Memorial Day Slush-fest
(Sawmill Creek, Rock Creek, Baxter Pass, Mt Dubois)

30-31 May 2003 - by Mark Wallace

Christopher Jain asks:

Anyone just come back down from the Sierra? How were the snow conditions?

Looking at the temperatures graphs on the California Snow Page, it looks like its been hot during the day and warm enough at night that there probably isn't any significant refreezing. The forecast doesn't give much hope of cooler temps over the next several days. I'm beginning to suspect that Mem Day Weekend will be a slush fest. Darn.

Mark Wallace replies:

This probably comes too late to help you out, but the snow conditions in the Sawmill Pass area were fairly abysmal. You'd stay on top for 30 or 40 paces and suddenly plunge down. Patchy snow began at around 9000 feet and almost complete snow cover (except on south-facing slopes, which had no snow at all) at around 9700 to 10,000 feet. At 10,200 feet I was falling in up to my waist and, having brought crampons but not snowshoes, had to turn around. In the afternoon there was a gigantic avalanche which I heard but did not see. Initially, I thought it was thunder, but the sound of crashing rocks persuaded me it was an avalanche.

There was little water in Sawmill Creek up high, possibly because spring melting has been delayed somewhat.

Arun Mahajan adds:

Our group had similar experiences in the Rock Creek area. The road was gated at Rock Creek Lake (thanks to previous information provided by Mike McDermitt and Kelly Maas). Soft and deep snow everywhere after that but melting away surprisingly fast. Despite having snowshoes, we were sinking to our waists on a regular basis once past the turnoff towards Mono Pass. Some of us even sunk a few times up to our armpits. There is a lot of snow that has not consolidated yet. During the weekend the days were very warm and it did not get much cold in the night either. We were impressed at the rate of snow melt. Ruby Lake was snowbound on Saturday morning but on Sunday afternoon showed several patches of blue. Maybe the road upto Mosquito Flat will open soon, given the rate of snow melt. One can only imagine with dread, the mosquito problems then.

Linda Victorino boasts:

just back from Yosemite and it was gorgeous!! the falls were running full. It's starting to get crowded (duh) but camp 4 was remarkably quiet and I met a lot of nice people. There were some celebs there - Tommy Caldwell and Beth Orton, a few others I don't know but the climbers would. It was a warm and lovely day in the valley, but the Tioga pass is still closed - orig. plans were to go to Eastern Sierra - Bishop.

Steve Eckert adds:

Just back from Baxter via Baxter Pass - beta from a few weeks ago indicated solid snow above 9500 or so, now that point is 11000 with patches above 10000. I had larger snowshoes and postholed only once or twice, but standard MSR Denalis without the extra tails were punching through every so often. Only in the first hour after dawn was the snow hard enough to think about crampons and most people chose not to use them. In 2 days over a foot of snow had melted off around snowline. I'll talk about the full-fledged avalanche I triggered when I get a chance to write the trip report.... but don't count on the slope being stable at the bottom just because it is at the top! (no injuries)

Debbie Bulger adds:

Richard and I are just back from falling in up to our knees, sometimes waists and higher (with our snowshoes on) on Mt Dubois in the White Mountains.

Part of the time we were able to kick steps without snowshoes and use our ice axes, but it varied depending on elevation and north or south facing slopes.

We turned back at 13,000 feet. Really pooped by the time we got back to camp at 2 a.m.

We couldn't even glissade on most of the way down because we sunk in. We have Atlas snowshoes, larger than MSR.

My legs are black and blue today.

The payoff was the blue grouse courting and the 10 bighorn sheep.


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