Alpine Conditions Report – July 8, 2015

In Conditions Reports, From the Range of Light & Fast, High Sierra Alpine Report by Howie Schwartz5 Comments

Hi Sierra Nevada aficionados and enthusiasts,

Quick update to our last report on July 1, as things in the high country are changing quite rapidly. As we have been reporting, the Sierra remains in a steady stream of daily thunderstorm activity from monsoonal air flow and warm, moist air rising that condenses clouds, resulting in precipitation and electrical activity. Precipitation has been in the form of intense short or, in some cases, up to a couple sustained hours of rain or hail. High and low temperatures continue to fluctuate wildly.

All of this is contributing to a high degree of instability in the Sierra. Our last report talked about a massive rockfall event on Cloud’s Rest. On

Missing rock on the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.

Missing rock on the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome.

July 4th or thereabouts, an 800 cubic meter flake exfoliated from the Regular Route on the Northwest Face of Half Dome in Yosemite, rendering the route unclimbable (at least for now). More details on the Supertopo forum, where the story emerged, about how a team of local Eastside climbers had their upward progress thwarted unexpectedly. Park geologists say that the frequent rains likely contributed to this mass wasting event. Find out more updated info from the Park on this event here. In the High Sierra, the rains are having similar effects. We witnessed a house-sized chunk of granite peel of of the north side of Bear Creek Spire after a thunderstorm a couple weeks ago. Couloirs in the Sierra are seeing signs of a lot of smaller rockfall. Even a golf ball sized rock traveling at speed can be deadly, and what we are seeing is a sign that the mountains are more unstable than usual for mid-July. We consider the U and V-notch Couloirs in the Palisades, for example, to be out of reasonable condition for climbing at this time.


On the left, a photo from Forrest Schwab of the U and V-Notch Couloirs taken June 28th. On the right, the same terrain on July 4th in a photo from Viren Perumal showing significant signs of rockfall into the couloirs.

For mountain travel in general, check the weather forecast before you go. It’s not very accurate most of the time, but it can give you an idea about what you may be getting into. Somehow weather forecasters can be completely wrong more than half of the time and still keep their jobs. I guess it’s because they are the best we have. Most of us get complacent and expect sunny days for weeks at a time in the Sierra, but we are seeing a very wet extended period that may last well into summer this year. Plan for the best, and prepare for the worst. Hope to see you out in the high country, or down in the lower country as the case may be.  ~Howie

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  1. Hi Dan!

    Planning on going up Mt Sill in two weeks. I was wondering if you think crampons and a mountaineering axe are necessary to get up/down the L-couloir at this time of the year. I appreciate your report.



  2. I have been considering getting a guide for doing the red dihedral. After reading your very informative Alpine report I may feel differently. It would be good to talk with you about what a guided trip to the Hulk might look like though. 4157 3480 10.

    1. Author

      Hi Dan. The Hulk is in fine condition right now. You just want a decent weather forecast for the climb. Let us know if we can help you out. Cheers!

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