Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

October 27, 2008
A Hiker's Guide to Climate Change
Open any guidebook to California hiking trails and you will find a mountain of information about your next destination, most of it logistical. What I like about John Soares' new digital guidebook to northern California trails  - - is how he weaves contemporary issues into the trail mix, from conflicts over all-terrain vehicles to the impacts of climate change. 

"Here at the Northern California Hiking Trails blog, we care about climate change," John writes. "From the increased intensity of wildfires to the longer hiking season, climate change matters to hikers." As John points out, warming temperatures are contributing to the uphill migration of small mammals toward cooler, more hospitable environs and may also be a factor in the increased risk of rock slides in the high country. 

Earlier this year, I heard about that danger firsthand in a conversation with S.P. Parker, a well-known climber and mountaineer from Bishop and co-owner of the Sierra Mountain Center.

"W are getting a lot more rockfall where things are not just glued together the way they were by snow and ice," Parker said. "That is certainly what they are seeing in Europe. The Matterhorn. The Eiger - all those things are falling down because you no longer have the rock glued together by ice deep in the cracks.

"What we are doing is we are starting to do snow and ice climbs earlier in the season. Because by fall, everything thing is gone," Parker said.

To read more about the impact of climate change on hiking and camping across northern California, check out  John Soares' blog at:

John is also co-author, along with his brother Marc, of 100 Classic Hikes in Northern California.



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About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

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