The Window Test

What looking out the window can tell us about California’s recent winter storm and backpacking the Sierra this summer.

What can looking out the window at the end of January tell you about backpacking conditions in July? I’d argue quite a bit.

We spend a lot of time in the Central Sierra, near Shaver Lake, California at a cabin at 5,600′. Based on historical pictures, looking out the window gives some quick insight.

Not all winters are created equal. There are big snow years, winters of drought, and everything in between. In the past 72 hours, California’s 2021 winter went from drought to BIG.

How big? While totals are still coming in, this window-to-window comparison lets us know that the recent California snow storm instantly puts the 2021 season on track to rival 2019, 2017 and 2011. Those were big, wet, “fun” snow years, that extended their impacts well into September throughout the high Sierra.

What this means is we could expect Spring-Like Conditions in the Sierra through the end of July. Think knee-to-waist-deep rushing water, snow covered passes, waterfalls around every corner, trail lost under snow and bulging streams, and lingering ice in high Sierra lakes (see pictures below!).

Backpacking in these conditions can present new challenges. Travel can be slow and tedious, and unfamiliar trail can be difficult to navigate.  But experiencing the Sierra in a rapidly changing, raw, primal state is an opportunity of a lifetime.

If you haven’t yet set your summer schedule, you won’t want to miss this.

Planning your own trip? Be safe and travel with experienced friends! Or experience the Sierra with us by joining a TSX Trans-Sierra Xtreme Challenge, Hell For Sure Challenge, and Mount Goddard summer trek. We have trips departing late-June through early-September. Now is a GREAT time to commit and put a trek on your calendar.

Enjoy the winter snow, then get ready for a summer to remember. Here are some pictures of what you might expect!