Oct 1 2015: Cayenne's View Forward

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 01 October 2015

Cayenne just posted a note adding her perspective to the Fall Backpacker's Alert. I thought is was worth sharing more broadly, so here it is:

Fall is in the air in the Tahoe Basin

Rain falls on Lake Tahoe today, but I suspect the Indian summer will be back with the next high-pressure system that will come and stay until the end of October. Perfect backpacking time in the Sierras. The crowds are gone, the bugs are gone and the heat is gone. 

 My guess on this year's aberrant weather pattern in Tahoe is going to be on the thin end of El Nino flows with So.Cal & the southern Sierra's getting the snowpack at high elevations.
The big question is; will there be snowpack under 8,000 ft (2,438 m) or even a big snow pack with a Pineapple Express to follow? Will it flood like it did in 1997, New Years flood, that took out Walker Canyon on the 395? 


No snow = good winter hiking,
Lots of snow = good skiing,
Little snow+rain = muddy/icy sloppy trails. 

Fall Adventure
(Scott, Rich, and Melika, who share eight legs between them, are beginning a week long loop on October 1 on the JMT out of Reds Meadow pivoting from South to North across the top of the Silver Divide.)

Snow Dusting the Sierra Peaks 
 Your friends have a great hike planned. Yesterdays rain/snow (yes snow on the peaks!) was the kind I don't mind hiking in, that Pacific NW light rain & low hanging clouds that makes everything so surreal.
I know that Mammoth got rain/snow yesterday too. If you are prepared with the right clothing & boots - hiking in the first snow is so much fun!
I love Walker Canyon & Antelope Valley. I have friends who remember the 1997 flood and probably knew your uncle. Scars of the last flood are still evident.  I am not concerned about a big flood like the 1997 flood, the reservoirs are so low, we would be lucky to have them filled up.  Flash floods are always a threat.
My big concern is snow level. The storms we got last winter were way too warm. My daffodils stared coming out in February - 2 months early for 5,000 ft. zone 5b.

Little snow+rain = muddy/icy sloppy trails. 
Threat Awareness
It is good of you to help educate the public about the dangers of weather.  After the tragedy in Utah's slot canyon http://graphics.latimes.com/zion-flash-flood/ , which is a reminder that even with experience - people will make bad decisions.
People don't understand how dangerous clouds are in the desert in the summer.  I did a hike this June at Squaw Valley. NOAA had a 20% chance of t-storms, which means 100% chance of getting caught in a squall on the hill after 12:00.

Serious Seasonal Dangers in Fall
As I was coming down, I pass two couples, neither one with packs.  As the rain, thunder and lighting were visibly moving across Squaw Valley, one couple kept hiking up and the other was seeking refuge under a granite boulder. The last mile of my hike, it was raining & hailing so hard that the trail was fast flowing creek. My Gore-Tex boots & jacket, quick dry pants, socks, & backpack were soaked.  I was cold! I can only imagine how cold the people on the trail were without good gear.  
Beauty Ahead
Going camping in Lundy Canyon next week to check out the Aspen.  That is definitely one of the hidden gems of the eastern Sierra.
Until next time,


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