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8951Snotel monitors - late May

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  • John Ladd
    May 31, 2010
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      California has a series of snow depth monitors in the Sierra that report daily.  They can be useful to follow the progression of snow melt in May, though they are at considerably lower elevations than the passes on the JMT, which limits their usefulness to us.

      You can see the current readings at this site:


      I have been charting the progress of the May snowmelt in anticipation of a planned early-June trip north of Carson Pass -- a hike which would cover elevations 7500-8500, roughly.

      From May 18 to May 31, my last two readings, there was minimal melting.  In some stations, new snowfall more than replaced the snowmelt.  At others, the net melt was well under an inch per day.

      Most monitoring locations over 7,000 feet still have snow as of the end of May, with stations over 8500 ft reporting 2-11 ft of remaining snowpack.  By comparison, last year there was almost no snow reported under 8500 ft. and elevations above that had less than half of the present snow levels.

      This weekend we started to see some hot weather out here.  Even assuming that it stays warm and we have minimal new snow, I'd guess that passes above 10,000 ft on the JMT will still have snow -- perhaps considerable in extent on either side of the higher passes -- at the start of July and perhaps even in mid-July.  But it's always hard to predict.  New snowfall could make the problem worse, while a stirng of warm, sunny, dry days could advance the snowmelt quickly.  In any case, I'd guess that stream crossings would be harder than usual this year.  (Though the JMT is pretty forgiving in that regard.)

      If anyone's interested: My daughter and I have decided to forego our planned Carson Pass trip this year and substitute a June 7-10 hike in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, where we can stay mostly at elevations under 5,000 ft and still get some alpine experience with higher ridges around us.  We're taking a 30-mile hike from Hobo Gulch trailhead (3000 ft) to Grizzly Falls (100 foot-high falls at about 6000 ft) and back.  Two stream crossings that could be a challenge with high runoff, and perhaps a lot of new deadfall across the trail, but otherwise a pretty easy 3 1/2 day route.

      John Curran Ladd
      1616 Castro Street
      San Francisco, CA  94114-3707