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  1. #1

    Default The Sierras in October: a thread to share knowledge and experiences

    As always, my plan to do a solo 60-day section hike of the PCT is constantly morphing. The plan of now is to start somewhere near Kennedy Meadows early September and go north to Castella. Then transfer over to the Bigfoot Trail for about 15 days, and end on the Pacific coast near the end of October.

    Due to injury/legal related matters from a car accident I remain in a purgatory state doing my best to make sure this trip does not become a phantom adventure.

    It should be noted that I have no experience long distance hiking, but have been diligently researching, preparing, and training everyday for 4 months now. I feel like 4 months has been a long time for me because much my energy goes into this hike on the daily as opposed to working full time and/or having a family. In two weeks I am taking a survival wilderness course with this dude in Ocala, FL that seems to really know what he is doing. I am definitely respecting the magnitude of the hike.

    Due to recent updates, there is a chance that I will not be able to get out to the Sierras until late September. I know snow can be expected during this time, and it may not be the best time to be there. However, weather is different every year. I would appreciate anyone sharing their experience or just overall feedback of the idea of being in the Sierras in late September into October.

    Thank you!

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    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    We did a NOBO JMT thru hike starting mid-late September 2012, into October, basically 15 minutes of rain on the entire trip. Glorious weather. but, yeah, you should probably expect some dustings now and then in October.

    Have you considered going SOBO, starting in Yosemite or just north, so that by late October you'll be in the friendlier lower elevations south of the Sierra's ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    We did a NOBO JMT thru hike starting mid-late September 2012, into October, basically 15 minutes of rain on the entire trip. Glorious weather. but, yeah, you should probably expect some dustings now and then in October.

    Have you considered going SOBO, starting in Yosemite or just north, so that by late October you'll be in the friendlier lower elevations south of the Sierra's ?
    I have considered it, but after discovering the bio-diversity of the Klamath mountains and the amazing option of hiking part of the Bigfoot Trail I can't let that idea go. Also on the BFT there are only a couple of places of 7k elevation, which can be a bit friendlier as October rolls on into November. Plus I will be working my way towards the temperance of the Pacific coast doing the BFT which will help with weather.

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    But that is promising to hear that you had such a good weather situation.

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    Again, bumping my initial response, why not just start in Yosemite and head south on the JMT/PCT ???? If the weather happens to be lousy right when you start, you can reconsider. But good chance you'll have reasonable weather and you can get through the Sierra before real winter hits, then you're "home free", well, better off anyway.

    I cannot believe the AZ trail will be nearly as enjoyable, but I'm basing that on 2nd hand information.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Again, bumping my initial response, why not just start in Yosemite and head south on the JMT/PCT ???? If the weather happens to be lousy right when you start, you can reconsider. But good chance you'll have reasonable weather and you can get through the Sierra before real winter hits, then you're "home free", well, better off anyway.

    I cannot believe the AZ trail will be nearly as enjoyable, but I'm basing that on 2nd hand information.
    This is a good point. I guess I have dismissed this because I hold the assumption that the AZ Trail will be more beautiful, or the NM section of the CDT will be more beautiful. I may definitely be undermining the desert section of the PCT.

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    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rybir View Post
    This is a good point. I guess I have dismissed this because I hold the assumption that the AZ Trail will be more beautiful, or the NM section of the CDT will be more beautiful. I may definitely be undermining the desert section of the PCT.
    I'm just of the opinion that the JMT portion through the Sierra is still doable in October, which blows away pretty much everything anywhere in terms of shear beauty.

    Venchka makes a good point though about available resupply services... Are we sure every place is closed in late October (reds, VVR, Muir Ranch, etc)?

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    I'm just of the opinion that the JMT portion through the Sierra is still doable in October, which blows away pretty much everything anywhere in terms of shear beauty.

    Venchka makes a good point though about available resupply services... Are we sure every place is closed in late October (reds, VVR, Muir Ranch, etc)?
    In my resupply research, much of them are based on weather and flexible. Reds is fine because I can just hitch its Mammoth Lakes.

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    In my experience, you should be fine in early October. It will be cold and there will be a dusting of snow, but no snow pack or anything that you should have to trudge through. By late October and early November you should expect a snow pack to start building. That said, I've summited Half Dome on Christmas day with no snow anywhere.

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    Now that is a good Christmas.

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    It is true that the weather is different every year. I have been skiing in Tahoe on 2-4 Ft of snow in October. And I have seen zero snow and 75 degree days in October and November and even December. You can look at NOAA predictions and guesstimates for the fall based on ocean temps, etc. But, you will get the weather you get.

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    PS... It is not accurate that the High Sierras get all the snow and that the lower elevations in Northern California get less snow. Northern CA gets as much, or more, snow as the southern Sierras. The reason people believe that we get less is that thru hikers hit the high Sierras in April/May and hit Tahoe and Northern CA in June/July or even August.
    Last edited by DLP; 07-28-2016 at 18:32.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by DLP View Post
    PS... It is not accurate that the High Sierras get all the snow and that the lower elevations in Northern California get less snow. Northern CA gets as much, or more, snow as the southern Sierras. The reason people believe that we get less is that thru hikers hit the high Sierras in April/May and hit Tahoe and Northern CA in June/July or even August.
    Thank you for clarifying that. Do you think a month out from the hike could be a time to maybe at least get a feel for what the weather is generally going to do out there?

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    It is the Fall in the mountains. It is an unpredictable crap shoot. You may get absolutely glorious weather the first two weeks of October and it may snow 3 feet the week before Halloween. Or maybe it won't snow until November or December. Or maybe it will snow 24/7 your first week out and not snow again for 6 weeks. There's just no way to know.

    It is like 60 days of weather in October and November in New York or Michigan or Wyoming or lots of places with seasons. The weather on September 25 tells you nothing about the weather on November 15.

    I'd watch the weather week to week and have a bailout plan and maybe a backup plan to hit the coast or desert or something.
    Last edited by DLP; 07-28-2016 at 19:13.

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    Just so you realize, snow is probably going to be the least of your problems since you are skating in just before winter. I will throw out two very big issues you will have for your trip. By the way, which Kennedy Meadows are you referring to? The one on the south side of the Sierra's or the one by Sonora Pass?

    Anyway, about your two big issues. Everything will be closed. KM in the south will be closed. The gate at Whitney Portal may be closed/locked by Late September/Early October, so you may have to walk into Lone Pine. Muir Trail ranch, VVR, Reds Meadow, & Tuolumne will all be closed for the season. There's nothing at Sonora or Carson. Echo lake will be closed, of course most people can't resist going down into S.Lake Tahoe, so no big deal there. And as you go north along the PCT you will run into this constant problem of everything being closed. It will be nice and peaceful but those are some long stretches without many of the resources most hikers rely on.

    Second problem is water. Spring melt comes and goes. Then the long summer takes it's toll and even more water sources stop flowing. Then cold weather hits and it freezes up what's left of others. By late fall only the most consistent of water sources flow. this will be compounded with the freezing of lakes and ponds. Now, the whole lake or pond may not be frozen but the edges will be at higher altitudes. I'm not going into all the details of water problems, I'm just giving you a basic level understanding of the problems you may face.

    Anyway, I'm not trying to sway your decision but I think these are factors you will have to prepare yourself for.
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    Quote Originally Posted by magic_game03 View Post
    Just so you realize, snow is probably going to be the least of your problems since you are skating in just before winter. I will throw out two very big issues you will have for your trip. By the way, which Kennedy Meadows are you referring to? The one on the south side of the Sierra's or the one by Sonora Pass?

    Anyway, about your two big issues. Everything will be closed. KM in the south will be closed. The gate at Whitney Portal may be closed/locked by Late September/Early October, so you may have to walk into Lone Pine. Muir Trail ranch, VVR, Reds Meadow, & Tuolumne will all be closed for the season. There's nothing at Sonora or Carson. Echo lake will be closed, of course most people can't resist going down into S.Lake Tahoe, so no big deal there. And as you go north along the PCT you will run into this constant problem of everything being closed. It will be nice and peaceful but those are some long stretches without many of the resources most hikers rely on.

    Second problem is water. Spring melt comes and goes. Then the long summer takes it's toll and even more water sources stop flowing. Then cold weather hits and it freezes up what's left of others. By late fall only the most consistent of water sources flow. this will be compounded with the freezing of lakes and ponds. Now, the whole lake or pond may not be frozen but the edges will be at higher altitudes. I'm not going into all the details of water problems, I'm just giving you a basic level understanding of the problems you may face.

    Anyway, I'm not trying to sway your decision but I think these are factors you will have to prepare yourself for.
    I was referring to the south side KM. I actually have been calling and checking and KM south said they will be open into November. Sonora Pass Direct Resupply said they deliver up into mid-late October as long as roads are clear too. Also if RM is closed then Mammoth Lakes should be viable. I think I am actually surprisingly good on resupply after some diligent research. But of course freak weather could change that.

    Now in terms of water, this is all new to me haha. Thank you. These factors are totally important to consider.

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    Sounds like snow would be a welcome source of water. Food may be more scarce than water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    Sounds like snow would be a welcome source of water. Food may be more scarce than water….
    It does, doesn't it. It's also a mistake that I made when I was inexperienced. Early snow usually has a dry powdery consistency and often forms in small drifts that makes it hard to collect. Anybody who has had to cook-up snow knows that it takes water to do it. Sometimes a wet snow can be melted but it is an extremely tedious process that burns a lot of fuel and results in minimal amounts of water. I'm not going to spend an hour typing up a long dissertation of cooking/melting snow. I'm just warning that it is an ordeal that Rybir will have to face.
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    Quote Originally Posted by magic_game03 View Post
    Early snow usually has a dry powdery consistency and often forms in small drifts that makes it hard to collect.
    We don't do light and powdery. We don't call it "Sierra Cement" for nothing.

    TRT is good if there is no snow. He can start in Tahoe, but he is planning a 60 day solo trip in October and November thru some of the least populated, inaccessible and isolated (not to mention snowiest) parts of California. Nobody can predict the weather 30, 40, or 60 days out.

    It is one thing to plan two weeks on the JMT in early October. Planning 1,000 solo miles in 60 days, in October and November, as you first long trip? Can't picture it.
    Last edited by DLP; 07-29-2016 at 12:00.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by DLP View Post
    We don't do light and powdery. We don't call it "Sierra Cement" for nothing.

    TRT is good if there is no snow. He can start in Tahoe, but he is planning a 60 day solo trip in October and November thru some of the least populated, inaccessible and isolated (not to mention snowiest) parts of California. Nobody can predict the weather 30, 40, or 60 days out.

    It is one thing to plan two weeks on the JMT in early October. Planning 1,000 solo miles in 60 days, in October and November, as you first long trip? Can't picture it.
    Yup, even with tons of prep and research (this very forum itself) I am having trouble picturing it too. Late summer was perfect for me..

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