Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Out And About In The Sierra Snow

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

I waited a few days for Highway 168 to clear up from the serial snowstorms we had recently. I think we got about 8 feet of new snow. We have had about 20 feet of snow above 6,500 feet thus far this season. The China Peak ski resort lists 23 feet of snow at the top of the mountain but some of our early storms were warm and the snow level was above 10,000’. The rain caused considerable damage to Dinkey Creek Road out of Shaver Lake. I believe it is still under repair. So, who knows how much snow there is at the higher elevations but I pity anyone doing the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) this year. At this rate some passes on the JMT portion may have quite a bit of snow all summer. We are expecting three more storms in the next week so I wanted to head up before the next batch of slippery snow hit the ground. 
Today I headed up with an intentionally late start to avoid morning frost and ice on Highway 168. The snow line is about 4,000’. The 6-mile climb from the end of the four lanes to Shaver Lake is actually the worst part of the drive. It is curvy and shaded with residual icy spots. I stopped at the Edison Parking area for photos of Shaver Lake. From Shaver Lake to the high point at Tamarack Ridge snow park (about 7,600 feet) the road is actually better than below Shaver Lake. From Tamarack Ridge it is actually a descent to Huntington Lake at 5,995 feet.
I parked in the Tamarack snow park. (A day or season pass is required) The potties looked more like caves surrounded by deep snow. I slipped my micro spikes on over my boots and hiked the packed snow out the main trail. I cannot say enough good things about them. I bought them in Lone Pine at the last minute for my final Mt. Whitney day hike two years ago and had secure traction on the exposed icy trail.
I walked as far as the cutoff trail to Tamarack Meadow. Because I am recovering from anemia, the doctor told me to keep my heart rate below 110 bpm, which was not easy at this altitude. The trail signs are designed to accommodate deep snowpack and my guesstimate would be that the posts are 15 to 18 feet tall. Based on how little of the posts remained above the snow, I would guess the snowpack is currently about 10-12 feet. I was surprised how little foot traffic there was heading away from the main trail on the Raven Trail. This trail is Nordic only. Most folks come up and play in the area around the trailhead, eat a meal off the back of their SUV or pickup, fill up the bed of the truck with snow and head back to Fresno. This mostly happens on the weekends. Sometimes folks get confused, lost and the Fresno County SAR Team is called out to look for them. It was good to be in the woods again and feel the sun on my anemic face. Maybe I’ll get some color back that way.
I headed out again and once I passed the entrance to China Peak, the road was less maintained. By the time I got to Lakeshore (north side of Huntington Lake), I was traveling down more of a tunnel in the snow than a road. I parked in a snow park there for a photo of China Peak across the lake. Huntington Lake itself is frozen over and not very photogenic this time of year. There were big loaders and blowers moving snow to prepare for the next onslaught. Who would guess this is all 1.5 hours from Fresno? I have only seen a dusting of snow here once in 25 years!

I used a Sony A7R2 with a Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 lens and a Sony RXIR with a 35mm f2 lens for the photos.

 Shaver Lake
 Tamarack Ridge Snow Park

 Tamarack Creek Covered By Snow

 Huntington Lake Inlet From Florence Lake Via Ward Tunnel
 Lakeshore Area

 Red Mountain

 China Peak From Across Huntington Lake
 Central Sierra View From Four Lane

 Darker Blue Horizontal Stripe Above Fog Is Costal Range   

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