[pct-l] Snow impasses?

Diane Soini of Santa Barbara Hikes diane at santabarbarahikes.com
Thu May 3 19:48:14 CDT 2012

I think it is mostly that hikers want to hike, not go on a Himalayan  
expedition. The distance between resupply locations gets really very  
far in the Sierras, especially if you go early and the Muir Ranch and  
VVR aren't open yet or the shuttles aren't running to take you to  
Mammoth. It's not like you'll have your yak to carry your gear,  
either. Chopping steps all day sounds quite exhausting. Many hikers  
are fairly worn out already in the Sierras. To spend a day chopping  
steps and making about a mile an hour or less while carrying enough  
gear and food for 250 miles would be exhausting and heart-breaking.

Still, people used to hike through the Sierras in May way back in the  
70s on their thru-hikes, so it is doable. Check out the trail journal  
of the Funk Brothers on trailjournals.com. I believe theirs was 1975.  
They had a lot of snow in Southern California and used plastic  
snowshoes in the Sierras. Hiking the trail was a lot different back  

On May 3, 2012, at 10:00 AM, pct-l-request at backcountry.net wrote:
> I've read a lot of blogs throughout the past couple years talking  
> about weather conditions in the sierras creating a temporary  
> impasse (hikers turn back and wait it out or flip flop), but I  
> never really get an idea as to what conditions make it an impasse.  
> Obviously snow is the culprit, but what about the snow makes things  
> impassable? Navigation difficulties? Snow covering the trail? Snow  
> depth? Lack of proper gear (ropes, crampons, axes)?  Ice slides?
> I'm here admitting my naivety, so be gentle with me. But it seems  
> that crossing the sierras, in mid April before the melt, is less a  
> risk than, say, trekking through the snowy conditions of Tibet.   
> According to those I speak with in my community, it takes crazy  
> conditions to cause an impasse on those trails where snow is very  
> common. So if there is an ice slide covering the trail, for  
> example, couldn't you chop foot holes with an ice ax and if it's  
> too icy, then wait till late afternoon to be able to chop through  
> the melted ice?
> I'd almost prefer to cross the sierras in mid to late April to  
> avoid dangerous river crossings and for other reasons. So, does  
> anyone have any words of advice regarding early season Sierra  
> trekking, and what conditions I should be expecting that will  
> possibly cause me to want to turn around?

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