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Pacific Crest Trail 2017 Snow Notes

June 16th, 2017

June 15th or "Ray Day" is the traditional entry date into the sierra for northbound hikers from Kennedy Meadow. The following are notes for the 2017 Pacific Crest Trail snow year.

Hikers are concerned with 'trail snow', not 'snow pack', as the 2 are entirely different. That's what you'll be seeing here. All data is from the last 13 years only

Quantity of Snow

2017 was a big year. At peak near April 1st, it had the most snow in the last 13 years. This shows the year to date Snow Water Equivalent (SWE):

PCT SWE KM to Echo Lake 2017

As of today, SWE is an impressive 259% of average for this 400 mile section. In 2011, a year with a lower peak amount, but a much slower melt-off, June 16th had a massive 438% of average SWE! You can see that here:

PCT SWE KM to Echo Lake 2011

Snow Coverage

While snow amount tells us how long snow might stick around, coverage is probably the most important number to hikers. Whether it's 1 foot deep or 10 feet deep, you still have to walk on it. Let's take a look at today's snow coverage:

PCT Coverage KM to Echo Lake 2017

Right now that section is showing about 55% coverage or 229% of normal. Let's put that in context. Today, if you're headed out into this 400 mile section, half of it, more than 200 miles is still snow covered! That will probably be much more than the average hiker is up for. The coverage in 2011 was about 8% more than this year.

Under the Mircoscope

Let's break down that 400 mile section into 3 different sections and see how things look today:

Kennedy Mdw to MTR - 158.6 miles
Covered by snow: 28.8%, No snow: 71.2%, Above average: 24.1%, Below average: 24.1%, About average: 51.7%

MTR to Tuolumne Mdw - 88 miles
Covered by snow: 61.0%, No snow: 39.0%, Above average: 59.3%, Below average: 22.0%, About average: 18.6%

Tuolumne Mdw to Echo Lake - 149.6 miles
Covered by snow: 80.0%, No snow: 20.0%, Above average: 73.0%, Below average: 25.0%, About average: 2.0%

Let's look a bit further than Echo Lake (South Lake Tahoe):

Echo Lake to Sierra City - 102.8 miles
Covered by snow: 63.3%, No snow: 36.7%, Above average: 56.0%, Below average: 38.6%, About average: 5.3%

Sierra City to Belden - 91.4 miles
Covered by snow: 29.3%, No snow: 70.7%, Above average: 23.9%, Below average: 44.6%, About average: 31.5%

Final Thoughts

It's a tough year for PCT hikers. As of this writing a few hikers have actually hiked through the worst of the sierra. And they have stories to tell. Again, the dangers presented are probably not what the average hiker had envisoned. That's OK. The trail will still be there when you're ready to tackle it on your terms. Don't be in rush, even if it means putting off your hike.

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