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Low Snow Year: Dog Route and Tech Route Timing?


sportnoob
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So it's official that this is a low snow year. One nuanced claim I've read is that while it's severely low at lower elevations, that it may be closer to normal up high. My firsthand experience below 10k (e.g. a tour up to Muir) suggests that it's pretty thin at least up to that level. Anyone care to opine on the coverage way up high?

 

I'm thinking of a couple of runs at the big R - one on a dog route (likely Emmons), and another at one of the more technical undertakings (Liberty Ridge or Ptarmigan) and looking at planning / permit issues. My gut tells me that the dog routes will be 'out' earlier than usual, and that the north side tech routes may be tough because they'll be in prime condition well in advance of the road openings.

 

I'd appreciate any opinions on this issue.

 

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Probably too early to say. Good that you are thinking about it

 

N side tech routes on Raindog will be hard to navigate because of the Carbon. But be patient, its only the first week of March. We could have a wet March/April/May which will change the picture at least for the volcanos

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the north side tech routes may be tough because they'll be in prime condition well in advance of the road openings.

 

I'd appreciate any opinions on this issue.

I don't think the roads being closed is that big a hindrance to North side access. I have biked the White River Road before it opened, it added only a couple of easy hours and I've approached Ptarmigan Ridge via Mowich Road from the gate closure at Paul Peak and it was still only a day to the 10K high camp.

 

In my mind, a much bigger issue is that the weather is so unstable early season. If you can get a window of stable weather in May you can bike either the White River or Mowich Lake roads, NBD.

Edited by DPS
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I don't think the roads being closed is that big a hindrance to North side access. I have biked the White River Road before it opened, it added only a couple of easy hours and I've approached Ptarmigan Ridge via Mowich Road from the gate closure at Paul Peak and it was still only a day to the 10K high camp.

 

In my mind, a much bigger issue is that the weather is so unstable early season. If you can get a window of stable weather in May you can bike either the White River or Mowich Lake roads, NBD.

 

I agree during a lower snow year and a weather window we walked the Carbon Road in March and while it added a 2-3 hours the rest of the trail walking was the bigger issue.

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I was up on the Coleman on baker 2 weekends ago and conditions felt like late may early June....guys were already starting to punch through. Going to be an interesting summer in terms of glacier navigation.

 

What time are most people planning on hitting the N side tech routes? I'm thinking early may maybe even late April? Early season weather will suck!

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I haven't been up there yet, but check out this data from Paradise.

SNOTEL Data for Paradise Note: you have to uncheck the "Fit Table to Screen" box or it will only show a couple days instead of all 30.

 

 

Basically the snow pack has gained multiple inches at 5,100 feet on Rainier over the last 30 days which is a very good sign. However interesting to note that the precipitation accumulation is 104% of average for the year but Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) is only 38% of average. So to my untrained eye they have gotten the normal precip but it has been in rain instead. I wonder at what point in elevation you would have to go to get the SWE to come up towards 100% to match the precip accumulation.

 

Edit: After browsing through other Stations in the Cascades, I found that the stations at 6,000 feet had higher snow water equivalents (50-75%). So obviously still down but better than in the 30% range.

Edited by mthorman
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FYI, Snow Water Equivalent is a measure of the amount of water contained within the snowpack. You can think of it as the depth of water that would result if you melted the snowpack. When you see SWE reported at 38% of average you know that one of two things--or more likely some combination of these two things--is true: 1)the depth of the accumulated snowpack is below normal, or; 2)the water content of the snow is below normal, that is, the snowpack is made up of relatively dry snow. Precipitation accumulation tracks the total precipitation received at a monitoring site, for example if the first big snow storm of the water year dumps 53" of snow on Paradise, the SWE of that snow is 25.5", and SNOTEL reports the precipitation accumulation is 65.5" you would know that in addition to the 25.5" SWE Paradise had just received, it had also received 40" (65.5-25.5) of rain previous to the first snow. Precipitation data is of course reported on a "water year" basis(Oct 1st - Sept 30th of the following calendar yr).

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Based on the normal precip and above normal FLs throughout the winter, I'd say the snowpack on Rainier is probably pretty close to normal on the upper mountain (above 9K). I'd imagine the approaches are going to be bad on the lower glaciers by early summer (Carbon, Tahoma, etc.).

 

But, the climbing rangers and guide services would have a better idea of how things are shaping up. I would imagine that the cattle lines will be starting soon....

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From the rainier climbing blog... "The general consensus is that the glaciers are in mid-late summer condition, and that the snow is in spring condition not quantity. If you are planning on voyaging on a lesser traveled route expect heavy slogging, flotation recommended."

 

ID is already out and there are already bridge crossings at the top of the cleaver. Sounds like July-August up there.

Edited by christensent
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