New snow: 6 inches
Total settled snow depth: 10 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 45°F (January 23)
Low temperature: -5°F (January 21)
Ski Conditions and Weather
This was the first week that actually felt like winter in the Yosemite high country this season. Cold temperatures and a little bit of snow made things look more wintry as well. The snowpack is still shallow at 8,600 feet (10-16 inches), but as one ascends from this elevation the snow becomes progressively deeper. South aspects at most elevations are mostly bare and north aspects continue to hold the whole winter’s worth of snow.
The best opportunity for making turns is on north aspects above 9,500 feet. We found some very good skiing this week while out on our daily patrols. The Unicorn Creek and Rafferty drainages, and the surrounding high country, are skiing quite well. Coverage is good along the Tioga Road between the Warren Fork in Lee Vining Canyon and Tuolumne Meadows. The touring in Dana Meadows and Tuolumne Meadows is also good as there is presently 4 inches of low density snow on top of a hard supportable layer beneath.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
The avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is currently low. The light snow that fell this week did not provide enough of a load to stress underlying weak layers that still exist on northerly aspects above 9,200 feet. With more snow in the forecast and potentially high winds, the potential for wind slabs to develop on lee slopes will exist. Wilderness travelers should be cautious on slopes in alpine terrain where touchy wind slabs may develop over the next couple of days.
We continue to see evidence of porcupine each winter we are out here. This season, however, we have been seeing tracks in a couple of higher elevation places we hadn’t before. One place was on the south slope of Altusky-Unicorn Peak. Another location was just north of Johnson Peak. We assume they are hunkering down among the talus during the cold nights and catching some rays of sun on nearby trees during the day as evidenced by their tracks.
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 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.
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Winter Rangers