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Yosemite Winter Rangers Migrate South For The Season

Camping in the Lyell Fork of the Merced River Basin on April 18, 2019 (Pilewski, NPS)

Written by Tuolunme Winter Ranger Laura Pilewski –

YOSEMITE — This is our last post of the winter 2018-2019 season and it is time for us to migrate south to our summer range in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It has again been a great honor and pleasure serving the public as the Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers. No two seasons are the same in this range of light, snow, and wind. But, every one spent in Tuolumne Meadows is a special one.

Ski touring in the Lyell Fork of the Merced River basin on April 19, 2019 (Pilewski, NPS)

Spring has certainly sprung in the Tuolumne Meadows area this week! We have had high temperatures of 60 degrees the past two days and the warming trend is forecast to extend into the weekend.

Overnight lows were cold enough for a good freeze at the snow surface which has made for a delightful corn cycle on all aspects below 11,000 feet. The higher elevations still have lingering winter snow conditions, but that too is in transition to more spring-like conditions. Ski touring opportunities are limitless currently. We just returned from a patrol of the Yosemite High Route (a.k.a Border Tour) and the coverage and conditions were excellent the entire way.

New snow: Trace
Total settled snow depth: 60 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 60°F (April 24)
Low temperature: 15°F (April 21)

Spring skiing is the best! (Pilewski, NPS)

Snow removal is continuing on the Tioga Road east of the park boundary and one should expect bare pavement on Hwy. 120 at least as high as Ellery Lake. Park crews have just started working from the west at Crane Flat. There is no estimated opening day for the Tioga Road. Be aware there may be temporary closures during the spring both for the workers’ safety and yours. Whenever the road is open, please stay well away from snow removal efforts and make sure that the operators of heavy equipment see you before trying to go around them.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.

Avalanche debris covering the Tioga Road east of Tenaya Lake on April 24, 2019 (Pilewski, NPS)

The avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low so long as overnight temperatures remain at or below freezing for an extended period of time. The high temperatures and light overnight freeze of the past few days has resulted in some wet slides peeling off of smooth granite, primarily on south aspects. The slide in the photo is just east of Tenaya Lake and it crossed the Tioga Road leaving a large and very heavy debris pile on the road. Even where such avalanches have occurred, there can still be quite a bit of “hang fire” (the remaining snow that lingers without many anchors). Spring travelers should be wary of what is above them at all times especially during the heat of the day when rock, snow and ice fall can be common.

Wildlife

The birds and other wildlife are flocking to the high country just like the skiers and other snow enthusiasts. Coyotes have been howling, great horned owls hooting, sooty grouse drumming, uphill skiers panting, and downhill skiers giggling.

But, while you’re out and about having fun, make sure the bears don’t have the last laugh. They’re quite hungry after a winter like this one. Tracks were seen just about everywhere and at all elevations this week. Remember, we’re just the visitor. It’s their home. Please store your food properly 24 hours a day.

Looking down the Lyell Fork of the Merced River on April 18 2019 (Pilewski, NPS)

General Information

The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 8 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For those visiting the Tuolumne Ski Hut from the east (only) permits are self-issued at the Ski Hut.  For those entering from other areas, please see Planning Your Yosemite Vacation, Wilderness Permits or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740.

Happy Trails and we hope to ski you next winter!

Laura and Rob Pilewski – Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers

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