20 miles from the nearest plowed road

In Weather, Wildlife


From the Tuolumne winter rangers —

Wildlife: We had quite the wildlife sighting last Friday, as we got to watch a pine marten (a large member of the weasel family) try to catch a White-tailed Jackrabbit during the height of the snowstorm. The scene seemed to unfold in slow motion, as neither animal was able to move very fast due to all the deep new snow. We watched for about 20 minutes as the rabbit tried to outrun the marten by sprinting back and forth across the open meadow in front of the ranger station, dodging in and out of the tree line along the meadows edge. The rabbit probably realized that there was no place it could hide to escape the much smaller weasel, its only chance of escape was to try to outrun it. So back and forth across the open ground the rabbit went, with the marten following about 20-30 feet behind. The marten seemed to have trouble seeing the all-white rabbit in the blowing snow, and it had to stop every minute or so to try to figure out which way the rabbit had gone. The rabbit would rest during these short breaks in the action, then take off again once the marten picked up its trail and resumed the chase. Eventually the rabbit had made so many criss-crossing trails in the new snow that the marten got confused as to which one was the most current, and the saga ended with the rabbit heading off to the east and the marten heading west- going the wrong way along one of the rabbits previous trails through the snow.

Most of the wildlife was lying low this week waiting for the storm to abate, but we did see some birds including: Mountain
Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Townsend’s Solitaire,
Clark’s Nutcracker, and Common Raven.


Weather: (January 3 through January 9) High temp: 38° Low temp: -4°  New Snow: 59”  Total settled snow depth: 55” as of January 9

Ski Conditions and Weather: Like most of the rest of the west coast, Tuolumne saw huge amounts of precipitation this past week with nearly 6 feet of new snow. The snow started out warm and wet, with temperatures in the mid-30’s falling to the mid-teens as the storm progressed. This has resulted in a nice firm snowpack, which has made the skiing quite nice despite the huge amount of new snow that has buried the area. Trail breaking is not bad, we are only sinking down into the snowpack 6-12 inches in most places.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions: For the latest avalanche advisory for this area go to www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center and click on advisory. The ESAC site is updated several times a week and more often during weather events. With 6 feet of new snow containing nearly 5 inches of water, a lot of weight has been dumped on top of the previous snowpack in a short period of time- one of the classic “watch out” situations for avalanches. There were also high ground-level winds (close to 60 MPH), mostly out of the northwest, measured by some of the nearby automated weather stations- another of the classic signs of increasing avalanche danger. These winds could have added even more weight and instability to the snowpack on leeward slopes.

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