Earlier this week a late season blizzard hit Yosemite National Park, burying the region in snow and leaving 37 skiers stranded in the backcountry. Fortunately they all escaped unharmed, but were given a healthy reminder of the dangers of traveling in the wilderness during the winter.
A group of 21 cross country skiers made their way to the Glacier Point region of the park along a trail that stretches 10.5 miles in length. That trail ends with a spectacular view of Half Dome, the most prominent attraction in the park, and Yosemite Valley some 3000 feet below. A winter hut stands nearby, and most skiers end up spending the night there before making their way back out the following day. A blizzard struck the area on Sunday, dumping six feet of snow on the park. The snow was accompanied by high winds, which made visibility and travel nearly impossible.
When the weather cleared a few days later, the group donned their skis and headed for the Badger Pass Ski Area for help. That journey took a number of hours to complete, with each of the group members taking turns breaking trail at the front of the pack.
Meanwhile, another 16 people were stranded throughout other areas of the park, but eventually made it out as well. The Park Service used snowmobiles to create tracks that allowed some skiers to make it out on their own, while others had to be rescued by Snowcat or snowmobile.
Late in the week, most of the roads into Yosemite were still closed due to the heavy snows. As of this writing, snow chains are still required while traveling along the few roads that are open and conditions are still in a state of flux. Travelers planning to visit the area are encouraged to call 209-372-0200 (then dial 1, 1) for the most recent road conditions before they set out.
Six feet of snow in one blast? Didn’t someone send Yosemite the memo that it’s spring now?