Weather: December 26 through January 1
High temp: 32 °F (December 31st)
Low temp: -13 °F (December 27th )
New Snow: 10"
Total settled snow depth: 51" as of January 1
Total snowfall since December 4th: 103" (the day we arrived for the season at Tuolumne).
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.
Questions: The Tuolumne Ski Hut is open for the season. There is an ample supply of firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. You can call the Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station at (209)372-0450. If you leave a message we will get back to you the first chance we get. Power and phones are frequently out of service. Contact the Wilderness Office at (209) 372-0740 with any questions or concerns if you are unable to reach the Ranger Station. Come prepared; don't count on electricity or phone service at the ski hut.
Happy New Year!
Laura & Rob Pilewski
Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers
A frozen Galyor Lake on New Year's Day 2013
Gaylor Ridge during a wind event on New Year's Day 2013