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Just curious if anyone recommends any other books for the pct besides the pct data book. any other comments on what people think are necessities for a pct thru hike are welcom as well. thanks
The data book and the three guide books. I wouldn't bother with the town guide, although some people like having it. Unlike the AT, you really do want the guide books. In the south you need them to help you find water. In the Sierra, they are helpful for finding your way. Also, all the maps you need are in the guidebooks, so there isn't anything separate to buy. Take what the guide books say regarding towns with a grain of salt. They are very anti-hitching and things get outdated fast.
If i start in mid may and finish by the end of august, what kind of potential for snow am i looking at? thanks
I'm doing the PCT next year. From what I have heard is to wait till June 15th to reach Kennedy Meadows. Depends on how bad the snow was that year. Most people finish around late Sept-early Oct.. Anything later could mean snow.
It depends on how heavy the snow pack is over the winter time. This last winter was light up until April. There was also a big storm on May 9 (the day I started). The problems for snow really begin at Forrester Pass, which is about 20 miles past Whitney, which is about 60 miles from Kennedy Meadows, the unofficial start of the Sierra. I got to KM on June 9 and crossed Forrester on June 14th. Lots of snow up above 10,500 ft. Usually, I would hike along a valley, then head up to a pass, with the trail obscured partially or completely with snow for the last 2-6 miles. There was generally more snow going down the other side of the passes, but navigation wasn't too bad and you can glissade (i.e, slide) down alot of the snow. In the morning, the snow was hard enough for good footing, but not too icy for footing. In the afternoons, the snow gets rotten, and about 50-95% of the steps I took resulted in my going down into the snow to my knees or hips.
Bring an axe, but crampons are not necessary unless you come in really early or there is ALOT of snow. Incidently, people without snow experience got through okay. I went through the Sierra with 3 others, one of which had never even seen snow.
You'll want to monitor the PCT-L (sign up at www.backcountry.net) in March and April. Some local experts will make wildly optimistic predications about when it is safe to enter the Sierra. This year, they were off by three to four weeks. When they say safe, they really mean safe for experts. Everyone else takes their chances. A PCT hiker died in 1999 in a snow fall accident. PCT hikers get stranded sometimes and rangers have to come in to get them out.
On the pace you'll have to push (the same I did this summer), you'll reach KM about a month after you start. If the snow is significantly above average, you may have some trouble: Obscured trails, dangerous traverses, cornices, lots of postholing in the afternoons. If the snow is average, you'll get through with some work.
Once you get past Donahue Pass (entry into Yosemite), you are probably okay. Sonora Pass (after Yosemite) can be dangerous and snow covered. It was buried in snow when I went through, but not dangerous. After Sonora Pass, you are mostly in the clear, although I had bits and pieces of bad snow up to I80.
Finally, if the snow is bad, you can hike from KM to Whitney, summit, and then go out to Independence or Lone Pine (20+ mile hike out, hard hitch after that). Or, try to get over Forrester and then get out, if necessary, to wait for some melt. I caught up to several hikers because they had to sit for a week.
All in all, don't worry too much about the snow. If you know how to use an axe and the basics of snow travel, you can get through safely and enjoyably. If you don't know these things, make sure to link up with others in KM before going through. To be honest, the snow is less of a danger than the river crossings, some of which are rather hairy.
As if my last post wasn't long enough, here is some more about snow. If you finish in August, you won't have to worry about snow in Washington, and that is a good thing. The passes there would be _hard_ with snow on them. I danced across with no problem. Fun, really. Just some work. If there is a really heavy snow year in the northwest, you may have problems in northern CA and Oregon, but it would take a record year for this to happen.
June 15 is the traditional entry day into the Sierra. I went in, again, on June 10. The first people through went in on June 1, I believe. They had some rather hard times and had to bail out to get snow shoes. To get an idea of why it is good to ignore the snow predictions on the PCT-L, read Yogi's journal from 2002 at www.trailjournals.com or Cupcake's at
Also, take a look at Jonathon Ley's 1999 PCT journal at www.phlumf.com. Dave Brock's PCT hike in 2001 should give you a good idea of how to do a 3.5 month hike. I got a lot of good info from his page: members.tripod.com/gohike
1999 was a very heavy snow year, by the way, 2002 was considered light, and 2001 very light.
Thanks for the websites. Dave Brocks got a lot of good info. I was wondering what was the best way to get to the trailhead in the south. As for the snow is it feasible to take it easy and enter the Sierras sometime towards the end of June and then make up the miles later on? I've done continuous 20-25 mile days on teh A.T. and think that continuous 30-35 days on the PCT are doable. Thanks
I got to the trail head via Bob Riess. Sometime in February or so, Bob will post a message to the PCT-L about rides to the trailhead. He lives in San Diego and will pick you up at the airport, put you up for the night, help you with logisitics, and drive you out to the trailhead in the early AM. All for free. He just likes being a part of the community. You can take a bus from San Diego to Campo, then walk a mile to the border, then set out north. But, the bus doesn't get to Campo and it is a good idea to put as much distance between you and the border as possible on the first night.
Entering the Sierras late is not a bad idea at all. Once you get a bit north of Sonora Pass (around mile 1050 or so), the trail eases up a bit. From there on, I didn't have a single day below 30 unless I was going into or coming out of a town. That isn't to say that the hiking is totally cake, but pulling those kinds of miles is very doable and enjoyable. Several other hikers pulled the same pace that I did, so it isn't like I was doing some sort of freakish thing.
The only problem with entering in late June is that you are still in southern California in late June. For the first 450 miles, you are in good sized mountains, with some desert in between. The haul after that involves things like crossing part of the Mojave. Think: VERY HOT. Even in early June. Water sources start to go dry in early June, depending, of course, on how wet the winter was. I'd get across Southern California first, and then, if necessary, hang out in Kennedy Meadows waiting for it to melt. Or, take a week or 10 days off and go to Las Vegas and go rock climbing or something.
I've put up some new pics of the early part of the Sierra that show some of the snow. More should go up after the Gathering. It really isn't that bad, but it is something you need to deal with. Bring an axe and know how to use it. Hook up with one or more people for the crossing. River fords present a more dangerous obstacle than the snow.
Is there an organization like ATC that governs/promotes the PCT? Is the trail maintained by volunteer organizations similiar to the AT?
The PCTA. their website is http://www.pcta.org
See also ALDHA-West: www.aldhawest.org
Bulldog, Just thought you might also want to take a look at, 'Dances With Marmots - A Pacific Crest Trail Adventure' over at http://www.angelfire.com/trek/nz_usa/index.html
It's an online book covering the experiences of a PCT solo thru-hiker - could give you some added info' and an idea of what to expect.