Total settled snow depth: 89 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 39 degrees F (January 8)
Low temperature: -10 degrees F (January 6)
Ski Conditions and Weather
“Winter solitude in a world of one color, the sound of wind” - Basho. That sums up our week up here. If you are reading this post, it probably means the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers have survived the atmospheric river events of January 4, 2017 to present —105 inches of new snow with 12.5 inches of water and counting!
Throughout these storm cycles, temperatures have remained rather warm with heavy rain interspersed between low density snow. As of yesterday afternoon, there were already two obvious rain crusts in the upper snowpack with saturated snow in between.
As for the ski conditions…..they changed almost hourly during this week's weather pattern. For example, yesterday was 24 inches of new snow at 5% density on top of a very smooth and supportable rain crust. Today, it is deep and inverted with difficult, bottomless trail breaking.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
As mentioned last week, with blizzard-like conditions still predicted, it would be wise to postpone any wilderness travel. As said, trail breaking is deep and avalanche hazard is considerable including along the Tioga Road corridor to the east and west of Tuolumne Meadows. Wind-loading and warming temperatures are also of concern afterwards. Be patient. With seven and a half feet as the base depth here in Tuolumne, and thirteen feet plus in the high country, there will be plenty to go around!
With all of the weight, depth and wind added to the snowpack this week it would be best to tread lightly and avoid steep terrain until the avalanche hazard becomes more stable.
Mid storm cycle, when the rain saturated the snowpack to where trail breaking was minimal, coyotes, pine martens and Douglas squirrels darted about looking for food. Now, the only life around appears to be those with wings. That flock of American robins is stubbornly sticking it out in the shelter of the Juniper trees on Lembert Dome. And, a lone Clark’s nutcraker was spotted peeling the bark off a Juniper trunk. “I know I put that cache around here somewhere…” was the look he gave me as I skied by.
The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is NO power or phone service in Tuolumne Meadows this winter. We can be contacted via email, but we may be delayed in responding if we are on patrol. Contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740 with any questions or concerns. Come prepared and please make good decisions while travelling in the wilderness this winter.
Mni Wiconi! Water is Life!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers