Total settled snow depth: 10 inches as of January 7, 2015 (snow stake located at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 51 degrees F, January 5
Low temperature: 5 degrees F, January 2
Skiing Conditions and Weather: Okay, take a deep breath; smile. Look around. It's Tuolumne Meadows. How does the saying go? "Even a bad day of skiing…." So the sun and now the winds have ravaged the mountain snow. BUT, the low angle winter lighting on the newly formed waves of sastrugi is great for photography. And the peace and quiet of the new year makes touring in wilderness as lovely as ever. Skiing among the north facing low angle trees, at higher elevations is alright too. If you range above tree-line, however, expect everything;ice, wind crust, bullet-proof snow, a soft turn or rock. Below 8000' on southerly aspects, you might prefer to snowshoe.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions: For the avalanche advisory for this area of the Sierra Nevada go to www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) and click on advisory. The ESAC site is undergoing changes this season and is not regularly updated as in past seasons, but it still posts relevant observations.
The avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is presently low. At the higher elevations travelers should be wary of wind slabs that are now overlying soft snow and a hard melt freeze crust. There is potential for human triggered avalanches where these isolated pockets of wind slabs exist.
Not much has changed since the last post. Within the snowpack there are multiple persistent weak layers of new and old melt freeze crusts and wind slab sandwiched among facets that could pose a hazard in the future; if it ever snows…
Wildlife: For the second season in a row, we have spotted the distinct trail left behind by a porcupine in the shadow of Lembert Dome. Also, new to us up here in winter was a very vocal flock of Pygmy Nuthatch. Incessantly chattering, they darted rapidly between branches of the Lodge pole pine in search for food.
Questions: The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open! There is an ample supply of firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first come-first served basis. There is power but no public phone service in Tuolumne 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;don't count on electricity or phone service at the ski hut.
Happy New Year!
Laura and Rob Pilewski -Tuolumne Winter Rangers