[pct-l] Snow snow snow. Let's go!

Scott Williams baidarker at gmail.com
Fri Jan 13 15:54:43 CST 2017

I completely agree with Brick regarding the relative safety of snow with
the right gear and technique, vs the very real danger of the swollen
streams.  In 2010, a high snow year due to a very late melt out, we also
had to go well upstream of the usual little summer crossing of Evolution
Creek,  and made human chains to get the lighter weight members of our
party across Bear Creek.  That one was really scary.

One of my favorite pieces of gear that year were full on Kahtoola hiking
crampons.  They're relatively light and allow you to cut steps and do the
kind of plunge stepping you'll need.  Much better in real Sierra snow pack
than Microspikes and only a touch heavier.  My buddy Venture in cramps, had
to cut steps last year for folks with Microspikes who's spikes had "balled
up" so badly they couldn't go forward.  In really serious, crusty, icy
early season conditions, I much prefer real hiking cramps.

A good light weight ice axe was also essential to safely belay yourself on
the steep traverses, for cutting steps, and for safe glissading.

Another thing we did because of the high snow was to head out of Lone Pine
with a group of friends who promised to stay together through the High
Sierra to Sonora Pass.  Not only was this a safe move, it gave all of us
the most wonderful if hard backpacking experience of our lives.  I count
all these folks as some of my dearest friends to this day.

With all of this, keep in mind that all can change in a few weeks of early
warm weather, or virtually overnight given a heavy "pineapple express" rain
storm.  But being ready to change up your strategy and gear is often
essential for a thru hike.

Have a wonderful hike!  The snow only adds to the fun you'll have if you're
prepared for it.


On Jan 13, 2017 11:53 AM, "Brick Robbins" <brick at brickrobbins.com> wrote:

> On Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 4:08 AM, Casey Stevens <costevens078 at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Appreciate the admonishments!
> Snow is what seems to concern folks about early entry into the Sierra,
> but snow is really not that big a deal. Postholing is a pain and slows
> you down, but if you carry and iceaxe and you know how to use it, then
> snow travel is fairly safe, just be careful of falling through the
> snow into voids caused by running water.
> The REAL danger is getting killed in stream crossings. Most of the big
> rivers will have bridges, but many of the "jump across" streams will
> be swollen to raging waist deep (or deeper) torrents.
> I was swept away at Bear Creek, and could have easily been killed.
> Kerrick Canyon was downright scary, and a fall would have been deadly.
> I had to cross Evolution Creek (in the meadows, well upstream of the
> normal crossing) by putting my pack in a bag, and swimming in the
> freezing runoff water. Crossing at the normal ford would have been
> deadly.
> The water was so high that wading was require at both sides of the
> Glen Aulin Bridge over the Tuolumne river.
> The snow may slow you down, but the water will kill you.
> Be careful out there
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