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Tioga Pass Road Opening This Weekend?

I’m just passing this along as an as-yet-unconfirmed rumor, but I’ve heard that Tioga Pass Road may open this weekend. Expect that many areas will still have a lot of snow and/or be quite wet, especially up high. Also, don’t expect any services or campgrounds to be open along the road in the park.

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June 3, 2010 Posted by | Events, Sierra Nevada, Yosemite | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

And so winter begins…

An unusual-for-October strong storm is to come onshore in California in the next 24 hours or so. While the snow levels are forecast to be quite high – around 9000′ – this storm could well close several passes if things pan out as forecast.

The folks at the Dweeb Report include an ominous sentence in their most recent update: “WINDS WITH THIS SYSTEM OVER THE CREST COULD REACH BETWEEN 120MPH AND 140MPH OVER THE CENTRAL SIERRA.”

Folks still are backpacking in mid-October, and I think there may be more than a few of them cowering in their tents for 36 hours or so early this week. Coupled with close to freezing temperatures at mid-level elevations, and with the potential for wet snow in large quantities at the higher elevations, this is serious business.

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Start of "Sierra Winter" Next Week?

Sometime between mid-October and (usually) early November, the first real winter storms start to arrive in California and the Sierra Nevada – and we move from occasional temporary closings on the highest passes to the annual winter closures.

Judging from the current predictions, travelers need to keep a watch out starting next week. Right now it sounds like a storm system may come through California that has the potential to drop much more than the “dustings” of snow what we’ve had in the high country up until now – quite possibly enough to close passes like Tioga, Sonora, and Ebbetts for a long time or even for the season, depending on what follows.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Help with a wildflower ID?

Late-Season Corn Lilies

Speaking of my Ten Lakes Basin pack trip, I wonder if anyone out there can help me identify the white flower that appears in this photo? I’ve just spent a half hour staring at some wildflower ID books that I own and looking at internet resources, but I just can’t quite find the match – which seems odd since this flower is something I’ve see frequently in the Sierra.

As the photo shows there are small clumps of little white flowers in groups at the end of stems, and each of the stems holding a group of flowers splits off from the same point on the single main flower-bearing stem of the plant. There are – I think – a few very thin leaves along the stem. I do not know what the plant looks like below the portion that we can see here.

I saw many of these on the Ten Lakes Basin trail in Yosemite earlier this week. These were photographed between 8500 and perhaps 9000 feet among corn lily plants at the edge of Half Moon Meadow. Being around the corn lily plants, it is obvious that there is a lot of moisture in this spot, though it was no longer all that wet. I’m pretty certain that I also saw this flower in drier areas.

Your help is greatly appreciated!

Dan

August 28, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Over at my photography site – another epic two-day sierra shoot

I spent the weekend shuttling around areas ranging from Yosemite Valley to Mono Lake to Mariposa grove. The story is posted at my photography web site.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quick note about Tioga Pass and other interesting things

I posted a few times during recent weeks concerning the opening date for Tioga Pass – something that many of us look forward to every spring. Tioga Pass Road did open the middle of last week, and we “west siders” once again have a more efficient (and quite stunning!) route to the east side.

(The pass opened about one day earlier than I estimated it would – I was expecting a Thursday opening. If you are interested in more information about when this route is likely to open and close, there is a history of opening and closing dates on the web.)

Of course, a lot of people are going to be very pleased that the pass opened in time for the Memorial Holiday weekend – not only the travelers who want to cross it but also the businesses on the east side that rely on the traffic. (I’ve been to Lee Vining in the winter when the only access is via a long drive from anywhere else – and things can be very quiet over there.)

As to my plans… a variety of factors are going to keep me from traveling this weekend. I’ll stay right here in the SF Bay Area and I won’t even have much opportunity to get out on the trail or do photography – lot’s of other things to take care of. But I can’t complain. It won’t be too many more weeks until my annual period of “gainful unemployment” as a college faculty member begins, and at that point I’ll try to more than make up for the stay-at-home Memorial Holiday weekend.

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

May 22 Opening for Sonora Pass?

Sierra Journal reports that the opening of Sonora Pass is scheduled for May 22. This is significant for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • The availability of the Sonora Pass route considerably reduces the time/distance that SF Bay Area folks must drive to get to the eastern Sierra.
  • This suggests that other routes like Ebbetts and Monitor Pass will also be open at that time.
  • Tioga Pass often seems to open within about a week of the opening of Sonora. If that happens this time we could guess that Tioga might open before the end of May.

I’m ready!

(Although it is not a “pass,” the Glacier Point Road opened early this week.)

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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