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[pct-l] re: Snow in SoCal
Here is a little perspective on the following message from Ryel:
It was 23 years ago this evening that my friend and I stepped off the
Greyhound about 10 miles north of Campo. We passed out for the night in a
field nearby but were awakened in the middle of the night by a snowstorm, which
left a mere 1". Hitched into Campo with a Border Patrol officer going to work.
That first day of my 5 month hike (April 17th), it downpoured and hailed about
6 times before calming down that evening. 2 days later, we arrived in Mt.
Laguna, where there was a snowpack of about 3 feet, but as we were following
the "temporary" route, that is, dirt roads (which had been plowed), the snow
had no effect on us, other than we could not do the Rim Trail as it could not
be found in the snow. It was sunny that day, enough so that I ate my first ice
cream of the hike at the little store there, and it appeared that the snow
would be gone in a couple of weeks. It had already disappeared from the open
rangeland which we traversed next but could still be found in the deep forest
before the trail dropped in elevation. All through southern California, I had
similiar conditions everytime the elevation climbed above 6,000 to 7,000 feet.
As a result, I did not climb any of the peaks along the way that the trail
traverses, even though I was carrying an ice axe, but rather found low routes
around Jacinto, San Gorgonio, Baldy, etc. My first few days, I wore only long
wool pants (no shorts) and long-sleeved wool shirt as the temperatures were
between upper 20's at night to 60 during the day with lots of wind. Gradually,
the weather did settle and before long I was on my way to having the best tan
of my life.
Yes, things are bound to be different this year, but none of the reports that
I have read on this list seem to indicate any more snow for the same place on
the same date as in 1975. A major difference you will have from my experience
is that there was very little trail in southern California, so the route
followed mostly dirt roads, most of which were open to traffic (they had either
been plowed or melted out at higher elevations). If you are following the
permanent PCT trail, it is probably still snow-covered over much of its route,
and you will either have to struggle to follow it or make a detour as I did.
Since most people start after May 1 these days, it may not be a problem at all,
depending on how it melts in the next 2 weeks.
Just 2 1/2 weeks ago, as my 14 year old son and I were ending our 100+ mile
backpack through the Grand Canyon, we were hit with a snowstorm that left us 8"
of fresh snow for our last day, a march of 18 miles. This is the same storm
that blanketed southern California. My son, who was wonderful the entire trip,
simply put himself to the task of breaking trail, with the promise of a warm
bed to sleep in, hot shower and food. Previous to the snow, it had been
raining and hailing for 3 days, so that when it snowed (which we were not
prepared for; we had planned for the extreme heat but were caught with just the
minimum of clothes and shelter for snow) we were already on the edge of
hypothermia, and only clear thinking and cooperation got us through a miserable
night. My son came away from the trip with a lot of pride as well he should.
For the benefit of others, we had a tarp for shelter and I was using a down
bag. All of our clothing (what little there was) was polypro, nylon or
something similiar, though we had long-sleeved cotton shirts for the sun, and
it all dried out overnight, my sleeping bag too. There was a message on the
list about using a tarp instead of tent a few weeks ago, and my feelings are
that, though a tarp is still great, learn how to pitch it for heavy winds, as
we were cursed with such wind and finally just found shelter under overhanging
cliffs, an option you don't have on the PCT.
>For the benefit of those who I haven't emailed, I made a trip out to Mt.
>Laguna while in San Diego two days ago, and here is what I saw:
>It was cold... very cold. And windy. The temperature was about 45 degrees,
>colder with the wind. I was wearing shorts and a long sleeved shirt, and I
>would have lasted all of about fifteen minutes without something warmer. I
>also stopped my Campo at about two in the afternoon, and it wasn't all that
>warmer. Perhaps fifty or fifty-five.
>Throughout Mt. Laguna I saw copious amounts of snow, much more than I had
>thought. I don't know if it will still be there in a couple of weeks, but
>right now, there is up to a foot, maybe more, in places. The trail itself was
>submerged in snow in spots, and the snow looked like it had been there for
>some time, giving it that crusty-on-top, mushy-below condition. For what it's
>worth, there were several pairs of footprints trudging along, and I'm no
>detective, but they were close enough together that whoever it was, was having
>a hard going.
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