Nov 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm #1296031
Hey guys, I'm planning a 2013 thru hike of the PCT. I was wondering what everyone would think is the earliest date possible to go without getting much snow throughout the high sierras. I would be going with my girlfriend and she has to be back by mid-August for classes. Thanks a lotNov 14, 2012 at 11:16 am #1928322
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
You really need to look at the snow level forecasts and make a best guess, as there can be pretty wide fluctuations year by year. It also depends to some degree on how comfortable you are spending a lot of time in snow, plus the creek crossings can be even more dangerous for the earliest into the Sierras. This past year was really, really mild/easy. The year before was, I believe, more difficult than average. I walked through there on about an "average" year I think (2008), if anything a tad easier than average. I started into the Sierras in early June and things were fine.
There are just a whole lot of variables, certainly to include your average pace, it's hard to say much here. If you're trying to push towards "earliest" date, however, I think it's important that you think ahead of "flipping" strategies, i.e., hitch or bus or in some cases even walk around areas that can't be done, then if you didn't do a walk-around, flip back later to pick up the missing piece(s). If, of course, schedule and various life-issues allow.
The other important thing is to have the experience and wisdom to know when to turn back or turn off on to a side exit route and bail.
Sorry to be so vague. Have a look at the "snow conditions" part of postholer.com.
Consider joining and posting this on pct-l, http://mailman.backcountry.net/mailman/listinfo/pct-lNov 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm #1928336
thanks Brian, that actually helps me out a lot.Nov 14, 2012 at 1:05 pm #1928347
Hiking MaltoBPL Member
This isn't as simple as when can you start to hit the Sierra. There are a few more factors that need to be considered. First, the restriction on being done by mid August will likely be a challenge unless you luck out on the snow front. Brian is right about 2011, it was a very challenging year from a snow perspective. That year nobody finished in mid August… The earliest was somewhere in the neighborhood of August 20th. This year on the other hand was super simple in the Sierra. The early folks shot through and ended up being about a month ahead of 2011 schedule with the earliest finisher, Swami being done in late July. BUT… He had a good bit of snow to deal with, not in the Sierra but in Or and WA. So here's the factors you need to consider.
1) Overall hiking time. Unless you are properly trained, properly prepared and highly motivated it is unlikely you will finish in under 120 days. It certainly can be done, I did it in 98 days, Mouse and Swami both did it this year in sub 100 but it will be a challenge and an even greater challenge with two people, you will be limited in mileage by the weakest of the two. But let's use 4 months, that means you have to start by mid April. The problem that you will have is you will have to do high mileage out of gate to hit 4 months and that will likely mean either hitting the Sierra or WA/OR with serious snow. Let's look at some numbers. Let's say you are in great shape, properly prepared and highly motivated and that you can do 30 mpd everyday with no zeros. It will take you about 50 days from Tahoe to Canada. Not impossible but that is moving. (To see what that's like go to postholer.com and search for my journal under trail name Malto. ) I kept a slightly faster pace than that and had significantly above average snow in N Ca/WA/OR but I was also two weeks later than you will have to be.
2) To hit Tahoe by say June 25th you will need to average about 17 mpd from Mexico through to Tahoe. Not too tough but you will need the following to happen.
– arrive on the trail in shape.
– not lose much time with SoCal weather ( most 2011 hikers lost a couple of days from a may storm)
– minimize zeros
3) this average would put you leaving KM (mile 700) on June 5th. Will you hit snow? It depends on the year. 2012 was likely fine but 2011 would have been solid snow for hundreds of miles.
Bottom line, there are two competing issues that I believe will be a challenge to overcome. A fast schedule to hit mid August is doable but it will likely take significant snow travel both in the Seirra and possibly up north. Avoiding snow is possible but that makes getting to Canada by mid August a long shot. My two cents, but you could get lucky and have minimal snow in both the Sierra and further north.Nov 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm #1928462
thanks a lot Greg and Brian. Theres a whole lot of really great info there. I'm going to check your trail journal tonight to get some ideas. Thanks again guys.Nov 15, 2012 at 6:47 am #1928516
Hiking MaltoBPL Member
Jackal did the pct in 117 days this year with a start date of late April and an end date of 8/23. His hike would likely be the closest to what you are proposing. Keep in mind that you would be 2 weeks ahead of his schedule but you can get a pretty good feel on actual mileage needed in each section to hit your target. His journal is also on postholer trail name Jackal.Nov 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm #1928645
man you guys are awesome. Got everything I needed and more. Thanks again!Nov 19, 2012 at 10:22 am #1929631
Don't forget about Insane Duane! He was with Mouse and Swami also. I think a large part of being able to do a fast thru is prior experience. Have you hiked a long trail before?
I will also add my 2 cents of advice to this. I agree with Malto and stress showing up in shape if you want to do a fast thru attempt. The desert is fairly easy and you can bank miles there if you're in shape. Make sure your footwear is sorted as that's the biggest problem for most people (foot issues). Limit the zeros. Have a plan for the big vortex stops like the Saufley's, Andersons, Kennedy Meadows, Mammoth, South Lake Tahoe, Ashland etc. Sending yourself boxes instead of resupplying in town also save a ton of time in my opinion. Having one extra large town chore is, well, a chore. Maybe mix it up? And last but not least, commit to not watching a single episode of Game of Thrones season 3 until you get home. Zeros in town to watch a tv show (or the game) chew up a lot of time!
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