January 03, 2013
Weather: December 26 through January 1
Skiing Conditions and Weather: The winter rangers got what they wished for this Christmas in abundance. Presents were under (and on top of) every tree! Now, however, the snow has been blown off most of the branches after a pretty significant northeast wind event. Above treeline, sastrugi and wind crusts of varying densities are lurking. In some places, where the snow has been deposited or where it has been protected, it remains soft. Below treeline, the trail breaking has become much easier.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions: For the latest avalanche advisory for this area go to www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center and click on advisory. The ESAC site is updated several times a week and more often during weather events.
The base snow depth settled almost a foot this week in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Presently, the sun is further consolidating the snowpack. The primary avalanche hazard that remains, is a wind slab that formed on New Year's Day. This wind loading actually triggered a natural slide yesterday on Mt Dana. Several isolated pockets of wind slab broke loose and triggered loose snow avalanches through the trees chutes above Dana Meadows. Caution is certainly advised around these rocky, wind loaded higher alpine areas. Elsewhere, the snowpack appears quite stable with persistent weak layers remaining until the next storm cycle.
Wildlife: Most of our week was spent on Tioga Pass. We saw a very ambitious set of coyote tracks that explored Gaylor Peak ridge all the way down to Tioga Lake though very deep snow. Weasel and Pine Marten tracks were seen between there and Tuolumne as well. The most notable sighting was a colorful flock of over twenty male (red) and female (yellow-green) Red crossbills flying over Dana Meadow at sunset, peacefully ringing in the New Year as they passed overhead.
Happy New Year!