Thursday, March 1, 2012

What a difference a year makes!

The beautiful High Sierra mountains are known for their predictable weather patters and tame summers, making them a popular destination for outdoor and adventure activities.

But these last few years have been anything but ordinary. In the winter months of 2010 - 2011, the Sierra Nevadas were blanketed with ~200% more snow than average, making the 2011 hiking season one for the ages. Even in late July lakes in the High Sierras were still frozen over, with many of them never fully thawing out during summer.

This winter however, is a far cry from last. It is one of the driest so far in history, with the High Sierras receiving only 30% of the average annual snow fall to date. As with most things, this turn of events does has a silver lining. A ferocious wind storm ripped through parts of the High Sierras the week after Thanksgiving, leaving many blowdowns in its wake. Many trails and other recreational areas in the Inyo National Forest (and neighboring forests) were affected. If the snowpack had been anywhere near average (or above average), crews wouldn't have had the opportunity to assess the damage until after the snow melt was well underway - around April of this year.

Whether wet or dry, imo, the High Sierras will continue to be a top tier destination for hikers, backpackers, climbers, skiers, snowshoers, anglers, sightseers, and photographers for many generations to come.

Traveling south on the JMT approaching Forester Pass. July 21, 2011

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