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  1. #1

    Default The big snow year, what you should do, what I'm doing

    If snowing stopped right now and a big heat wave hit then we would probably be looking at a "normal" trail year. But considering we still have the big snow months of Feb, March and April to go through (and May sometimes isn't too shabby) I think we can plan for at the very least an above average year with the possibility of a record year. So what does a record year look like? Look at 2011. Some say 82-83 was bigger but I don't buy it. Mammoth sits smack in the middle of the High Sierras (I lived there for 2 years) and in 82-83' they got 546" of snow but in 10-11' they got 669" (an all time record for them by far). They average 400" a year and that's exactly what they have right now even though they have several more big months to go. So although no one likes to play weatherman more than a couple days out let alone 4 months out, I think it is safe to say we are looking at between an above average year at best to a record breaking year at worst. Which brings me back to 2011.

    Here are all the trail journals from 2011:
    http://www.trailjournals.com/journal...est_trail/2011
    (Balls and Sunshine are one of the best ones)

    Here are some YouTube videos from 2011:

    Forrester Pass
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_tMtCjq57Y

    Fords and "Stream" Crossings
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6KHKa6SeKk

    The Whole Trail
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8Ch-f8tjJk&t=639s


    A couple things to point out from these records. A little girl who just turned 11 (Sunshine) hiked the entire PCT in this record breaking snow year. So if anyone of you have any doubts of if you can hike it or of prohibitively high dangers then you shouldn't worry. Anyone can do it if they want to. Which brings the question, do you want to? For me my answer is no. I look at all those pictures and videos and all I see is white. Granted we are only talking about the Sierras but for most the Sierras is the main highlight of the whole trail. When I go back into the Sierras I want to see brown trail, green meadows, purple flowers, blue lakes, green trees, and mountains that are both granite grey and snow white. I do not want to see white trail, white meadows, white lakes, buried trees, no flowers, and pure white mountains. This is not even considering that many stretches people were making 1 mph when even with good timing you would be looking at a 9 day resupply. If I am going to invest the amount of time and money to hike the PCT then I want a reasonable level of assured-ness to be able to do the kind of hike I want and to get the experience I want, and seeing nothing but white in the Sierras is not what I am looking for.

    So this is my plan. If Mammoth gets more than 550" of snow then I will not be hiking the PCT this year. If they manage to somehow come in at less than 550" then I will hike it with a mid-May start date. That is just my plan based upon my preferences and I certainly understand people's indifference at doing a pure white Sierra and hiking no matter what, but I am a little confused at these people with beginning of April start dates, unless they either plan on hanging out at KM for a month or unless they plan on blazing a white snow covered untracked trail hundreds of miles through the mountains.



    (It should be noted I hiked from Red Meadows to Thousand Island Lake on the PCT and back to Red Meadows on the JMT in late July 2011. The PCT was perfectly fine until you got to the Thousand Island Lake area upon which point I was hiking on frozen lake and snow. Thousand Island Lake had a bunch of snow around it and small parts were iced over but there was enough cleared dirt areas around the edges for good camping and the vast majority of the lake was a beautiful glass of water. The hike back on the sun-hidden JMT was mostly snow but not a big deal. I found it actually easier in the snow as I was going downhill and could just slide on my butt for parts. The valley was flooded but walking through 2 feet of water was no big deal).

  2. #2

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    Well, it depends as much on temps and late season dumps as anything, but ..


    getSWCGraph.png

  3. #3
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    Keep in mind that Sunshine had a trail family that helped her get through the Sierra. I saw quite of few people quit in the Sierra and some of these were very experienced hikers. There were also many that skipped North Yosemite completely. Here's a bit of advice that I would give based on living through the last big snow year.
    1) Start early in the day and get over the passes as early as possible. Learn from my mistake on Forester and Mather. I would also highly recommend microspikes to make those early starts less eventful.
    2) if you hit a stream crossing that is "impassible" look up and downstream for easier crossings. If that still is an issue, wait till the following morning when the stream levels will likely be lower.
    3) don't rely solely on electronics. You will likely have multiple days when you need navigation help if you are either unfamiliar with the region or able to effectively read maps.
    4) be skeptical of reports of impossibility. They are likely overblown by those that decided not to proceed in order to make conditions seem worse to justify their decision. This was a huge issue in '11 and the primary reason many skipped N. Yosemite.
    5) if you have a GPS, do not attempt to follow the track, proceed to waypoints such as half mile's waypoints. Often with heavy snow cover you can beeline across terrain that the trail goes around such as ponds.
    6) expect to have wet feet the entire time in the Sierra and beyond. I went from KM to hat creek rim before I had my first full day of dry shoes. You must also take care of your feet given the amount of time your feet will be wet.
    7) expect the unexpected. Resupplies such as MTR, reds or TM may be closed, all three were closed in mid June in '11.
    8) plan on taking extra zeros especially in Mammouth. You will be physically and mentally exhausted from the exertion of snow travel.
    9) snowshoes will be of little help. There are always a few discussions on this during high snow years.
    10) don't plan on flipping North. This worked back in I believe '05 due to a low snow year in the PNW. It was a losing proposition in '11 with no way to avoid the snow. Plan on pushing strainght through even it takes a bit longer.
    11) don't underestimate North Yosemite or even the area north of Sonora Pass. Do not send winter gear home from KM north or Bridgeport.
    12) don't get caught up in the Vortex of fear. I saw this both in Aqua Dulce and the brief time I was in KM.
    13) look at the experience as type two fun. It will seem to suck much of the time but with time it will be those tough experiences that you will remember the most.
    14) lose your expectation on what the trail "should be." You will have to hike the trail that's there. I had my lowest mental day coming out of Tahoe when I "expected" the snow to be better after taking five days off trail. In reality I hit snow all but two days for the entire rest of the way to Canada.

    Here is my journal from 2011 starting at KM.
    http://www.postholer.com/journal/Pac...t-Beyond/23541
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  4. #4

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    People take what start dates they can get.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by AllDownhillFromHere View Post
    People take what start dates they can get.
    I didn't try to get a permit until a couple days ago. I got May 21. On Feb 15 I will change it to May 15 or the second week of May sometime. You may not be able to get the exact day but I don't see why you can't get at least a day or two from your ideal day. How fast did the primo days fill up for the first 35?

  6. #6

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    ... I mean Feb 13 (I wish editing posts was possible).

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post

    Here is my journal from 2011 starting at KM.
    http://www.postholer.com/journal/Pac...t-Beyond/23541
    Damn man, you flew. Were you on a dirt bike or something???

  8. #8

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    People who signed up on the first day were getting mid May. April was filled immediately. I imagine that on Feb 15 you will have to be very lucky to get the date changed given the demand.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlpineKevin View Post
    I didn't try to get a permit until a couple days ago. I got May 21. On Feb 15 I will change it to May 15 or the second week of May sometime. You may not be able to get the exact day but I don't see why you can't get at least a day or two from your ideal day. How fast did the primo days fill up for the first 35?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlpineKevin View Post
    Damn man, you flew. Were you on a dirt bike or something???
    A snowmobile!!!
    enemy of unnecessary but innovative trail invention gadgetry

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    A snowmobile!!!
    I'm looking at your day 1 pics and it looks like you have LUGGAGE with you??? This actually got me thinking, wouldn't it be possible to make some kind of backpack with wheels so on the dirt flat sections you could just roll it behind you effectively carrying no gear and then on the rocky sections in the mountains just put it back on your back?

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlpineKevin View Post
    I'm looking at your day 1 pics and it looks like you have LUGGAGE with you??? This actually got me thinking, wouldn't it be possible to make some kind of backpack with wheels so on the dirt flat sections you could just roll it behind you effectively carrying no gear and then on the rocky sections in the mountains just put it back on your back?
    Try a game hauler, used for pulling deer out of the woods.
    https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Gear-88.../dp/B000UNKQ7Y

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by AllDownhillFromHere View Post
    Try a game hauler, used for pulling deer out of the woods.
    https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Gear-88.../dp/B000UNKQ7Y
    That's steel for several hundred pound deer. Surely something can be made lightweight and carry-able made out of aluminum, carbon fiber, and kevlar tires. I mean would you carry an extra 5 pounds for %10 of the time if it meant you could carry nothing for the other %90? It might only be good for the 700 miles to KM and then maybe some OR sections, but you could just ditch it at KM or mail it out once it is impractical.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlpineKevin View Post
    That's steel for several hundred pound deer. Surely something can be made lightweight and carry-able made out of aluminum, carbon fiber, and kevlar tires. I mean would you carry an extra 5 pounds for %10 of the time if it meant you could carry nothing for the other %90? It might only be good for the 700 miles to KM and then maybe some OR sections, but you could just ditch it at KM or mail it out once it is impractical.
    Sounds like an awesome idea, you could haul ass in the desert without having to carry anything, and water carries would cease to be an issue. I feel like ive seen a ghetto version of this in play in iraq at some point.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by ImAfraidOfBears View Post
    Sounds like an awesome idea, you could haul ass in the desert without having to carry anything, and water carries would cease to be an issue. I feel like ive seen a ghetto version of this in play in iraq at some point.
    It could be real simple and lightweight too. It wouldn't need to be made of steel to carry hundreds of pounds, only 40 or 50 pounds. It could just be a very lightweight aluminum or carbon fiber frame (like 2 or 3 trekking poles) with either one big kevlar wheel or two small kevlar wheels spaced only a few inches apart so that it is slim (the widest part going through the trail would still just be your pack). Hell a really good engineer might even be able to come up with something where your trekking poles make a good part of it up since you won't be using them (although as light as it could be this probably wouldn't be necessary). And it could be fitted so that the back of your pack faces up so that when you need to put your pack on all you do is put it on with no tear down needed.

    Someone should email YAMA or some other independent who might actually try to make something.

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    It's a cool idea but before anyone goes out and makes or buys one- it wouldn't be allowed in a designated wilderness: see this link from a game cart maker: https://www.honeybadgerwheel.com/blo...-in-wilderness. I've know that even trail crews aren't allowed to use wheelbarrows in Congressionally designated wilderness, so if any ranger who is pissed that he or she can't use a wheelbarrow to clear rocks and deadfall sees one of these things, you're likely to get a ticket

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by jj442434 View Post
    It's a cool idea but before anyone goes out and makes or buys one- it wouldn't be allowed in a designated wilderness
    Good point. Let me play devil's advocate here though. The wording sounds unconstitutionally vague. "Forms of mechanical transport"? Trekking poles are mechanical (at least the kind I have) and help transport me. I'm not trying to be facetious, it's just this type of vague wording really matters to lawyers (whom I'm sure some of you are). And if I throw a 3 inch wheel on the bottom of my pack that all of a sudden makes it a "mechanical object"? Lawyers aside it could just be a situation like with Ursacks where they go to each individual park authority and say "see, this 3 inch wheel has no more impact on your dirt trail then your two feet".

  17. #17

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    ... By the way, parks would have a hard time saying that pack animals (mules, donkeys, horses, yamas, zebras) have less impact on a trail than a single 3 inch wheel.

  18. #18

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    You know, a company doesn't even need to make this, you can on your own. Just buy an external frame backpack and drill some wheels onto the end of it. On many of them the hip belt is removable so all you'd have to do is tie a line on either side of your removed hip belt to the frame. It probably would be better to make your own like this because then everyone in the world won't have one which could force parks to potentially specifically outlaw them according to that act.

    ... Sorry for multiple back to back posts but there is no edit function.

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    You do make good points. I agree that a wheeled backpack could not have anywhere near the amount of impact that pack animals do, the animals weigh an order of magnitude more.

    That being said, practically I don't think the point is up for debate. Wheels just aren't allowed in wilderness areas, even if that rule would potentially be misapplied in this case. Apparently baby strollers aren't allowed either. Bicycle groups have been trying to fight this interpretation of the rules for a long time. Now, would a ranger care if you had a cart contraption strapped to your bag, and you swore you weren't using it in the wilderness? I can't really say, but I'm guessing it would be a judgement call for them that could go either way.

    Also, a lot of the PCT in the area where using something like this would be even remotely practical isn't designated wilderness.

    This reminds me of a guy I saw walking the Dalton Highway in Alaska with an old rickshaw. I think he has done it more than once. Maybe we could ask him for his thoughts

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    You could always do a southbound hike. Start around early/mid July up at Harts Pass, finish around mid October. Usually the section around Rock Pass can be pretty sketchy, but once past Ross Lake you should be fine. We're getting a lot of snow up here, but definitely not record-setting stuff.

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