HAZARDOUS SNOWPACK

Helen Engle's Avatar

Helen Engle

30 Jun, 2011 06:34 AM

Thanks to Jim for forwarding this from the Seattle Times.
 Jim Harvey, <[email blocked]>

Hikers face hazards from lingering snow
By Jack Broom <[email blocked]>, Seattle Times staff reporter
            This year's staggering mountain snowpack, lingering well into
summer, is creating not just inconvenience and disappointment ‹ but also
danger, for hikers and backpackers, park and forest officials say. The
caution comes as a long holiday weekend and anticipated good weather are
certain to have many state residents heading for outdoor recreation.
            Crews at Mount Rainier National Park are bracing for an increase
in search-and-rescue calls that often accompany a late snowpack, as hikers
lose their way along sections of trail covered by snow or downed trees.
Many higher-elevation trails are covered by snow, including virtually every
trail from Mount Rainier's Paradise area, at 5,400 feet. Other trails,
starting at lower elevations, may entice hikers by being snow-free at the
trailhead, only to disappear under a cover of snow after gaining elevation.
            Throughout the mountains, a particular danger is posed by "snow
bridges," where snow that typically might have melted by now covers a stream
running underneath, making it "invisible," said Gary Paull, wilderness and
trails coordinator for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
"You could easily drop 10 to 15 feet into an icy torrent," Paull said.
            Hikers are advised to have good "route-finding skills" and to
check updated trail conditions before starting out (see URLs below). They
also should carry maps, compass and/or good GPS equipment, and know how to
use it. Cellphones can be invaluable in an emergency, but hikers should not
expect cellphone coverage in remote mountain areas.
            In some parts of the Cascades, the remaining snowpack is as high
or higher than it typically is at its yearly maximum ‹ usually recorded
about the end of April, Paull said. For example, Lyman Lake, at 5,900 feet
in the Glacier Peak Wilderness, this week had a current "snow water content"
of 58 inches ‹ just short of the average yearly peak and four times the
typical measurement for this time of year. That water content translates
into about 8 feet of snow on the ground.
            In general, Paull said, hikers still can expect to run into snow
when they reach an elevation of 4,000 feet on south-facing slopes and 3,000
feet on north-facing slopes. "The snow will melt more readily on a
south-facing slope, but then you turn around a little corner and the trail
is gone. ... And when you get to the snow, it gets deep really quickly,"
Paull said.
            In many areas, park and forest trail crews have not been able to
reach sections of trail that typically would be cleared of snow and debris
by now. Many high-elevation trails are likely to have some patches of snow
through the entire summer. Even in challenging conditions, Paull said, the
Forest Service rarely closes a reachable trail, opting instead to put out
the appropriate advisories and to rely on hikers themselves to take
necessary precautions and preparations.
            A 62-year-old Seattle woman suffered a serious head injury
Sunday when she slipped in a snowy area above the Denny Creek trailhead near
Snoqualmie Pass. She was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center.
            Park officials at Mount Rainier say they expect that by Friday
morning they will open Sunrise, at 6,400 feet the highest point on the
mountain reachable by vehicle. Park staffers had targeted the opening for
July 8 but moved the date up at the urging of business owners along the
route to the mountain's second-most-visited site (behind Paradise).
Travelers to Sunrise are advised that services there will be minimal and
that trails in the area are snow-covered.
            On the east side of the Cascades, trail conditions vary. "We're
about a month behind where we'd normally be" in terms of snowmelt, said
Roland Giller, spokesman for Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Hikers are
urged to use extra caution, particularly around streams swollen by melted
snow.
 
Check trail conditions
Many higher-elevation trails normally clear by this time of year are still
covered with snow and/or fallen trees.
Mount Rainier National Park: www.nps.gov/mora <http://www.nps.gov/mora>
North Cascades National Park Complex: www.nps.gov/noca
<http://www.nps.gov/noca>
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest: www.fs.usda.gov/mbs
<http://www.fs.usda.gov/mbs>
Olympic National Park: www.nps.gov/olym <http://www.nps.gov/olym>
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest: www.fs.fed.us/r6/wenatchee
<http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/wenatchee>
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Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or <[email blocked]>
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

_____________
The Mountaineers Tacoma Branch ³Listserve²
+ We aim to be positive, helpful.
+ We send out reminders of coming events, items of interest, including trail
and road closures, plus anecdotal material for the enjoyment of our members.
+ We do not send attachments to the list as they may contain viruses, slow
down message distribution and many people are not able to open them.
+ We are happy to delete names as requested, and to add Branch members who¹d
like to be on the list.
Helen Engle, Clubhouse Secretary, [email blocked].
_____________

  1. 1 Posted by Helen Engle on 04 Sep, 2012 03:59 AM

    Helen Engle's Avatar

    Brad, Jeff:
    I'm retired. Sorry not to be of any help!
    You could send this to Ken Karch, [email blocked]
    He¹s in charge of our list mailings now.

    Happy September,
    Helen

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