[pct-l] Current Southern Sierra Conditions at 11,600

ned at mountaineducation.org ned at mountaineducation.org
Tue May 29 13:52:08 CDT 2018

You guys probably know the snow/creek/trail conditions already, but I
thought I'd express what I saw over the weekend in the Cottonwood Creek/Army
Pass drainage:

Southern aspects to 12,000 feet are mostly free of snow as I saw on New Army
Pass where there was only snow at the top. People of all ages were seen able
to get over this pass despite the snow, though many did turn around because
of it and their personal lack of snow skills (smart).

Snow condition was hard and consolidated with postholey snow where it was
thin (less than 2 feet thick) or near/over dirt, rocks, and water. Nights
were just below freezing keeping the morning snow hard and requiring
traction devices and self-arrest training.

Northern aspects, like those in the Army Pass cirque showed snow down to
11,400 and in the shade. The lower pitches of snow were great to train on,
but you had to keep an eye out for the rocks below since lakes at 11,200 are
mostly thawed out and "open" with their boulders showing to run into during
out-of-control self-arrest practice. The upper pitches (maybe in the
vicinity of 45-50 degrees steep) had soft surface snow on a hard layer
within the pack during mid-day making for perfect downhill glissading and
uphill standing balance control while kicking steps into the hillside.

Major danger was that the snowpack was not strong enough (the snow was too
soft within the function of an ice axe pick) to affect a stop during
self-arrest on a 45-degree slope, meaning I had to utilize my feet to stop,
which is certainly fine and needed. With this in mind, I did not feel it
safe to "summit" as there was no way to stop a descent on that steep of a
pitch. I would have had to start a descent in the "chute" off the pass in
the self-arrest position and pray that I could control the speed of my
descent while slicing through the soft snow riding the pick of my
self-arrest device. As is said in climbing, "Going up is optional, going
back down is required," so we aborted going up after assessing the
self-arrest conditions.

Lakes were full and creeks were flowing gently on that drainage's mild
slopes. The willows were just starting to bud out and little flowers
appearing above 11,000.

Thundersnow was a daily occurrence with little cumulus clouds first
appearing at around 0900 and becoming 100% coverage and black by 3pm.
Camping and travel above treeline (11,000 feet) was risky after
mid-afternoon, but the sunsets were gorgeous once the local storms cleared

Bugs: Absolutely none!
Bears: Not a one seen nor heard of.
"Little bears" and marmots: Plenty, as always.
Dust & Dirt: Minimal due to the daily rains/snow.
Rangers: None seen.
Walk-up permits: Abundant

It's early summer in the Sierra, folks!



Ned Tibbits, Director

Mountain Education, Inc.

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


More information about the Pct-L mailing list