View Full Version : may 24th start?

12-03-2009, 12:16
would i be crazy to start a nobo pct hike on may 24th? will i die of heat in the desert? in some ways a late start date seems desirable to me...i hike fast, and am not interested in hiking in too much snow. i think i can finish the pct in just over four months - i did the AT in less than 5 months without too much trouble. i have to go to a wedding in atlanta on may 22, and am trying to decide if its worth the significant extra cost to fly out and hike for a few weeks (literally, just a few - i dont get out of school til may 3) before having to return for this wedding, or if i'll be okay with a later start date. any advice is appreciated!

12-03-2009, 12:21
Crazy, no. I started later (I did die in the desert, got sick the day that I started hiking).

If you're willing to do night hikes, I think that you'd be fine. Make sure that you get the water report (attabat I think).

One thing about a later start, you might not have to deal with staying in Kennedy Meadows due to snow melt.

12-03-2009, 12:48
Others have done what you are contemplating.

One word of caution. It is doubtful that trail angels will be keeping the water caches filled in southern CA in late May. Hikers aren't supposed to depend on them anyhow. Just means you will be carrying alot more water.

Have fun!!!!

12-03-2009, 13:49
Some of the people that started mid to late May caught up to us in the Sierra and most of those went on to finish a few weeks before the pack. But then again, hiking the PCT in 3.5-4 months, they were in the minority.

Is it doable? Totally.

Will it be enjoyable? That's for you to decide.

I did several 25-30 mile days in a row in Nor Cal and Oregon and Washington and gained some pretty horrific shin splints.

Just have a game plan for the desert. As Jeff mentioned, you'll probably have to carry more water and hiking can feel like a chore when you gotta get up at 4am.

Good luck

12-03-2009, 14:36
May 24 sounds late for a comfortable thru-hike. However, it is totally doable if you absolutely have to. You'd just have to book it, 25s every day in the desert and little to no zeros for a long time to kind of get back into the thick of it. I'd imagine by the late sierras you'd be back in comfortable company and you might be able to relax a little, depending how fast you hike. As for doing 25-30s, it's not hard. After Echo Lake I did 30-33 miles every full day in 2009 with no ill effects, with several random 40+ and one 54 thrown in there. I'm 25 and I had a light pack, granted, but it IS possible. Plenty of people were with me, I wasn't hiking alone (group of six or so). I lost most people in Ashland, though, as I didn't have enough money to hang out. I proceeded to hike with 4 people for the rest of Oregon and then for Washington it was just me and one other person. However, that goes to show that even if you go quick you don't have to hike absolutely alone.

That aside, I don't recommend a May 24th start, especially for your first hike. It puts too much pressure on you to hike fast and you'll be largely alone in the desert, which isn't tons of fun (the PCT is all about fun!). If you flew out at the beginning of May and just hiked for awhile, you could get back to LA or Bakersfield pretty easily. Airfare would cost, granted, but it's not a giant expense in the scope of a thru-hike. I definitely recommend coming out and hiking. You really don't want to start your first thru-hike that late.

12-03-2009, 22:08
thanks everyone for the responses. i still have a lot of logistical issues to think about, so you'll probably hear from me again.

Spirit Walker
12-04-2009, 13:18
Last year we had a wedding to attend in early May, so we decided to start the PCT partway up the trail afterwards. We started at Big Bear because public transportation is fairly easy to get there and because we could start with 15 mile days and fairly regular water sources - no big water alerts for the first couple of weeks. Big Bear is 265 miles up the trail. Mojave is also easy to access by bus from Bakersfield or you can get near Walker Pass by bus. If it's a high snow year, you might look into transportation to Tahoe or Chester and start north of the Sierras. Our plan was to hike north to Canada, then flip around and finish the southern section in the fall. Unfortunately, Jim tore the meniscus in his knee and had to have surgery after about 400 miles. Still, it was a good plan.

My husband and I do not enjoy being forced to do big mile days all the time. It is hard on the body and hard for me to handle emotionally. I like to relax and enjoy the hike, not do a death march all the time. Some people love a physical challenge though and don't need to stop and smell the roses. Which kind of hiker are you?

12-04-2009, 21:56
I started my hike on May 25 in 2009. I hiked a bunch of my own trails until I met up with the PCT on June 1 at the big aqueduct crossing in the Antelope Valley. It was really hot hiking that week in the backcountry behind Ojai. 100 degree days. But if you are ok with that kind of heat, it's really not that bad. I'm ok with it.

Fortunately, the so-called "desert" that everyone talks about isn't all desert. You'll have some lovely days in the forest and some hot-ass days in the chaparral and some hellish desert crossing days. A mixture.

Do what you are comfortable with. If 100 degree days many days in a row aren't your thing, then start further ahead and finish the southern part of the trail in the Fall. Keep in touch with the PCT-L list and maybe the trail angels will try to stash some water for you.

Montana AT05
12-06-2009, 16:40
Consider skipping the desert altogether. Start in the Sierra's or just south of there somewhere (based on your logistics).

Then if you want to "make up the miles" hook left or right at the northern terminus along the Pacific "Make-Your-Own" Northwest Trail. If you go left, you can finish at the Pacific Ocean, if you go right, you can finish at Glacier National Park.

Don't think you HAVE to hike a trail as designed in the trail book.

12-06-2009, 19:25
The desert is fantastic. Don't skip it, if you can help it. And the PNT isn't really a great trail experience yet. Its current construction level makes the CDT look finished.

12-06-2009, 21:07
I would second a start at Big Bear for you starting on May 24 or even further north at Mojave. If you start at Big Bear, however, you'll be south of the large section that burned in Angeles National Forest last fall which may not be open for hiking this coming year. Either place you can get to via public transport from LA. If you go to Mojave, though, you might get to Kennedy Meadows (start of High Sierra) too soon, around June 1 or so.

You might also be able to get near Aqua Dulce (about a half day south) via the light rail system that goes toward Acton, CA. It travels up Soledad Canyon and Acton is about 10 or so miles east of the trail. I really don't know what kind of hitch that would be. I remember crossing the tracks and seeing a commuter train around lunch time the day I hiked out of the Saufley's at Agua Dulce just before I reached Soledad Canyon Rd. along the Santa Clarita River (about 3 feet wide in April last year). Starting at this point you'd reach Kennedy Meadows in mid to late June and there would be a lot of other thru hikers around.

You might want to post on the PCT-L mailing list. I was successful in arranging a ride from Cajon Pass down to LA last year when I had to return east for a family wedding. If nothing else, folks there can comment on ways to get to the trail around that location from LAX.

12-06-2009, 22:00
I remember we dropped someone off who was getting off the trail at the train station in Santa Clarita. But that was back when the Sauffleys had loaner cars. It shouldn't be too hard to arrange something, however. Definitely post a request to the PCT list. Someone probably lives close enough to help and Donna Sauffley is on the list.

12-07-2009, 00:03
Speed! Speed! That's what we need! Greasy fast Speed!

12-07-2009, 16:53
Big Bear might be a good place to start for that date. I arrived in Big Bear on May 22nd on my PCT trip this year due to getting off for 3 weeks due to injury at Idyllwild and finished in Canada on Oct.2. You will be towards the back of the pack so you'll have to get use to hiking alone for awhile. While I did meet other hikers in Socal, I didn't feel like I was starting to catch up with a large number of hikers who had a similar pace until the Sierras; especially around Northern Yosemite. The weather wasn't an issue in the deserts, but this year we had unusuallly cool weather for most of the time.

12-08-2009, 02:50
Only disadvantage starting out in Big Bear is that you are going to be in the Station Fire burned out area pretty quickly. Not an especially glorious start.

12-08-2009, 16:07
Only disadvantage starting out in Big Bear is that you are going to be in the Station Fire burned out area pretty quickly. Not an especially glorious start.

Yeah, but you also get to the Deep Creek hot springs pretty quickly too. And it's cool to see the burned out areas as they grow back.

The part that I would miss is the hike out of Scissors Crossing near Julian. It's one of the few areas that looked like what I thought the dessert would be like. You know: cactus.

Another approach would be to start at the beginning and then skip from Tehachapi up to Kennedy Meadows if you need to.

Lucy Lulu
12-09-2009, 00:18
I started May 21st of 2008, and it was definitely hot! I really did not use the water cache's often at all...maybe twice? I just carried more water. I did note though that a few of them were empty.

There were definitely a few triple digit days, but I quickly learned to leave early, sit out the hottest part of the day, and hike late. I also carried a Go-lite umbrella which made a big difference in my comfort level. There were a few times that wind made the umbrella a PIA, but fortunately that same wind kept me from overheating.

I ended up flipping to the border from Mammoth and heading south b/c I had to take too many days off due to a health issue, and my mileage was not as high as it should have been.

I think if you are in good shape and can do the miles, then that date is definitely doable. Good luck!