Total settled snow depth: 21 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 60°F (April 9)
Low temperature: 15°F (April 8)
Ski Conditions and Weather Although it did not snow in Tuolumne Meadows this week, we did receive 2.11 inches of water in the form of rain. This was a significant weather event in that the rain fell on deep snow over a short period of time and caused the Tuolumne River to flood its banks in numerous places. Just as the rains abated, we observed an ice jam real-time that spanned the width of the river above the bridge on Highway 120. This snow and ice backed up just above the bridge and caused the river to divert into an entirely new channel adjacent to the road. A similar event happened just above the bridge near Soda Spring and Parson’s Lodge. This was an impressive hydrologic event that will probably continue until the snow and ice jams melt out. It remains to be seen if these are new changes in the river course or just isolated until the water levels continue to drop.
As for the skiing…..even though the area has lost significant snow depth with the rain and warm temperatures this week, the rain soaked snow that remains is set up for good spring travel. The snowline was near 13,000 feet for this late season atmospheric river and only on the highest reaches of Mt. Dana did we observe new snow. It has been freezing just enough at night and warming during the days to make for a good spring ski cycle. In the alpine zone, we would recommend ice axe and crampons. For those traveling through mid-elevations, traction devices for shoes are advised.
Wilderness travelers should be aware that river and stream crossings are extremely hazardous at this time, and that snow bridges may be impossible to find. Not only did the Tuolumne River flood, but all water courses (even un-named ones) are now deep channels with high snowbanks on either side. If one is planning travel in the backcountry, we would recommend trying to find crossings near the headwaters of any drainage. Be advised that lakes at 10,000 feet and possibly above have thawed out and may have only thin ice with a dusting of snow on top. Even human made bridges in the backcountry may have been compromised during this atmospheric river event so if traveling in these zones, have contingency plans! We have not observed any flooding over the Tioga Road yet, and so far this appears to be a safe travel corridor (However, we haven’t been back to where Murphy Creek has met Tenaya Lake since last week).
Caltrans continued their snow removal efforts on the east side of Tioga Pass this week. They were at the Saddlebag Road on Monday, and projected to be near the pass by Friday. Visitors approaching from the east should anticipate dry pavement (except any new snow that falls) east of Tioga Pass. Please stay clear of any machinery to ensure your safety and the safety of the equipment operators.
Avalanche and Snowpack ConditionsFor the avalanche advisory for this area of the Sierra Nevada go to www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.
The avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is presently low. The warm temperatures and overnight freezes have stabilized the snowpack at all aspects and elevations. Wet slides are still possible during the heat of the day especially on steep granite domes and around rock bands. The forecast calls for a few fast moving storms to come thru over the next week so visitors should be prepared for changing conditions.
WildlifeThe resident killdeer has moved back to stake its claim to Soda Springs. All of the other “tweety” birds seem to be singing a bit louder to compete with the roar of the river. One of those singing birds, initially appeared to be female…until we did some research and realized it was a first year male Cassin’s finch.
The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 8 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no phone service in Tuolumne Meadows at this time. We can be contacted regarding winter travel to Tuolumne Meadows via email, but we may be delayed in responding if we are on patrol. For permit information: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm. or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. Come prepared, and please make good decisions while traveling in the wilderness this spring!
Happy Spring Skiing!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers