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Tuolumne Meadows Winter Conditions Update (March 7 through March 14)

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avatar Tuolumne Meadows Winter Conditions Update (March 7 through March 14)
March 15, 2012 12:28PM
Tuolumne Meadows Winter Conditions Update
Weather: (March 7 through March 14)
High temp: 55°F (March 9)
Low temp: 2°F (March 7)
New Snow: 1 inch
Total settled snow depth: 16 inches as of March 14

Skiing Conditions and Weather: At the time of this writing, it is snowing again and conditions are constantly changing. There were several days this week where the high temperature was in the 50’s and this has created a supportable surface, when re-frozen, on most aspects below tree line. he snowpack is shrinking due to the warm temperatures this week, but coverage is still good for ski touring. The Tioga Road is still 100% snow covered from above the 9,000’ elevation on the east side to about the 8,000’ elevation in Yosemite Park. The forecast is for wet weather to continue through the weekend so there should be some much needed depth added to the snowpack. We went on a ski tour up Lyell Canyon this week and the conditions were fantastic all the way up to the Sierra Crest.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions: For the latest avalanche advisory for this area go to http://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. No natural avalanche activity has been seen in the Tuolumne backcountry area yet this season. High winds have affected most slopes above tree line. In between storms, the sun has also created crusts between snow events. Backcountry travelers should be cautious of these when on slopes greater than 30 degrees, primarily on North and East aspects. There are signs of instability out there, as evidenced by the “whoompfing” (the collapsing of weak snow layers within the snowpack) that has been observed in recent weeks. There is a dense slab overlaying weak snow that is all sitting on top of an old suncrust. If these slopes are loaded with new snow, or wind loaded, there could be a significant avalanche cycle in store. Do not be fooled by the lack of snow this season. If the forecast for this weekend holds true backcountry travelers need to be wary of all slopes greater than 30 degrees that have had snow on them since the late January storm.

Wildlife: The coyotes of Tuolumne have been vocal this week, perhaps also excited about the prospects for some more snow. The ground critters seem ready for spring as there is much activity on the forest floor where the ground has been exposed. A long tailed weasel was seen in the meadows this week. Not much to report in the way of spring bird activity yet.

Questions: Power and phones are out for the season. Contact the Wilderness Office at 209 372-0740 with any questions or concerns. Bring your ski & skin wax and happy skiing!!

-Laura & Rob Pilewski, Tuolumne Winter Rangers
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