The Sierra Nevada -
is located in the USA in the state of California. The range contains some of the most beautiful landscapes to be found anywhere in the world. The terrain is so varied that one may start out in desert conditions and end up with the sound of crunching ice under foot and the ring of a distant ice ax in a remote frozen gully well above timberline. The Sierra Nevada extends 400 miles from north to south starting at the shore of Lake Almanor in the north to Tehacahapi Pass, just south of Bakersfield. The range varies from 60 to 80 miles in width. With 13 peaks that exceed 14,000 feet, and 500 peaks that exceed 12,000 feet there is an incredible amount of alpine territory to explore.
For the fisherman the Sierra Nevada is a playground of lakes, streams, and rivers that will delight the most zealous of anglers. For the hiker
and or backpacker
, the mountains have a system of trails and camps that are unrivaled anywhere else in the world. Cross country skiers will find outstanding snow conditions during most of the winter, near perfect corn snow during the spring months.
If you are a climber
there are more than enough rock walls, high angle gullies, ridges, peaks and summits to last a life time.
Keep a camera handy on all your trips, because the lighting conditions and scenes are so beautiful that you will be constantly reaching for it. Add to this the fantastic California mountain weather, and no wonder folks from all over the globe travel huge distances just to visit this "Range of Light"
WEATHER - TEMPERATURES / PRECIPITATION / SNOWFALL
Sierra Temperatures are generally warm in summer with a maximum ranging from 80-100 degrees F. and a minimum of 15-37 degrees at higher elevations. In the winter, maximums are typically 55-70 during the high point of the day, and between 0 to -32 degrees F. in the night. In general, temperatures decrease 3-5 degrees for every 1000 feet of elevation gain.In the Sierra Nevada, 95 percent of the precipitation falls between October and May,with more than half falling in January through March. But there is a great discrepancyin the amount of rainfall between the western slopes and the eastern slopes.
The west receives 75 inches while the eastern slopes receive only 20 inches on average. The reason for this discrepancy, is because of the so called "Sierra Rain Shadow." The sheer height of the imposing wall of peaks reaching heights of over 14,000 feet, exert an incredible influence over the amount of precipitation that the Eastern Sierra receive each year. This influence continues to make it self felt, and is the reason why, thousands of feet below, we have the extensive and arid "Great Basin" that extends clear into Utah and Nevada.
The exception to all this, is the Mammoth Lakes area of the Sierra, which Mt Morrison (photo to the right) is a part of. Mammoth Pass, which is a low point in the crest, allows for the moist air of Pacific storms to funnel through to the east side. This break in the crest, makes the Mammoth area the wettest part of the Eastern Sierra. Mammoth Mountain Ski area receives an average of 342 inches of snow annually making it the premier winter sports destination for the multitudes who live within a days drive to reach its slopes. During the summer months, the only moisture that the Sierra gets is from the now and then afternoon thunderstorm. They are short lived, but this does not mean that you do not have to prepare for them. Temperatures can fall to dangerous levels at any time during the year, and this is especially true at higher elevations. Getting wet in the mountains can be deadly, and Hypothermia can quickly set in if you are not prepared. Normally dry conditions on the eastern side of the Sierra can give people a false sense of security, and I have run acrossbackpackers and climbers who make it a habit to go into the back country and notcarry any rain protection (such as a tent and rain fly for overnight camping). But even though 70 percent of all days during the months of July and August are sunny, there is still that 30 percent chance that there will be some sort of rainfall.