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2013 June Start of JMT

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  • ybbband3
    Hello, I am very interested in hiking the trail this June, but am worried about snow conditions. My proposed dates are from June 4th to July 6th (So long
    Message 1 of 12 , Feb 16, 2013
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      Hello,

      I am very interested in hiking the trail this June, but am worried about snow conditions. My proposed dates are from June 4th to July 6th (So long because I hope to do some off-trail hiking as well). I have a lot of experience in 3-4 day backpacking trips in the Appalachian mountains in 3-season conditions, but very little experience in snow travel/alpine conditions. I know that the conditions of the JMT depend heavily on the winter's snowfall, etc. If anyone can give me some advice or help in anyway regarding this early start date, that would be much appreciated. Thank you!
    • John
      --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, ybbband3 wrote: Hello, I am very interested in hiking the trail this June, but
      Message 2 of 12 , Feb 17, 2013
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        <br>--- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "ybbband3" <carstentb@...> wrote:<br>><br>> Hello,<br>> <br>> I am very interested in hiking the trail this June, but am worried about snow conditions. My proposed dates are from June 4th to July 6th (So long because I hope to do some off-trail hiking as well). I have a lot of experience in 3-4 day backpacking trips in the Appalachian mountains in 3-season conditions, but very little experience in snow travel/alpine conditions. I know that the conditions of the JMT depend heavily on the winter's snowfall, etc. If anyone can give me some advice or help in anyway regarding this early start date, that would be much appreciated. Thank you!<br>><br>

        Hi

        An early June start will mean on an average year you will be in a lot of snow (as much as 50% of the trail) for the first two weeks. Water crossings will be high and dangerous. That said, dozens of PCT thru hikers walk the JMT during that time, many have little to no snow experience. How they all get through with so few mis-haps is a wonder to me.

        BTW, for what it's worth, the snowpack here is currently below average, and the long range forecast isn't looking all that good for additional precip.

        JD
        Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
      • ybbband3
        John, Thank you for your reply. That boosts my confidence for this hike! One more question: would it be smart for me to bring an ice axe and or crampons? Do
        Message 3 of 12 , Feb 17, 2013
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          John,
          Thank you for your reply. That boosts my confidence for this hike!
          One more question: would it be smart for me to bring an ice axe and or crampons? Do the PCT hikers usually carry these? Thanks again.

          --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "John" <johndittli@...> wrote:
          >
          > <br>--- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "ybbband3" <carstentb@>
          > wrote:<br>><br>> Hello,<br>> <br>> I am very interested in hiking the
          > trail this June, but am worried about snow conditions. My proposed dates
          > are from June 4th to July 6th (So long because I hope to do some
          > off-trail hiking as well). I have a lot of experience in 3-4 day
          > backpacking trips in the Appalachian mountains in 3-season conditions,
          > but very little experience in snow travel/alpine conditions. I know that
          > the conditions of the JMT depend heavily on the winter's snowfall, etc.
          > If anyone can give me some advice or help in anyway regarding this early
          > start date, that would be much appreciated. Thank you!<br>><br>
          > Hi
          > An early June start will mean on an average year you will be in a lot of
          > snow (as much as 50% of the trail) for the first two weeks. Water
          > crossings will be high and dangerous. That said, dozens of PCT thru
          > hikers walk the JMT during that time, many have little to no snow
          > experience. How they all get through with so few mis-haps is a wonder to
          > me.
          > BTW, for what it's worth, the snowpack here is currently below average,
          > and the long range forecast isn't looking all that good for additional
          > precip.
          > JDWalk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trailsee book here
          > <http://www.johndittli.com>
          >
        • John Ladd
          ... Good recent post on this question, by Ned Tibbits http://groups.yahoo.com/group/johnmuirtrail/message/27317 If I were going in June and snow was not too
          Message 4 of 12 , Feb 17, 2013
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            On Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 9:35 AM, ybbband3 <carstentb@...> wrote:
             

            John,
            One more question: would it be smart for me to bring an ice axe and or crampons? Do the PCT hikers usually carry these? Thanks again.

            Good recent post on this question, by Ned Tibbits

             
            If I were going in June and snow was not too far below average, I'd bring a Whippet self-arrest pole (as one of my two trekking poles) and Kahtoola Steel hiking Crampons but probably not an ice ax.




          • John
            --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, ybbband3 wrote: John, Thank you for your reply. That boosts my confidence for this
            Message 5 of 12 , Feb 17, 2013
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              <br>--- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "ybbband3" <carstentb@...> wrote:<br>><br>> John,<br>> Thank you for your reply. That boosts my confidence for this hike!<br>> One more question: would it be smart for me to bring an ice axe and or crampons? Do the PCT hikers usually carry these? Thanks again.<br>> 

              There are others that might now more than I about what most PCTers take. I have talked to some PCT people that have stated they wish they had brought real crampons rather than Micro spikes or the like, as the latter have a tendency to roll or something- I've never used them. As John mentioned a Whippet is a good choice though not much step cutting is going to happen with a Whippet. Personally I wouldn't trust a Whippet for a dynamic self arrest, but it very well may keep you from falling far in the first place. To that end, if one hasn't thoroughly practiced self arrest with an ice axe, there isn't much point in counting on that tool/technique anyway. 

              Another thing to note is your intended direction of travel. If SoBo, then you will be hitting the easier passes early on with (perhaps) little need for traction devices or arresting devices. By the time you reach the likes of Mather, Glen, Forester, there is likely to be well worn paths in the snow. Also, do to your expanded time frame, you have the option of waiting a few hours (or days) until the snow softens a bit before attempting passes if need be.

              For me (but I do have close to 50 years of snow travel experience), the very minimum I would take would be trekking poles and boots stiff enough to at least hold a little edge in snow (not trail runners). Oh ya, and don't forget the gaiters! That covers the snow part, the stream crossings are another issue.

              John
            • Ned Tibbits
              Both John & John are right, so take heed. June in the sierra can offer an incredible hiking experience since much of the high country is still covered in snow,
              Message 6 of 12 , Feb 18, 2013
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                Both John & John are right, so take heed.
                 
                June in the sierra can offer an incredible hiking experience since much of the high country is still covered in snow, transforming the otherwise rocky landscape into a glistening marvel of beauty. There are dangers not known to the summer travellers, though, but they can be easily identified and carefully negotiated, once trained and experienced.
                 
                What to bring, as Dittli has once said, begins with awareness, is practiced with wisdom, and both reside between your ears! After that, there are some tools we wouldn’t walk over snow without.
                 
                After 31 years of teaching PCT thru hikers how to prepare for the “Realities of the Trail” yet before them (got to take off those rose-colored glasses, as exciting and romantic as planning a 5-month hike can be!), we’ve got a pretty good idea what “works” out there for them (since they need to go through the sierra on the JMT/PCT during a season of snow not usually desired for otherwise summer hiking).
                 
                Yes, you can hike year ‘round, and this topic is about spring/snow hiking.
                 
                Keep in mind that snow is slippery. When compressed under the weight of someone’s feet, spring snow (before of after the thaw starts) will warm and congeal usually into something that will give you adequate traction to almost walk normally (like on dry trail, that is, allowing you to push off your toes). When this footprint freezes at night, you can count on it being icy in the morning. Now, if you follow this track, your feet may slip even more! Hence, the need for hiking crampons!  http://www.kahtoola.com/hiking_crampons.php
                 
                Realize that it doesn’t take a big nor long nor suncup-ridden field of snow to give you opportunity to test the strength of your footholds. All it takes is snow or ice just under your foot! Everyone falls at some point in their mountain training. Even with all the training done in Search and Rescue, members slip and fall and get hurt trying to get to their patients.
                 
                Just going over a small patch of snow across the trail while on a hillside traverse will present sufficient opportunity to test your hazard recognition awareness, give you the challenge of planning your approach, initial contact and boot-purchase test, maintaining your balance with poles (Whippet & Traverse),
                testing how hard you can “push” with your toes without slipping, and the ever-constant evaluation of general snow conditions sufficient to support your weight. All this done on just a small piece of sloped snow!
                 
                Yet, these mental evaluations and computations become habit after awhile, but that is practical wilderness wisdom 101.
                 
                So, it all starts with the first patch of snow on the trail. If it is hard, it is slippery. If it is soft, you can fall through (postholing). What can be done to make sure you don’t get hurt out there? As mentioned above,
                - learn how to identify hazards in front of you (above, on, and in the snow),
                - use poles to maintain your balance,
                - have a self-arrest device in-hand whenever on snow to stop your slide after a sudden fall,
                - slow down and concentrate on your balance, traction, the support of the snow, and more,
                - gain experience in dealing with difficulties likely encountered (instruction, skills, trips),
                - know where you’re going so you don’t waste time and energy, and
                - prepare for the worst so you can safely deal and enjoy the best.
                 
                Keep in mind that summer trails are designed somewhat flat side-to-side while on a climb. Snow does not. Even snow drifted in the trail on a switchback will be angled, so you will need to get a good grip with your shoes to ascertain and maintain your balance and propulsion.
                 
                June is a great month out on the “trail!” Prepare for snow, know how to walk on it without falling, carry and use devices that will help with predictable traction and balance, have poles to correct side-to-side tottering, and practice self-arrest techniques. Be aware that hidden dangers exist above, on, and in the snow pack in the form of trees, rocks, hangfire (winter), creeks, etc.. Learn how to recognize them!
                 
                 
                Ned Tibbits, Director
                Mountain Education
                www.mountaineducation.org
                 
                From: John
                Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2013 10:22 AM
                Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT
                 
                 

                <br>--- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "ybbband3" <carstentb@...> wrote:<br>><br>> John,<br>> Thank you for your reply. That boosts my confidence for this hike!<br>> One more question: would it be smart for me to bring an ice axe and or crampons? Do the PCT hikers usually carry these? Thanks again.<br>> 

                 
                There are others that might now more than I about what most PCTers take. I have talked to some PCT people that have stated they wish they had brought real crampons rather than Micro spikes or the like, as the latter have a tendency to roll or something- I've never used them. As John mentioned a Whippet is a good choice though not much step cutting is going to happen with a Whippet. Personally I wouldn't trust a Whippet for a dynamic self arrest, but it very well may keep you from falling far in the first place. To that end, if one hasn't thoroughly practiced self arrest with an ice axe, there isn't much point in counting on that tool/technique anyway.
                 
                Another thing to note is your intended direction of travel. If SoBo, then you will be hitting the easier passes early on with (perhaps) little need for traction devices or arresting devices. By the time you reach the likes of Mather, Glen, Forester, there is likely to be well worn paths in the snow. Also, do to your expanded time frame, you have the option of waiting a few hours (or days) until the snow softens a bit before attempting passes if need be.
                 
                For me (but I do have close to 50 years of snow travel experience), the very minimum I would take would be trekking poles and boots stiff enough to at least hold a little edge in snow (not trail runners). Oh ya, and don't forget the gaiters! That covers the snow part, the stream crossings are another issue.
                 
                John
              • Viraj Ward
                Thanks, Ned! It s always great to read your wise words.   Br, You might want to consider signing up to a be member on PCT blog where you can usually get
                Message 7 of 12 , Feb 18, 2013
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                Thanks, Ned!
                It's always great to read your wise words.
                 
                Br, You might want to consider signing up to a be member on PCT blog where you can usually get up-to-date reports (and pictures!) from thru hikers and conditions along the trail just before you hit the trail. I also was watched the state reports http://cdec4gov.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snowsurvey_sno  which helped me plan in 2011 when I also had early season start on the JMT  (highest record for snow??).
                 
                I was so thankful that I had my crampons. I used them often to cover the long stretches of snow-cupped slopes, enabling me to move confidently and with less fatigue. On days I decided to forgo the trouble of putting them on, I was self-correcting my footing almost every step, moving pretty slowly and  paid the price with swollen, strained ankles. Many PCT'ers traveling northbound that year had at the very least Microspikes. Also, my hiking buddies hated me waking them up at o'dark thirty, but they soon agreed that an early morning start on crunchy snow with crampons helped us keep our pace.
                Though I only had ice axe a few times that year on the JMT (for precaution-never needed to self-arrest thank god!),  it would have been worthless weight if I hadn't taken a refresher class in how to use it. Can't stress that enough.
                 
                I also invested in a GPS, since navigation in tree-covered snow, was difficult and there weren't strong boot tracks from the PCT'ers yet (and some of their tracks were wrong!)
                One of the dangers that Ned hinted at are snow bridges over creek crossings,which start to thin out (see attached photo)
                 
                Any way, just my 2 cents.
                Viraj Ward
                SoBo, JMT 2013
                 
                 
                 
                 
                 
                 

                From: Ned Tibbits <ned@...>
                To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Monday, February 18, 2013 2:24 PM
                Subject: Re: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT
                 
                Both John & John are right, so take heed.
                 
                June in the sierra can offer an incredible hiking experience since much of the high country is still covered in snow, transforming the otherwise rocky landscape into a glistening marvel of beauty. There are dangers not known to the summer travellers, though, but they can be easily identified and carefully negotiated, once trained and experienced.
                 
                What to bring, as Dittli has once said, begins with awareness, is practiced with wisdom, and both reside between your ears! After that, there are some tools we wouldn’t walk over snow without.
                 
                After 31 years of teaching PCT thru hikers how to prepare for the “Realities of the Trail” yet before them (got to take off those rose-colored glasses, as exciting and romantic as planning a 5-month hike can be!), we’ve got a pretty good idea what “works” out there for them (since they need to go through the sierra on the JMT/PCT during a season of snow not usually desired for otherwise summer hiking).
                 
                Yes, you can hike year ‘round, and this topic is about spring/snow hiking.
                 
                Keep in mind that snow is slippery. When compressed under the weight of someone’s feet, spring snow (before of after the thaw starts) will warm and congeal usually into something that will give you adequate traction to almost walk normally (like on dry trail, that is, allowing you to push off your toes). When this footprint freezes at night, you can count on it being icy in the morning. Now, if you follow this track, your feet may slip even more! Hence, the need for hiking crampons!  http://www.kahtoola.com/hiking_crampons.php
                 
                Realize that it doesn’t take a big nor long nor suncup-ridden field of snow to give you opportunity to test the strength of your footholds. All it takes is snow or ice just under your foot! Everyone falls at some point in their mountain training. Even with all the training done in Search and Rescue, members slip and fall and get hurt trying to get to their patients.
                 
                Just going over a small patch of snow across the trail while on a hillside traverse will present sufficient opportunity to test your hazard recognition awareness, give you the challenge of planning your approach, initial contact and boot-purchase test, maintaining your balance with poles (Whippet & Traverse),
                http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/ski/ski-poles/whippet-self-arrest-ski-pole
                http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/ski/ski-poles/traverse-ski-pole
                testing how hard you can “push” with your toes without slipping, and the ever-constant evaluation of general snow conditions sufficient to support your weight. All this done on just a small piece of sloped snow!
                 
                Yet, these mental evaluations and computations become habit after awhile, but that is practical wilderness wisdom 101.
                 
                So, it all starts with the first patch of snow on the trail. If it is hard, it is slippery. If it is soft, you can fall through (postholing). What can be done to make sure you don’t get hurt out there? As mentioned above,
                - learn how to identify hazards in front of you (above, on, and in the snow),
                - use poles to maintain your balance,
                - have a self-arrest device in-hand whenever on snow to stop your slide after a sudden fall,
                - slow down and concentrate on your balance, traction, the support of the snow, and more,
                - gain experience in dealing with difficulties likely encountered (instruction, skills, trips),
                - know where you’re going so you don’t waste time and energy, and
                - prepare for the worst so you can safely deal and enjoy the best.
                 
                Keep in mind that summer trails are designed somewhat flat side-to-side while on a climb. Snow does not. Even snow drifted in the trail on a switchback will be angled, so you will need to get a good grip with your shoes to ascertain and maintain your balance and propulsion.
                 
                June is a great month out on the “trail!” Prepare for snow, know how to walk on it without falling, carry and use devices that will help with predictable traction and balance, have poles to correct side-to-side tottering, and practice self-arrest techniques. Be aware that hidden dangers exist above, on, and in the snow pack in the form of trees, rocks, hangfire (winter), creeks, etc.. Learn how to recognize them!
                 
                 
                Ned Tibbits, Director Mountain Education
                www.mountaineducation.org
                 
                From: John
                Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2013 10:22 AM
                Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT
                 
                 
                <br>--- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "ybbband3" <carstentb@...> wrote:<br>><br>> John,<br>> Thank you for your reply. That boosts my confidence for this hike!<br>> One more question: would it be smart for me to bring an ice axe and or crampons? Do the PCT hikers usually carry these? Thanks again.<br>> 
                 
                There are others that might now more than I about what most PCTers take. I have talked to some PCT people that have stated they wish they had brought real crampons rather than Micro spikes or the like, as the latter have a tendency to roll or something- I've never used them. As John mentioned a Whippet is a good choice though not much step cutting is going to happen with a Whippet. Personally I wouldn't trust a Whippet for a dynamic self arrest, but it very well may keep you from falling far in the first place. To that end, if one hasn't thoroughly practiced self arrest with an ice axe, there isn't much point in counting on that tool/technique anyway.
                 
                Another thing to note is your intended direction of travel. If SoBo, then you will be hitting the easier passes early on with (perhaps) little need for traction devices or arresting devices. By the time you reach the likes of Mather, Glen, Forester, there is likely to be well worn paths in the snow. Also, do to your expanded time frame, you have the option of waiting a few hours (or days) until the snow softens a bit before attempting passes if need be.
                 
                For me (but I do have close to 50 years of snow travel experience), the very minimum I would take would be trekking poles and boots stiff enough to at least hold a little edge in snow (not trail runners). Oh ya, and don't forget the gaiters! That covers the snow part, the stream crossings are another issue.
                 
                John
              • Ned Tibbits
                Viraj brings up an important point about snow bridges: We are strong advocates of early season wilderness travel over snow. The beauty is awesome and the snow
                Message 8 of 12 , Feb 19, 2013
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                  Viraj brings up an important point about snow bridges:
                   
                  We are strong advocates of early season wilderness travel over snow. The beauty is awesome and the snow is finally stable and avalanche-free (barring new storms on an old pack and sloughs).
                   
                  One of the reasons to go in that “early” (April on...) has to do with the creek crossings. The sierra has long drainages that gather a lot of water. By the time during the thaw (can be during May or June) that the water gets to JMT/PCT elevation, there is enough of it to create a whitewater, foaming mess 50 feet wide! Not a safe thing to cross and this is the greatest danger PCT thru hikers face. Comparatively, the creek drainages further north of the JMT, say up north of Sonora Pass are shorter and have smaller volumes of thaw water to cross (thus, the PCT thrus really should try to get that far before the thaw starts!).
                   
                  Ok, so the key in these long, sierra drainages is to select safe crossing points during the thaw or be there before the thaw when the creek is but a trickle (if it is open and not buried by snow). If you go in early, most creeks are covered by thick masses of snow we like to call snow-bridges. In 31 years of teaching backcountry snow travel, I have never had one collapse on me, but I have read about them happening to others, dropping them into the creek flow beneath, so you’ve got to learn how to assess their stability and strength before venturing out across them!
                   
                  What does this take? Personal experience! You’ve got to know for yourself, considering your total weight and flotation type (skis, snowshoes, or boots), what thickness, temperature, and exposure of snow bridge will support you while crossing.
                   
                  Does a raging, noisy creek beneath the pack mean that the bridge will be thinner? Probably, so take a closer look or chose another crossing point.
                   
                  Can you visualize the thickness of the bridge where you will be crossing from both downstream and upstream (to assess its thickness and strength)?  For my peace of mind, I do this always, especially if the creek has lots of open holes showing through the snow!
                   
                  If the days are hot during the thaw and the snow is soft-to-postholing, should I cross over on a questionable bridge or should I look for another, say in the shade? Definitely!
                   
                  These are things to consider, but with a little guidance, training, and experience, (and no tolerance for being hasty!) you can fully enjoy the snowy backcountry and bring home the pictures to show everybody later!
                   
                   
                  Ned Tibbits, Director
                  Mountain Education
                  www.mountaineducation.org
                   
                  Sent: Monday, February 18, 2013 8:45 PM
                  Subject: Re: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT [1 Attachment]
                   
                   

                  Thanks, Ned!
                  It's always great to read your wise words.
                   
                  Br, You might want to consider signing up to a be member on PCT blog where you can usually get up-to-date reports (and pictures!) from thru hikers and conditions along the trail just before you hit the trail. I also was watched the state reports http://cdec4gov.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snowsurvey_sno  which helped me plan in 2011 when I also had early season start on the JMT  (highest record for snow??).
                   
                  I was so thankful that I had my crampons. I used them often to cover the long stretches of snow-cupped slopes, enabling me to move confidently and with less fatigue. On days I decided to forgo the trouble of putting them on, I was self-correcting my footing almost every step, moving pretty slowly and  paid the price with swollen, strained ankles. Many PCT'ers traveling northbound that year had at the very least Microspikes. Also, my hiking buddies hated me waking them up at o'dark thirty, but they soon agreed that an early morning start on crunchy snow with crampons helped us keep our pace.
                  Though I only had ice axe a few times that year on the JMT (for precaution-never needed to self-arrest thank god!),  it would have been worthless weight if I hadn't taken a refresher class in how to use it. Can't stress that enough.
                   
                  I also invested in a GPS, since navigation in tree-covered snow, was difficult and there weren't strong boot tracks from the PCT'ers yet (and some of their tracks were wrong!)
                  One of the dangers that Ned hinted at are snow bridges over creek crossings,which start to thin out (see attached photo)
                   
                  Any way, just my 2 cents.
                  Viraj Ward
                  SoBo, JMT 2013
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                  From: Ned Tibbits <ned@...>
                  To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Monday, February 18, 2013 2:24 PM
                  Subject: Re: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT
                   
                  Both John & John are right, so take heed.
                   
                  June in the sierra can offer an incredible hiking experience since much of the high country is still covered in snow, transforming the otherwise rocky landscape into a glistening marvel of beauty. There are dangers not known to the summer travellers, though, but they can be easily identified and carefully negotiated, once trained and experienced.
                   
                  What to bring, as Dittli has once said, begins with awareness, is practiced with wisdom, and both reside between your ears! After that, there are some tools we wouldn’t walk over snow without.
                   
                  After 31 years of teaching PCT thru hikers how to prepare for the “Realities of the Trail” yet before them (got to take off those rose-colored glasses, as exciting and romantic as planning a 5-month hike can be!), we’ve got a pretty good idea what “works” out there for them (since they need to go through the sierra on the JMT/PCT during a season of snow not usually desired for otherwise summer hiking).
                   
                  Yes, you can hike year ‘round, and this topic is about spring/snow hiking.
                   
                  Keep in mind that snow is slippery. When compressed under the weight of someone’s feet, spring snow (before of after the thaw starts) will warm and congeal usually into something that will give you adequate traction to almost walk normally (like on dry trail, that is, allowing you to push off your toes). When this footprint freezes at night, you can count on it being icy in the morning. Now, if you follow this track, your feet may slip even more! Hence, the need for hiking crampons!  http://www.kahtoola.com/hiking_crampons.php
                   
                  Realize that it doesn’t take a big nor long nor suncup-ridden field of snow to give you opportunity to test the strength of your footholds. All it takes is snow or ice just under your foot! Everyone falls at some point in their mountain training. Even with all the training done in Search and Rescue, members slip and fall and get hurt trying to get to their patients.
                   
                  Just going over a small patch of snow across the trail while on a hillside traverse will present sufficient opportunity to test your hazard recognition awareness, give you the challenge of planning your approach, initial contact and boot-purchase test, maintaining your balance with poles (Whippet & Traverse),
                  http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/ski/ski-poles/whippet-self-arrest-ski-pole
                  http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/shop/ski/ski-poles/traverse-ski-pole
                  testing how hard you can “push” with your toes without slipping, and the ever-constant evaluation of general snow conditions sufficient to support your weight. All this done on just a small piece of sloped snow!
                   
                  Yet, these mental evaluations and computations become habit after awhile, but that is practical wilderness wisdom 101.
                   
                  So, it all starts with the first patch of snow on the trail. If it is hard, it is slippery. If it is soft, you can fall through (postholing). What can be done to make sure you don’t get hurt out there? As mentioned above,
                  - learn how to identify hazards in front of you (above, on, and in the snow),
                  - use poles to maintain your balance,
                  - have a self-arrest device in-hand whenever on snow to stop your slide after a sudden fall,
                  - slow down and concentrate on your balance, traction, the support of the snow, and more,
                  - gain experience in dealing with difficulties likely encountered (instruction, skills, trips),
                  - know where you’re going so you don’t waste time and energy, and
                  - prepare for the worst so you can safely deal and enjoy the best.
                   
                  Keep in mind that summer trails are designed somewhat flat side-to-side while on a climb. Snow does not. Even snow drifted in the trail on a switchback will be angled, so you will need to get a good grip with your shoes to ascertain and maintain your balance and propulsion.
                   
                  June is a great month out on the “trail!” Prepare for snow, know how to walk on it without falling, carry and use devices that will help with predictable traction and balance, have poles to correct side-to-side tottering, and practice self-arrest techniques. Be aware that hidden dangers exist above, on, and in the snow pack in the form of trees, rocks, hangfire (winter), creeks, etc.. Learn how to recognize them!
                   
                   
                  Ned Tibbits, Director Mountain Education
                  www.mountaineducation.org
                   
                  From: John
                  Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2013 10:22 AM
                  Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT
                   
                   
                  <br>--- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "ybbband3" <carstentb@...> wrote:<br>><br>> John,<br>> Thank you for your reply. That boosts my confidence for this hike!<br>> One more question: would it be smart for me to bring an ice axe and or crampons? Do the PCT hikers usually carry these? Thanks again.<br>> 
                   
                  There are others that might now more than I about what most PCTers take. I have talked to some PCT people that have stated they wish they had brought real crampons rather than Micro spikes or the like, as the latter have a tendency to roll or something- I've never used them. As John mentioned a Whippet is a good choice though not much step cutting is going to happen with a Whippet. Personally I wouldn't trust a Whippet for a dynamic self arrest, but it very well may keep you from falling far in the first place. To that end, if one hasn't thoroughly practiced self arrest with an ice axe, there isn't much point in counting on that tool/technique anyway.
                   
                  Another thing to note is your intended direction of travel. If SoBo, then you will be hitting the easier passes early on with (perhaps) little need for traction devices or arresting devices. By the time you reach the likes of Mather, Glen, Forester, there is likely to be well worn paths in the snow. Also, do to your expanded time frame, you have the option of waiting a few hours (or days) until the snow softens a bit before attempting passes if need be.
                   
                  For me (but I do have close to 50 years of snow travel experience), the very minimum I would take would be trekking poles and boots stiff enough to at least hold a little edge in snow (not trail runners). Oh ya, and don't forget the gaiters! That covers the snow part, the stream crossings are another issue.
                   
                  John
                • Roleigh Martin
                  Ned, this was a great posting. Does anyone in the JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group want to create some Best of Mountain Education Postings word document that holds
                  Message 9 of 12 , Feb 19, 2013
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                    Ned, this was a great posting.  Does anyone in the JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group want to create some "Best of Mountain Education Postings" word document that holds the title of the subject line, date, and link to the message that Ned has posted?

                    Use this link:

                    and click on advance search and then in the search option row that has "author" and default search condition is "contains" (leave it as contains) - in the blank box to the right, enter "mountaineducation.org" (without the quotes), and then search.  

                    If you want to add a comment about what Ned talks about if the subject title is not adequate, add that information too.  

                    Save it as a Word document and convert it to PDF (if you do not have Adobe Acrobat, email to me, and I'll convert it to PDF and send it back to you), then you can upload it to the files folder under:


                    You'll then have your name as the poster and the group will be very appreciative of your efforts.  If you want editing help or upload help, we can upload it for you there but we'll credit you as the documenter.

                    Reply to this thread if you want to do the consolidation effort so that two people are not inventing the same wheel.

                    Thanks!
                    -------------------------------------------------
                    Visit my Google Profile (lots of very interesting research links)
                    _



                    On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 4:11 PM, Ned Tibbits <ned@...> wrote:
                     

                    Viraj brings up an important point about snow bridges:
                     
                    We are strong advocates of early season wilderness travel over snow. The beauty is awesome and the snow is finally stable and avalanche-free (barring new storms on an old pack and sloughs).
                     
                    One of the reasons to go in that “early” (April on...) has to do with the creek crossings. The sierra has long drainages that gather a lot of water. By the time during the thaw (can be during May or June) that the water gets to JMT/PCT elevation, there is enough of it to create a whitewater, foaming mess 50 feet wide! Not a safe thing to cross and this is the greatest danger PCT thru hikers face. Comparatively, the creek drainages further north of the JMT, say up north of Sonora Pass are shorter and have smaller volumes of thaw water to cross (thus, the PCT thrus really should try to get that far before the thaw starts!).
                     
                    Ok, so the key in these long, sierra drainages is to select safe crossing points during the thaw or be there before the thaw when the creek is but a trickle (if it is open and not buried by snow). If you go in early, most creeks are covered by thick masses of snow we like to call snow-bridges. In 31 years of teaching backcountry snow travel, I have never had one collapse on me, but I have read about them happening to others, dropping them into the creek flow beneath, so you’ve got to learn how to assess their stability and strength before venturing out across them!
                     
                    What does this take? Personal experience! You’ve got to know for yourself, considering your total weight and flotation type (skis, snowshoes, or boots), what thickness, temperature, and exposure of snow bridge will support you while crossing.
                     
                    Does a raging, noisy creek beneath the pack mean that the bridge will be thinner? Probably, so take a closer look or chose another crossing point.
                     
                    Can you visualize the thickness of the bridge where you will be crossing from both downstream and upstream (to assess its thickness and strength)?  For my peace of mind, I do this always, especially if the creek has lots of open holes showing through the snow!
                     
                    If the days are hot during the thaw and the snow is soft-to-postholing, should I cross over on a questionable bridge or should I look for another, say in the shade? Definitely!
                     
                    These are things to consider, but with a little guidance, training, and experience, (and no tolerance for being hasty!) you can fully enjoy the snowy backcountry and bring home the pictures to show everybody later!
                     
                     
                    Ned Tibbits, Director
                    Mountain Education
                    www.mountaineducation.org
                     
                  • John
                    ... crossing points during the thaw or be there before the thaw when the creek is but a trickle (if it is open and not buried by snow). If you go in early,
                    Message 10 of 12 , Feb 19, 2013
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                      --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "Ned Tibbits" <ned@...> wrote:

                      > Ok, so the key in these long, sierra drainages is to select safe crossing points during the thaw or be there before the thaw when the creek is but a trickle (if it is open and not buried by snow). If you go in early, most creeks are covered by thick masses of snow we like to call snow-bridges. In 31 years of teaching backcountry snow travel, I have never had one collapse on me, but I have read about them happening to others, dropping them into the creek flow beneath, so you’ve got to learn how to assess their stability and strength before venturing out across them!

                      We often will cross on snow bridges well upstream of trail crossings in early season.

                      So Ned, never fallen in? Me neither, but close! Don't try this at home, or anywhere else.... Mono Creek.


                      JD
                      Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
                    • Ned Tibbits
                      I had the pleasure of following Mr. D’s tracks two years ago in the vicinity of Siberian Outpost and on up to Tyndall Creek. Granted the tracks were old by
                      Message 11 of 12 , Feb 21, 2013
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                        I had the pleasure of following Mr. D’s tracks two years ago in the vicinity of Siberian Outpost and on up to Tyndall Creek. Granted the tracks were old by weeks, but I got a kick out of where they went relative to where the trail was.
                         
                        Although we were on a good 5 feet of solid snow everywhere, the tracks often drifted far and wide of the trail and certainly didn’t cross many creeks where the summer trial did.
                         
                        Lesson from the story? There is no need to follow the trail verbatim. Know where it is going, identify landmarks ahead of you near the trail, and head for them, modifying your route as you get closer. Mr. D knows where he is going and the landmarks along the way. He chooses safe creek crossing points irrespective of the trail. Safety and staying dry are most important when travelling over snow. As long as he gets where he want to go in a safe manner, the day was a good one.
                         
                        Loved your pictures, John! No, I haven’t fallen into a creek via a collapsed snow bridge (though I’ve had a few do what that one in your photos did!), but my partner did step off a 4-foot vertical snow bank in Siberian Outpost in 1974 onto what we thought was a dry-grass slope beside a creek and sank into a spring up to his chest!!
                         
                        The challenges were immediate! I had to get him out since he was wallowing in what felt like quicksand and getting cold by the second. Yes, the sun was out and we weren’t cold up to the point of the accident, but sunset was right around the corner and I knew we had to get him out of the environment and those wet clothes, into dry clothes and a sleeping bag, and get hot food and liquids into him quickly!
                         
                        I offered him my ice axe handle and pulled him out of the water, then we set off for a nearby summer ranger station I saw was on the map just north of the Outpost meadows. We got there just in time! Although it was only a mile away, I found it pretty directly right about the time my partner’s clothes began solidifying in the cold of late afternoon! If the shelter hadn’t been so close, we would have pitched right there beside the spring and started warming him up! Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst...
                         
                         
                        Ned Tibbits, Director
                        Mountain Education
                        www.mountaineducation.org
                         
                        From: John
                        Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 2:46 PM
                        Subject: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT
                         
                         

                         
                         
                        --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, "Ned Tibbits" <ned@...> wrote:
                         
                        > Ok, so the key in these long, sierra drainages is to select safe
                        crossing points during the thaw or be there before the thaw when the creek is but a trickle (if it is open and not buried by snow). If you go in early, most creeks are covered by thick masses of snow we like to call snow-bridges. In 31 years of teaching backcountry snow travel, I have never had one collapse on me, but I have read about them happening to others, dropping them into the creek flow beneath, so you’ve got to learn how to assess their stability and strength before venturing out across them!
                        >
                         
                        We often will cross on snow bridges well upstream of trail crossings in early season.
                         
                        So Ned, never fallen in? Me neither, but close! Don't try this at home, or anywhere else.... Mono Creek.
                         
                         
                        JD
                        Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
                      • Ned Tibbits
                        Roleigh! John may have something already... Thanks for your kind words! We just want everyone to taste of wilderness and listen to what it has to teach. The
                        Message 12 of 12 , Feb 21, 2013
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                          Roleigh!
                           
                          John may have something already...
                          Thanks for your kind words! We just want everyone to taste of wilderness and listen to what it has to teach. The longer they can stay there, the easier it is to hear!
                           
                           
                          Ned Tibbits, Director
                          Mountain Education
                          www.mountaineducation.org
                           
                          Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 2:11 PM
                          Subject: Re: [John Muir Trail] Re: 2013 June Start of JMT
                           
                           

                          Ned, this was a great posting.  Does anyone in the JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group want to create some "Best of Mountain Education Postings" word document that holds the title of the subject line, date, and link to the message that Ned has posted?

                           
                          Use this link:
                           
                          and click on advance search and then in the search option row that has "author" and default search condition is "contains" (leave it as contains) - in the blank box to the right, enter "mountaineducation.org" (without the quotes), and then search. 
                           
                          If you want to add a comment about what Ned talks about if the subject title is not adequate, add that information too. 
                           
                          Save it as a Word document and convert it to PDF (if you do not have Adobe Acrobat, email to me, and I'll convert it to PDF and send it back to you), then you can upload it to the files folder under:
                           
                           
                          You'll then have your name as the poster and the group will be very appreciative of your efforts.  If you want editing help or upload help, we can upload it for you there but we'll credit you as the documenter.
                           
                          Reply to this thread if you want to do the consolidation effort so that two people are not inventing the same wheel.
                           
                          Thanks!
                          -------------------------------------------------
                          Visit my Google Profile (lots of very interesting research links)
                          _



                          On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 4:11 PM, Ned Tibbits <ned@...> wrote:
                           
                          Viraj brings up an important point about snow bridges:
                           
                          We are strong advocates of early season wilderness travel over snow. The beauty is awesome and the snow is finally stable and avalanche-free (barring new storms on an old pack and sloughs).
                           
                          One of the reasons to go in that “early” (April on...) has to do with the creek crossings. The sierra has long drainages that gather a lot of water. By the time during the thaw (can be during May or June) that the water gets to JMT/PCT elevation, there is enough of it to create a whitewater, foaming mess 50 feet wide! Not a safe thing to cross and this is the greatest danger PCT thru hikers face. Comparatively, the creek drainages further north of the JMT, say up north of Sonora Pass are shorter and have smaller volumes of thaw water to cross (thus, the PCT thrus really should try to get that far before the thaw starts!).
                           
                          Ok, so the key in these long, sierra drainages is to select safe crossing points during the thaw or be there before the thaw when the creek is but a trickle (if it is open and not buried by snow). If you go in early, most creeks are covered by thick masses of snow we like to call snow-bridges. In 31 years of teaching backcountry snow travel, I have never had one collapse on me, but I have read about them happening to others, dropping them into the creek flow beneath, so you’ve got to learn how to assess their stability and strength before venturing out across them!
                           
                          What does this take? Personal experience! You’ve got to know for yourself, considering your total weight and flotation type (skis, snowshoes, or boots), what thickness, temperature, and exposure of snow bridge will support you while crossing.
                           
                          Does a raging, noisy creek beneath the pack mean that the bridge will be thinner? Probably, so take a closer look or chose another crossing point.
                           
                          Can you visualize the thickness of the bridge where you will be crossing from both downstream and upstream (to assess its thickness and strength)?  For my peace of mind, I do this always, especially if the creek has lots of open holes showing through the snow!
                           
                          If the days are hot during the thaw and the snow is soft-to-postholing, should I cross over on a questionable bridge or should I look for another, say in the shade? Definitely!
                           
                          These are things to consider, but with a little guidance, training, and experience, (and no tolerance for being hasty!) you can fully enjoy the snowy backcountry and bring home the pictures to show everybody later!
                           
                           
                          Ned Tibbits, Director
                          Mountain Education
                          www.mountaineducation.org
                           
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