Snow Conditions – Forester Pass to Tuolumne

Mile 791: Glen Pass

May 23rd, 2017: Had a single pair of tracks to follow, but were in alpine snowshoes for the ascent. Snow had been softened a bit by the sun by the time we got to the pass around 8. Falls would have been hard to arrest before hitting rock outcroppings. The descent was about 1000 feet of steep, hard ice/snow. One of our more difficult/scary passes. -Beta

Heading up to Glen Pass (actual pass is out of frame, to the right)










The steep backside of Glen Pass, one of the more exposed descents we’ve had to do.












June 13th, 2006: Tracks to follow. Slow but easy ascent ~1 mph. Glissading opportunities on the descent.

June 17th, 2011: Easy ascent, completed before 11am. No ice axes used but microspikes helpful.

July 16th, 2011: Snow 1.5 miles from the pass, easy routefinding following steps. Similar amount of snow on the descent.

Mile 793: Rae Lakes

May 23rd, 2017: Solid coverage through the frozen lakes. Avalanche concerns while descending into the lakes basin. – Beta

Beautiful, frozen Rae Lakes











June 17th, 2011: Snow for many miles through Rae Lakes until snow-free Woods Creek.

July 16th, 2011: Snow free.

Mile 807: Pinchot Pass

May 24th, 2017: Snow patchy for about a mile from Woods Creek bridge, then solid and slow to navigate. Ended up arriving late at the pass. Snow was deep mush and I ended up postholing up to my chest in wet, garbage snow. Never any slopes that were too steep, with the exception of maybe the last 200 yards. On the other side of the pass was a thin shell over the deep mush. In crampons, postholing was crotch deep. In snowshoes, postholing was still about a foot deep, and breaking through the thin shell ice layer into the snow was unpredictable and varied throughout the descent. Hands down, the hardest pass we went through in the High Sierra. -Beta

Snowshoe postholes….


















June 15th, 2006: Bad sun cups on the way up to the pass. Late morning postholing at Marjorie Lake on the way down the pass. Very slow progress due to postholing between Pinchot and Mather Pass.

June 18th, 2011: Long, exhausting approach to the pass. No mention of sun cups. Descent went quickly on good snow, but turned into bad snow in the trees below.

July 17th, 2011: Three miles of snow before the pass, two miles after.

Mile 817: Mather Pass

May 25th, 2017: Woke up at 2 a.m. for good snow conditions. Pass was straightforward, but very steep and exposed. Falls would likely be safe and arrestable. Little to no actual cornice. Just a short little snow wall that was easy to go around. One of the easiest passes we encountered. -Beta

June 16th, 2006: Accidental summit of a wrong pass. Cornice at the pass, but passible.

June 19th, 2011: Bad sun cups leading up to the pass. Some smooth snow before the pass. Went up the left flank of the pass. Passing the cornice required planting ice axes and pulling over the lip. Fun glissading on the descent.

July 18th, 2011: Some stretches of trail exposed, but still a cornice at the pass. One member of the group had a close call almost postholing into a huge void! Snow conditions and sun-cups on the descent made slow, exhausting hiking.

Mile 822: The Golden Staircase

May 25th, 2017: Some small sections of the trail were uncovered, but we chose to glissade/downclimb straight down a snow chute. Lots of snow voids under the surface, I noticed. Could be potentially dangerous. Snow all the way down to Middle Fork Junction. -Beta

June 16th, 2006: Mostly free of snow.

Mile 839: Muir Pass

May 27th, 2017: We had learned our lesson from Pinchot. Long passes need setup days. We slept around 11k feet, woke at 2 a.m., and approached the pass by starlight. Straightforward and easy. Complete snow coverage up and down the pass. All lakes were frozen and we walked across all of them. -Beta

June 21st, 2006: Solid snow coverage at 10,000 ft. Full snow down to the outlet of Evolution Lake.

June 20th, 2011: Non-technical, but tiring, slog up the pass.

July 20th, 2011: Snow fields three miles before the pass and four miles after the pass.

Mile 866: Selden Pass

May 29th, 2017: Camped at Sallie Keys Lake the night before, woke at 2 a.m. for good snow conditions. Easy pass, although on the way down there was a very steep snow slope to downclimb right after the pass. Total snow coverage up and down the pass. -Beta

Snowy camp at Sallie Keys before Selden Pass











June 23rd, 2006: Snow coverage a couple miles before the pass, good snow conditions in mid-day. Easy pass.

June 22nd, 2011: Easy in early morning snow.

Mile 873: Bear Creek Ridge

May 29th, 2017: VERY steep snowfield through the trees. One of our group went down hard, dislocated his shoulder, and bruised his tailbone. Snow all the way down the hill until we crossed the bridge before the VVR junction. -Beta

Looking down the snowfield on Bear Ridge.











June 22nd, 2011: Downhill switchbacks covered in snow and mud. Hellish conditions to descend in.

Mile 885: Silver Pass

May 30th, 2017: Woke at 2 a.m. to do the entire pass in one push. Hardest parts of Silver Pass are done miles before the actual pass. Crossing the Silver Creek waterfall and ascending the steep snow after the crossing were the hardest parts of the pass. Around that, snow coverage was complete up and down the pass, but the angle was never very sustained or steep.

June 25th, 2006: Snow covered approach. Easy to cut trail straight toward the pass. Only a couple miles of snow after the pass.

June 23rd, 2011: Snow covered approach. Easy pass.

July 25th, 2011: Patchy snow.

Mile 925: Island Pass

June 27th, 2006: Lost trail, ended up at Waugh Lake. Careful navigation required.