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Interpreting Snow Pack Charts

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  • ravi_jmt2013
    I m hoping for a bit of insight on how to correctly interpret the following snow pack chart: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/snowapp/swcchart.action
    Message 1 of 36 , Feb 17
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      I'm hoping for a bit of insight on how to correctly interpret the following snow pack chart:
      http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/snowapp/swcchart.action

      I have selected the options for 1976-77 (minimum), 1982-83 (maximum), 2012-13 (low recent snow year), and 2013-2014 (current year).  As of today, snow pack in the central Sierra is 34% of normal and 26% of the April 1 average which falls far short of last year and slightly above 1976-77.  For the southern Sierra, snow pack is at 24% of normal and 18% of the April 1 average which is far short of last year and slightly above 1976-77. 

      While obviously anything can happen over the next several weeks, it seems highly unlikely that the current year will exceed last year.  On the chart for 2012-13, I see the snow pack getting to zero by the third week of May in both the Central and Southern Sierra.  1976-77 is similar. 

      My main question involves where the snow pack measurement is taken.  When the chart gets to zero, should we interpret this to mean that there is little or no snow on the passes, or is it more correct to still anticipate snow at the passes? 

      I have a June 1 permit starting at Happy Isles and plan to exit Whitney Portal around June 14.  My current thinking is that there should be little snow except perhaps on the higher southern passes and that northbound PCT hikers appear to be planning early entry into the Sierra so trail is likely to be broken on areas that might have lingering snow, especially on the southern passes which I won't get to until close to mid June. 

      I personally have no experience hiking in snow (didn't get a chance to travel to California to take the Mountain Education course this year - planning on it next year prior to the PCT).  I haven't made any firm travel plans yet and trying to figure out when to make a "go/no go" decision and book travel so any advice would be helpful especially on interpreting that chart!  Thanks. 
    • brucelem12
      The trail on the N side of Donahue Pass would probably be hard to follow by headlamp, (a number of rock slabs where trail is obvious only 10-20 feet ahead),
      Message 36 of 36 , Feb 20
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        The trail on the N side of Donahue Pass would probably be hard to follow by headlamp, (a number of rock slabs where trail is obvious only 10-20 feet ahead), but is not steep or dangerous. About a mile S of Muir Pass might be similar in both respects. There are probably some other similar areas, but those are the only 2 that come to mind, and none come to mind that combine indistinct tread w/ particularly precipitous drops.
        Bruce
        -----------------------------------
        "Speaking of passes and drops, are there any passes that would be a horrible idea to descend with a headlamp if I try to get to a certain camp or do two passes in a day type of thing?  I will be heading SOBO in August.  Thx in advance. "
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