Sep 1, 2010 at 10:13 am #1262879
I had not thought to much about going solo for a 50 mile stretch on the PCT between Rainy pass and Holden Village in Washington state. I have contacted the rangers and they tell me the trail is open I want to spend 4 night in the back country reading and enjoying the great outdoors. I am confidant that I am going to be safe and in my physical and mental abilities to do the hike. then I started reading posts about sat phones and all the bad things that can happen and now i am not so sure. my impression that this part of the PCT is going to be like a highway this time of year with thru hikers so the odds of me not seeing another human being are slim to none, so I am asking all of you. Do I stay or do I go?Sep 1, 2010 at 10:24 am #1642251
"Do I stay or do I go?"
If you are asking that sort of question, then you ought to stay home and avoid becoming a statistic.
–B.G.–Sep 1, 2010 at 10:41 am #1642255
Was the meaning of that to be helpful or to be clever?Sep 1, 2010 at 10:46 am #1642260
@paulsiegelLocale: Southern Appalachians
That's just Bob.
Why wouldn't you go solo? If you think you can keep yourself safe, it can be an enlightening experience.
Dont let yourself get in the way of yourself.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:04 am #1642262
I guess it would be the perceived danger. However experience tells me that I will enjoy my time and be safe. I am not a risk taker. I turn around on climbs and I try to inform myself as much as I can before I go.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:05 am #1642263
@daveheissLocale: Pacific Northwest
Go. You'll enjoy the trip (it's beautiful country) and if you decide you want the security of hiking with others, rest assured there will be other hikers on that stretch of trail you may be able to team up with. There's no reason to stay home.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:19 am #1642265
Joshua, what was the purpose behind your initial inquiry?
Either you had the confidence and ability to go do it, or else you didn't. Obviously you didn't have the confidence, so you were trying to get others to buy into that. Don't believe everything that you read on the Internet.
–B.G.–Sep 1, 2010 at 11:29 am #1642269
Thanks. I have a healthy respect for what I am doing, but I did not know if that fear should keep me from going or be something that helps me grow. I also wanted to see if there was something that I have overlooked about this length of trail.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:31 am #1642270
I'm just curious since I'm not familiar with the area, but what sort of bad things can happen? Anything different from a normal hike; injury, sickness, getting lost etc?
I'm going on a thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail in October. I know my girlfriend and family are nervous, probably mainly because in a time of constant communication, I'll be out of touch for 2-3 days at a stretch. Part of the reason I chose the TRT besides ease of accesibility was that I'm fairy close to civilization for bail-out purposes, and I'll be able to call or text message them every 2-3 days at least to let them know I'm fine. But they should really be worried about me walking to work and back every day in Manhattan. I have to dodge a automobile 2-3 times a week making a reckless right or left hand turn at an intersection. And then there's the delivery guys on bikes. . .
I'm not saying this to be a smart-aleck, but 35,000-40,000 people die in car accidents every year,yet people get in them every day without a second thought. You probably hear about the bad things happening on the trail because they are fairly rare, and uncommon events get talked about more than common ones.
Do what you feel comfortable with; but you say you're confident in your physical and mental abilities. I think you may just be suffering from information overload. Take the reports for what they are, information to learn from, and just catalogue it all in a 'What not to do' file in your brain.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:32 am #1642271
This is what I thought too, but I have had trouble getting recent trip reports from this segment of the PCT. The ranger at Holden says not many people hiking in period this year. The only other part of the PCT that I have done was a chunk from White pass into Rainier NP. about the same time of year and saw about 4 solo thru hikers and one couple.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:36 am #1642274
I find that most competant hikers can do fine on a good trail. At the worst case, if they fall down and get a bad ankle sprain, at least some stranger will walk up after a half day. The problem, however, is when the hiker makes a wrong turn and gets off the main trail. Either they miss a turn and end up on some unmaintained trail, or worse yet, they try to cut cross-country to get to where they think the real trail ought to be. It is during those unplanned excursions off the trail when everything bad could happen. If it happens when you are only a hundred yards off the main trail, then it is no big deal. You can whistle or yell to attract attention. Suppose you are miles off-trail. Now what?
–B.G.–Sep 1, 2010 at 11:37 am #1642275
I think it is information overload at this point about the dangers involved, and not enough of the alternative.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:41 am #1642277
Bob, from the maps both old and new there are a few odd trails but mostly it is the PCT here from Rainy pass until I get to my turn off to Holden Village at Suiattle Pass.Sep 1, 2010 at 11:51 am #1642278
Why did Ken Knight stop taking part in BPL?Sep 1, 2010 at 11:52 am #1642279
There was an interesting incident that happened a long time ago (maybe 10-15 years) in the Emigrant Wilderness. One hiker was on leave from the Marines, so obviously he was not some complete fool in the outdoors. He went on a solo day hike, so he didn't have a lot of gear with him, probably only a jacket, a water bottle, and a snack. After he got ten miles from the trailhead, somehow he fell off the trail and then slid and fell down into a creek bed. In the fall, he sustained two broken legs. Somehow he kept his wits about him, and he remembered bits and pieces of his military training. He built a "squirrel's nest" out of dead leaves, and that was his only shelter at night. He drank from the creek. Somehow, the searchers did not find him, partly because they had no idea where to look other than the trailhead where his car was parked. They had covered that trail, but they did not search the creek bed. Anyway, after a week or so, the search was called off. The Marine kept enough strength after two or three weeks to crawl back up the hill and to crawl back out the trail. He was found, taken to the hospital, and finally recovered.
The moral of the story is that even though bad things don't happen very often, it seems like they will hit when you are least prepared for it. Remember the whistle, which would have helped the Marine.
–B.G.–Sep 1, 2010 at 11:58 am #1642282
"Bob, from the maps both old and new there are a few odd trails but mostly it is the PCT here from Rainy pass until I get to my turn off to Holden Village at Suiattle Pass."
That's good information. At least you know where the potential trail problems might be.
Personally, I would get the very best printed map that I could find, and I would carry it in a plastic bag. I would carry a good GPS receiver. That doesn't mean some GPS receiver that I've just read the user manual on. That also means to have spare batteries for it. By having a constant and accurate navigation aid, the possibility of having a catastrophic navigation error is practically nil.
–B.G.–Sep 1, 2010 at 11:59 am #1642283
An Emergency Personal Locator Beacon like the FastFind 210, $250 at REI, no annual subscription, 5 year battery life, 6 ounces. (There are newer and better in the pipeline.)
I get about 20 days a year solo, some of which is trackless cross country. I take enough painkillers for a 2 day bail-out hike if I have to. But if I'm really in trouble I know that someone will be there within 48 hours.
Caveats: You break the EPLB. You're in a tight canyon with little sky showing. Weather prevents rescue for X days. You've fallen in such a way you can't get to the EPLB.(Personal experience.) I'm sure there are many more.
But, I enjoy every hike knowing that 99.9% of the situations are covered. And my S.O. knows that the call from S&R Probably means I'm helping someone else, but if not, that help is already on the way.
Go hike.Sep 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm #1642285
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
I guess it would be the perceived danger. However experience tells me that I will enjoy my time and be safe. I am not a risk taker. I turn around on climbs and I try to inform myself as much as I can before I go.
From what you're saying, Joshua, I don't think that you're the type to get into too much trouble. Go and have a good time. You may feel some fear at first if you're not accustomed to solo travel but you'll definitely grow and gain confidence from the experience.Sep 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm #1642288
The essentials … A bit of extra food … Etc
plb or spot if u plan on soloing a lot more in the futureSep 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm #1642301
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
This is all good trail! There should be no problems, as long as you're prepared for possible nasty weather. I (74 year old granny) would have no hesitation doing this section solo (I've done part of it). It's not the most scenic part of the PCT, IMHO, but is certainly not dull. Are you planning to resupply at Stehekin? Don't miss the bakery! (Just the thought has me drooling on my keyboard!)
I strongly recommend that you plan for an extra day and detour west from Suiattle Pass to Image Lake. The up-close views of Glacier Peak (which you otherwise will barely glimpse on your planned trip) are fantastic! All is good, well marked, well used trail. Of course if it's like today up there (pouring rain, might be snowing at that elevation), forget this side trip, since there will be no views!
If you're nervous about going alone, rent a PLB or a satellite phone.
Do be prepared for possible snow (small amounts) and below-freezing temperatures this time of year. I'm hoping that after Labor Day weekend (which promises to be the third cold, wet weekend in a row for the Northwest) we'll get some Indian summer–but there are no guarantees!
Are you familiar with nwhikers.net, a Seattle-based hikers' forum? I didn't find any recent reports on this section of the PCT, not surprising since the Rainy Pass to Suiattle Pass section is considered one of the less scenic sections compared to others in Washington, but there are several reports on the Spider Meadow-Lyman Lakes-Image Lake-Buck Creek Pass loop, which includes the south end of your planned hike. For the rest of your trip, check journals of PCT hikers on postholer.com or trailjournals.com. I suspect, though, that the majority of the northbound thru-hikers will be hitting that section this month (September). You'll undoubtedly meet some of them!Sep 1, 2010 at 1:16 pm #1642307
@jephotoLocale: New Zealand
Having a few doubts is not an indication that you should not go. In the same way that being completely confident is not any indication of you being competent to do so. I would suggest that more people get into trouble through mispalced confidence than through being cautious.Sep 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm #1642851
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
I did the entire PCT solo. The PCT is a good trail. Wide and well-maintained even through the damaged section through the Glacier Peak area.Sep 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm #1642872
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
Sounds like you are risk-adverse or very careful. Stay on the trail and you will be fine.
I, on the other hand, prefer solo and hikes that avoid other people. However, I do leave a detailed itinerary with my wife.Sep 4, 2010 at 8:24 am #1642982
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
"Joshua, what was the purpose behind your initial inquiry?
Either you had the confidence and ability to go do it, or else you didn't. Obviously you didn't have the confidence, so you were trying to get others to buy into that. Don't believe everything that you read on the Internet."
Maybe, maybe not. It's not always so clear cut. I have been a solo traveler for years, and sometimes I still get "doubts and butterflies" in me prior to a trip.
Joshua — unfortunately, there are some questions that only you can answer. Have you done solo trips before? Are you fairly experienced — in relation to the trail at hand? Maybe read up more about the particular stretch of the trail. If you know you can do it, then go for it. If you still have doubts (even though you have done similar or harder before) — then maybe it's just "pre stage" fright. OTOH, if objectively this is beyond anything you've done before, then don't do it solo the first time around…Sep 4, 2010 at 10:40 am #1642996
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Item #1: You're going to be on an extremely well-used trail; there will probably be several people per day coming along. There undoubtedly will be some northbound thru-hikers coming through. [Pun uninentional :-) ]
Item #2: You have to register with North Cascades National Park and get backcountry permits for each of your campsites in the park or the adjoining National Recreation Area, so they'll know exactly where you are for most of the trip (the only exception is towards the end when you're back on national forest land). Of course, you should still let a trusted friend or relative know your itinerary.
Item #3: Should things go awry, you have an extremely convenient bail-out point in the middle of the trip (Stehekin). It will even get you to exactly the same destination (the Lake Chelan ferry). For this reason alone, you have picked a good section for a solo trip.
EDIT: We are all assuming that you already have some backpacking experience. I just reread your original post and am now not 100% sure that this is the case. If it is true that you are inexperienced, I'd suggest a much shorter hike, not too far from the trailhead. Maybe set up a base camp a couple of miles from the trailhead (close enough that you can bail out if things go badly) and dayhike from there. LATER EDIT: You did mention in a later posts that you have hiked another section of the PCT, so perhaps this doesn't apply. But if you're really nervous about going solo, the base camp idea would be a good alternative. Just pick a spot where there are several good dayhike options.
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