Dan's Outside

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Memorial Weekend – Ebbetts Pass and Sonora Pass? Maybe.

I just checked the California Mountain Hiways page at Caltrans and it looks like Ebbetts Pass and Sonora Pass may now be open – do check directly before driving up there, but I’m optimistic. The opening of these two passes is often an indication that the opening of Tioga Pass Road may be about a week away. Fingers crossed…

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May 28, 2010 Posted by | Sierra Nevada | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Memorial Weekend – Ebbetts Pass and Sonora Pass? Maybe.

Memorial Weekend – Glacier Point? Yes. Tioga Pass? No.

The most recent update at the Yosemite National Park web site confirms what many suspected, namely that Glacier Point Road will likely be available over the upcoming holiday weekend but that Tioga Pass will not open quite yet.

Glacier Point Road:
The Glacier Point Road will open on Friday, May 28 at noon, conditions permitting. Expect 30-minute delays between Chinquapin and Badger Pass Sunday night through Friday afternoon (except Memorial Day).

Tioga Road:
The Tioga Road will not be open for Memorial Day weekend; there is no estimated opening date.

Plows have reached Tioga Pass and will now be working on widening the road. Plowing continues Monday – Saturday. Average Snow Depth is 4 to 6 feet. Plowing operation will continue today.

As I have mentioned before, this has been an unusually cold and wet May. Just this morning I heard that chain requirements were up on Interstate 80 over Donner Summit. As of today, Ebbetts, Sonora, and Monitor Passes are reportedly still closed. You can be pretty certain that Tioga won’t open before them, though it frequently opens perhaps a week or so after they open.

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Sierra Nevada | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Memorial Weekend – Glacier Point? Yes. Tioga Pass? No.

They Call This Spring?

Coming in to work this morning, the radio station reported that snow chain requirements are up on highway 80 across Donner Summit, and that eastbound traffic is being held at Colfax! Wait a minute – this is supposed to be spring!

While reports say that the overall weather in much of the rest of the world is warmer than normal so far this year, here in northern and central California this has been anything but a warm May. One report on a Bay Area television station earlier this week suggested that by the end of the month one quarter or a third of the days of May will have seen some precipitation.

I’m not complaining though. I prefer cool and “interesting” weather to the boring and consistently beautiful and warm weather of summer in the part of the world, and I welcome the possibility of a very green and wildflower-filled summer in the Sierra this year!

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Strange Sierra Spring

During a typical May we would be making our first drives over Tioga Pass and wondering if there might be enough snow left to keep Mammoth open until July 4th. The past two years were more typical and even drier/warmer than usual. However, this year is shaping up to be unusual. The overall precipitation for the season was (yes!) above normal – which is especially welcome after a few years of below normal precip. On top of that this has been a very cool and wet spring. During a typical May it usually feels more like early summer in the Sierra, but this year it has been more like an extended winter. The storm fronts have continued to pass through and even now in the latter part of May there is a string of cold, wet storms lined up to pass across the Sierra.

So, when will Tioga Pass Road open? I don’t have any inside information but I do know the history (average historical opening date is May 29) and I follow the current reports at the NPS and elsewhere. The road was reportedly plowed through recently, but this does not mean that it is yet ready to open. There is always a lot of additional work to take care of including clearing side roads and parking areas, patching road damage, and so forth. My hunch is that the NPS would like to get it open for Memorial Day Weekend in another week, but that this may be a challenge this year – especially if the forecast of another cold week with the possibility of snow pans out.

While the delay in “opening the high country” can frustrate some of us who want to get up there early, there are compensations. When the road does open, it is likely that we’ll see a lot of snow still in the high country – not like a few previous years when it seemed all too much like summer all too quickly. Even better, the heavy snow fall and late melt promises a long, green summer season and tons of wildflowers. (OK, and tons of mosquitoes, too – but let’s try not to think about that, OK?)

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Commentary, Sierra Nevada | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Strange Sierra Spring

Annual Tradition – Predicting the Opening of Tioga Pass Road

Sierra Nevada fans, especially those trying to get to the “east side” from the Bay Area and those on the east trying to get to Yosemite Valley, watch eagerly each spring for the opening of Tioga Pass Road, the trans-Sierra route through the park. The opening date varies from year to year based on a range of factors: the amount of winter snow fall, late storms, the condition of the underlying road, and so forth. Over a period of many decades the average opening has been very close to the end of May. However, I’ve been up there earlier in dry years, and during one memorable wet season in the mid-1990s the pass did not open until July! (I drove over shortly after it opened and was amazed by the amount of remaining snow and by the unbelievable amounts of runoff water everywhere.)

So, when will it open this year? If anyone knows, they aren’t telling – and, in any case, Mother Nature has a way of throwing surprises at us. The NPS does offer periodic updates, and sometimes you can “read between the lines” and get some idea of when the opening might be. (And I understand from some friends who know about these things that the word does start to get out informally a bit before the official announcement. For example, it might help if you knew someone working on the road clearing…)

This winter produced a somewhat above normal snowfall, though not anything record-breaking. The season has lasted a bit longer than usual, with new snow still arriving as we approach the beginning of May. Both of these factors suggest a somewhat later opening than in the past few years. Some work on the clearing is already underway, as per the link above. However, it isn’t enough to simply plow across the pass. Various kinds of debris (fallen trees, rocks, etc.) must be dealt with, turnouts and side roads must be opened, and avalanche dangers must end.

I have no inside information on this at all, but I’m going to guess that we’ll see an opening fairly close to the historical average day of May 29.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Death Valley and the SoCal Recent Storms

Being a regular Death Valley visitor – and probably a Death Valley return visitor in the next month or two – I like to keep up with the conditions in the park. If you aren’t familiar with the place you might envision static, hot, dry desert conditions in all seasons. You would be very wrong! I’ve most often visited around the beginning of April and I’ve seen everything from hot (upper 90 degree range) to snow (more than once!) and on several occasions rain and a few memorable dust storms. When rains do occur it isn’t unusual for there to be floods, some of epic proportions. (Within the last decade there have been several very serious floods than have led to major damage and deaths.)

I’ve been thinking about this during the past week’s huge storms in the Southwest – storms that have brought record low pressure systems to much of the area, created tornadoes, dropped snow to low elevations across several states, and dropped a lot of precipitation. Recently, photographer Bob Young shared with me the web address of a great resource for current conditions in the Death Valley area. (Thanks, Bob!)

From the report I read there today, it sounds like the storms hit DV fairly hard. Many (most?) back-country routes have been closed by rain, mud, and/or snow – including some of the popular locations such as Titus Canyon and the Racetrack. I get the impression that some of the low lying areas that can become flooded during wet years may indeed be flooding. While I don’t know the full extent of the conditions, I’m wondering if we might see some interesting and unusual water “events” this year and whether this might produce another exceptional wildflower bloom in a month or two.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Places | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Death Valley and the SoCal Recent Storms

El Niño? Time for weather junkies to begin speculating!

Starting about this time of year, many of us outdoor types are susceptible to speculations about the upcoming winter weather. Most of us are looking for something “interesting” – as in record-breaking rain/snow, an unusually early start to the season, and so forth.

Those who enjoy the seasonal speculation will appreciate the reports that El Niño conditions are returning for the upcoming season. Adding some uncertainty – but making the speculation all the more fun – El Niño can bring anything from above normal to below normal precipitation to the central/northern California area where I live. Apparently a weak El Niño can bring reduced rainfall, while a strong event (like the one I recall from the mid-1990s) can produce record-breaking conditions.

The current prediction? Conditions are still evolvomg, but at this point it looks like a weak to moderate event.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on El Niño? Time for weather junkies to begin speculating!

May 22 Opening for Tioga Pass?

Edie reports at the Little Red Tent blog that her “sources” say that Tioga Pass is likely to be open by May 22. Apparently the roadway is now clear and some work remains to be done widening the plowed area and working through some hazard zones.

May 12, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on May 22 Opening for Tioga Pass?

Glacier Point Road Opening Delayed

This is certainly no surprise, given the “interesting” weather this weekend – and I guessed earlier that this might happen – but according to a number of sources, including the NPS itself, the opening of Glacier Point Road, originally scheduled for yesterday, has been delayed until this coming Monday, May 4 due to weather concerns.

Some might wonder whether the weather could delay the opening of Tioga Pass Road. My guess is “no.” First, they generally seem to open the road near the end of a week, if memory serves, so there must be some leeway about the actual opening day. Second, it is not at all unusual to get a bit of “shoulder season” (fall and spring) snow that melts quickly in a day or two. The only fly in the ointment here is that this damp weather could last into the first half of next week. If that happens, I suppose that it is possible that road clearing work might be delayed – but my hunch is that this won’t end up being the case.

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Glacier Point Road Opening Delayed

Glacier Point Road Set To Open Friday… Or Maybe Not?

According to a variety of reports that have been floating around for the past couple of weeks, Yosemite National Park’s Glacier Point Road is scheduled to open tomorrow, May 1 “conditions permitting.” That last pair of words may well be important this season, as a respectable storm is scheduled to pass through northern California on Friday.

My bet at this point is that the NPS will delay the official opening of the road a bit.

Informal updates on Tioga Pass Road indicate that a decent chunk of the road from the west has been cleared, and I’m betting that other portions have also been cleared. The NPS won’t say in advance when it will open and I haven’t heard any unofficial announcements (I sometimes manage to pick up on a few of these a week or so before the opening) but it is likely to be at least a few more weeks. I’m betting against the first half of May, but I’m pretty confident about the second half.

Update: Right after posting this I saw an update on Tioga Road at Yosemite blog. The short story is that they have made it to the May Lake turnoff.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Glacier Point Road Set To Open Friday… Or Maybe Not?

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