death on the Mist Trail: Visitor Fatality in Yosemite National Park

HIGH SIERRA MOUNTAIN SAFETY

Death on the Mist Trail

Happy Isles Trailhead
Happy Isles Trailhead for the John Muir Trail, Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Valley, the start point of the JMT, from the trail guide.

Visitor Fatality in Yosemite National Park,
February 25, 2019.

Yosemite Valley Backpacking Map

MAIN POINTS

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Backpacking out of the snow-filled Tahoe Basin 3: Day 2, Burnt Area Camp to Round Lake

Day One, Campsite One: A tour of the location of my campsite on the burnt flat area relative to Big Meadow, the South Upper Truckee's Eastern tributary,  and Meyers down the valley.

(Map, Miles, Elevations, Video & Trail Guide info below)

After arriving at camp I leave on my pack and snowshoes to better stamp out flats for my sleeping pad and sleeping bag, as well as to compress a bit of space that I can cook and kick back in. If I do not do this, I will endlessly post hole when I take off my snow shoes. When you compress soft snow it tries to refreeze, and if you are lucky it will hold up your weight without snow shoes after a good compression session.

Burnt area primitive Winter campsite along Upper Truckee River.

Above: Campsite one in the morning

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Winter 2019 Status: Tropical Transport & Storms of February 13

STATUS of the WINTER of 2019

 

NASA MODIS reveals the Instantly Intense Winter of 2019
NASA MODIS reveals the Instantly Intense Winter of 2019, Credit NASA, MODIS team.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired these natural-color images of the difference a year makes; the Sierra Nevada on February 15, 2018, and February 15 of 2019. Credit NASA, MODIS team.

Also check-out MODIS, Feb 13, 2015

Scroll the Year on MODIS above to review Today's Sierra,
especially the 11th.

 

Tropical Transport & Storms of February 13

A Strong Start to Sierra Snowpack,
NASA Earth Observatory, February 13, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Elevation Keys Diverse Pika Population Responses to Changing Climate

SMALL SIERRA NEVADA MAMMALS

American Pika
American Pika, Ecological Society of America, Photo credit to, courtesy of, Shana Weber.
 With their sensitivity to overheating, pikas are an indicator species for how climate change may affect mountain-dwelling wildlife.
Ecological Society of America, Photo credit to, courtesy of, Shana Weber.

 

Elevation Keys Diverse Pika Population Responses to Changing Climate

Pika Survival Rates Dry Up with Low Moisture,
Ecological Society of America, February 4, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

Alex Wierbinski's picture

The Character and Evolution of the High Sierra Winter into the Spring of 2019

 

SETTING a SEASONAL “MARKER”

Almost Dead-Average Snowpack

February 2, 2019
The salient point today, the second of February, is we’ve got a seasonal normal, “average,” snow pack (calendar), while looking at a set of moderately powerful storms coming through, all playing out in the wake of the disruptions created by the great movement of the Polar Vortex, off the top of the planet to center its spin over the North end of Hudson’s Bay, over the past couple of weeks.

Today we can see the Polar Vortex has split into thee, "vortexes," with the one over Hudson's Bay, the one that brought so much frigid Arctic cold air to the South, has weakened in favor of the Vortex to its North:

 

High Altitude View of the Polar Vortex(es)
EARTH

10 hPa, roughly 84,998.2 feet of elevation.

A rough table of pressures and altitudes.

 

NEXT?
Where does, “it,” our Seasonal Transition into Spring, go from, “here?”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

January of 2019 All High Sierra Outdoors & Nature News Index

 

LAST
Updated

January 31, 2019

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA TRAIL NEWS
BELOW

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA GENERAL NEWS
BELOW

 

NEXT MONTHS' NEWS

LAST MONTHS' NEWS

 

Latest
High Sierra Backpacker's News
 Man and Nature

 
January, 2019

Happenings in the relationship between Man and Nature affecting our hike down life's trail through both worlds. We study both the reality created by humans and the uncreated reality reflected in, and tended by Nature. 

The vast majority of our reporting on Nature comes from the American Association of Scientists summarizations of each day's bounty of the peer-reviewed research published by academic institutions and journals around the world.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

WINTER 2019 WEATHER FORECAST, THE POLAR VORTEX, and accessing the WINTER WONDERLAND

WINTER WEATHER, THE POLAR VORTEX, and the WINTER WONDERLAND

Enjoy the Show and the Snow

Wet and stormy week ahead for all of California; Dipole pattern to follow,
Weather West, January 13, 2019.

MAIN POINTS

Recap of the Season, so far.

View of the Series of Storms we just experienced-are experiencing.

Analysis of Saturated Soils-Wildfire Mud flow Dangers

 

>> KEY POINT <<

Medium-to-Long Forecast

“Unusually strong consensus regarding development of “Warm West/Cool East” pattern”

Blocking Ridge Returns
“...there is rather striking multi-model ensemble agreement (dare I say unanimity?) that a high-amplitude blocking pattern will develop across much of the Northern Hemisphere during the second half of January, and perhaps persisting for weeks (at least through mid-February).”

Alex Wierbinski's picture

December 2018 All High Sierra Outdoors & Nature News Index

 

Updated
December 27, 2018

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA TRAIL NEWS
BELOW

 

LATEST HIGH SIERRA GENERAL NEWS
BELOW

 

NEXT MONTHS' NEWS

LAST MONTHS' NEWS

 

Latest
High Sierra Backpacker's News
 Man and Nature

 
December, 2018

Happenings in the relationship between Man and Nature affecting our hike down life's trail through both worlds. We study both the reality created by humans and the uncreated reality reflected in, and tended by Nature. 

The vast majority of our reporting on Nature comes from the American Association of Scientists summarizations of each day's bounty of the peer-reviewed research published by academic institutions and journals around the world.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

ARRIVAL of the WINTER of 2019

ARRIVAL of the WINTER of 2019

Current Progress, Comparisons, and the Arts of Prognostication

Warm North Pacific
The anticipated El Nino is not happening, so far at least, as cool water continues to surface off the central-Western coast of South America. But, we are having what appears to be a, "Northern El Nino," with abberant warm waters persisting in the Gulf Alaska, and generally warmer than normal water spread all around & across the North Pacific. Weird...

Tracking El Nino

Nonetheless, we’re looking a lot better this year than last, having 108% of a normal snowpack on December 5th this year, compared to the 23% of average on December 29th of 2017.

Last year’s snowpack total came in at 58% of average, only being preserved, and luckily, being stretched-out to human-use sufficiency, by the cool temps and late-season storms we experienced through last year's Spring.

Will we get so little snow, and be so lucky with its timing, this year as we had last year?

 

Weatherhead

Tracking El Nino

Tracking Tropical Activity

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Ultra Dry 2018 Winter Fire in Bishop: New Normal Emerging: Wait 'till Summer

 

MIDWINTER FIRE
Ultra Dry Winter Fire in Bishop

New Normal Season Emerging: Wait 'till Summertime

Update: Pleasant Fire at 2,250 acres; 15 percent containment,
Sierra Wave, February 19, 2018, 11:00 AM.

 

STATUS
Incident Start Date: 2/18/2018

Incident Start Time: 2:12 P.M.

Total Acreage: 2,250 Containment: 15%

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