[pct-l] [John Muir Trail] Re: Snow levels

ned at mountaineducation.org ned at mountaineducation.org
Fri Jan 20 01:30:46 CST 2017

Inga, Kim, and veritasgrad… 


Ingo & Kim: I loved your responses to “veritasgrad!”  Basically, who knows what June will look like above 9,500 feet. Unless you happen to remember what “normal” or “big” winters looked like way back when, pre-drought years, let’s revisit them:


A “normal” winter meant you’d have a fair amount of snow-hiking in July, but it would be glorious!

A “big snow” winter meant you’d have a fair amount of snow-hiking into August…and you’d come home with a helluva tan!


July and August were the backpacking months. Bugs were terrible come mid-July. This was normal.


During the drought years, 6 weeks pealed off this timeline. The snow and environmental conditions that were normal for mid-July after a classic, “normal” winter, happened around the first of June. Early season hiking started in May, where you’d have a few miles of snow-hiking on either sides of every pass. As Inga said, we got used to the drought year’s conditions and timing. 


So, let’s see if I can add anything to help “veritasgrad,”


1.	“Will there still be significant snow on the ground or will most if it have melted?” 

*	Depends on the winter and thaw. Most likely will be.


2.	“Will the trail be difficult to find and follow?”

*	When the trail is buried under snow, the answer, obviously, is a resounding “Yes!” and is worse below timberline, but better above the trees. Topo map and GPS reading skills can help a lot, but learning how to navigate over snow by being topographically aware of where you are and where you’re going is a lot more relaxing! There may be, also, a boot track pounded into the snow forming a trench to follow, but only if it is going where you need to go. Will you know where you want to go when all you see are trees ahead of you? Will you know where you are anyway?


3.	“Will river crossings be dangerous?”

*	During the first month after the thaw starts, the amount of water running below snowline is ridiculous! Water is cascading off the high, granite walls all around you and making so much noise you’ll think you’re in Rivendell or Yosemite Valley! Depending on the intensity of the thaw (anytime after mid-May), the creek crossings can be hazardous during early season, but those with training and experience can cross safely. If you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re in the thick of the run-off, you might want to wait for help to get you across the creek. If the thaw is past it’s prime, a creek’s height, volume, and rate will slowly diminish, but whether it is mellow enough for you to cross is based on your training and experience. That’s why Mountain Education teaches creek-crossing skills to early season backpackers like the PCT thru hikers who have to be there then in order to reach Canada by mid-September.


4.	“Would it be better to push my hike back a couple weeks?”

*	“Yes!” If it is a light winter and you want to get by without snow or creek skills training. 
*	“It doesn’t matter much.” If we get a normal to heavy winter, you’re going to have snow somewhere along the line, also meaning the creeks will be running fast and deep into August, maybe, as well.
*	Pick a date and enjoy what you get. If you can learn how to hike safely on steep snow before your trip, you will be empowered, confident, and relaxed. If you find that you’re over your head, turn around. Be safe out there! Just because there’s snow, doesn’t mean you can’t go, just know what you’re doing. Learning from someone who has “Been there, Done that” and can teach is priceless to making you a better person, ready for fun because you’re prepared!


5.	“Any other things I should prepare for differently given the high snow fall?”

*	Prepare for more wet clothing, gear, and body.
*	Anticipate snow difficulties like suncups, postholing, and steep snow ascents/descents/traverses.
*	Expect a bit more cooler temperatures.
*	Resupply locations may not be open yet (depends on the winter and thaw, again).


Did that shed any light on the subject of early-season JMT thru hiking? If the PCT thrus can do it, so can you!



Ned Tibbits, Director

Mountain Education, Inc.

 <mailto:ned at mountaineducation.org> ned at mountaineducation.org 


From: johnmuirtrail at yahoogroups.com [mailto:johnmuirtrail at yahoogroups.com] 
Sent: Sunday, January 15, 2017 7:11 AM
To: johnmuirtrail at yahoogroups.com
Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: Snow levels



June is typically considered early in the Sierra. If this turns out to be a normal or above normal season you would be well advised to consider a later start or be comfortable with your snow skills and have the appropriate equipment, such as a whippet and crampons. I've hiked in the Sierra for decades and have had many a trip aborted in early July due to lingering snow. Some people started to think of the drought years as normal.


Inga Aksamit

"Highs and Lows on the John Muir Trail"



Posted by: Inga Aksamit <ingasadventures at gmail.com <mailto:ingasadventures at gmail.com> > 


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