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pct southbound 2009
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jon king
(ambler) - F
pct southbound 2009 on 04/27/2009 18:41:58 MDT Print View

Hello all,

I've been lurking for a while, and have found this site incredibly useful in planning my pct trip this year. It's an amazing community.


I am hiking with a friend who doesn't finish school until late May and we have just recently decided to head southbound - a decision largely based on a desire not to be in SoCal for all of hot hot June. Other appealing factors include a less populated trail in OR and WA, less extreme average weather (rain, temp, etc). I know water will be more of an issue ini SoCal, but water consumption will hopefully be offset by cooler temps.

After doing a little research, it seems that snowfall in the Northern Cascades in 80% of normal this year. We are aiming for a June 14th start date.

A few questions:

Any other SoBounders around?
When are you leaving?
Why south?

Other things I'm wondering about:

I don't have much (any) of experience backpacking in snow or ice and I assume at a minimum that we will have snowy / icy accents of the northern slopes.

Crampons, snowshoes or both? ( I will have an ice axe).

Right now I'm leaning toward oversized stiffer trail runners to accommodate socks and vapor barrier system.

I know it's hard to tell 7 weeks out, but does anyone have:

predictions for trail conditions?
general footwear ideas?


Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: pct southbound 2009 on 04/29/2009 08:04:22 MDT Print View

I thru-hiked last year, but NOBO, same trail but certainly a different experience. I live in WA state and my limited experience in higher country during June is that there can indeed be a lot of snow. I think that trail runners plus light crampons plus goretex socks plus gaiters might be a good choice, hopefully you have at least a little experience in snow with this sort of setup. For the crampons, consider the Camp brand 6 point aluminum's, or if you're really not sure consider 10-point aluminum (I know Stubai used to make these, maybe others).

My limited experience in northern WA in June suggests to me that route finding could be a big factor. Doing the Sierras in June involved lots of snow, but folks had been there before me, there were generally footsteps to follow in the snow, and they were generally going the right place. Going south from Canada in June you should expect a lot fewer steps, a more vague path or perhaps just no path through the snow at all.

I suggest you look at and and search for some successful SOBO thru-hikes that started in June and by folks that journaled a lot and well. I know that in some years what you'll find is mostly a story of folks turning back to the border (!) and then bouncing around on the trail to pick up northern WA again later in the season.

Consider joining or just looking through the archives of the pct-l discussion list, at

I don't recall any super great answers to this, but you could always post your questions there and get more responses from folks with a particular interest in the PCT.

Best of luck! I passed a few SOBO hikers last year but really not that many, maybe a handful or so that I recall (not counting those I met further south that had bounced or were section hiking).

Lance Marshall
(Lancem) - F - MLife

Locale: Oregon
PCT SOBO on 04/29/2009 12:19:24 MDT Print View

Francis Tapon advocates SOBO on the PCT. On his website he explains why he feels SOBO is better, and he has journals, pictures and videos of his SOBO hike.Click Here for his website.

Jackie McDonnell has a page on SB vs NB in her 'Yogi's PCT Handbook'.

Check out Scott Williamson also. He has Yoyo'd the PCT multiple times and has commented on NB vs SB.

Ditto on Brian's recommendations of and


David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 04/29/2009 16:06:53 MDT Print View


Edited by DaveT on 05/17/2015 21:42:00 MDT.

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
lets have some more discussion here. on 04/29/2009 23:17:45 MDT Print View

I just got the notion after reading this post. I know something like this takes planning in the extreme but would be up to see how far I could go if you guys were shooting out in juneish. I have a first responder class that ends on may 31st. I would think that by june a good amount of the snow would be gone but it still could be wet at the start. If you could expect to finish with a june start date then I would def think it a more enjoyable way to go. Im my mind for as bad as it sounds the first 400 miles from mexico up is the part I would quit on if anywhere. If anything I would like to see what others who have done a sobo thru would say.

Edit: after reading I see it looks like I am inviting myself along, not the case, just reading into a mid june start date.

Edited by caraz on 04/29/2009 23:20:29 MDT.

jon king
(ambler) - F
great feedback on 04/29/2009 23:23:22 MDT Print View

Thanks for the feedback, Francis Tapon's site is one of the places that got me into the idea of a southbound hike. Nice heads up on the Pct-l mailing list, I've subscribed and will repost some of my questions there. I have Yogi's book, and will check out the beta on north vs south.

I was looking at the Kahtoola MICROspikes as a lightweight crampon option. It seems like having a GPS device with preloaded waypoints might also be a good idea to assist in route finding. I'll continue to monitor conditions as mid June approaches. Thus far I'm looking at nps site for the North Cascades and NOAA to monitor the conditions.

Any GPS recommendations?

Also, for those of you with thru hinking experience, how many pounds of food / calories were you carrying per day?

Did this differ depending on the conditions and amount of time you'de been hiking?

Initially we were shooting for 5000 calories per day - but this seems like it will be close to 3 pounds - super heavy. Mail drop food (about half our resupplies) includes 6 oz granola, dried cow coconut milk, dates, dried mango, raw nut mix, jerky, hard tack crackers, some kind of goo to top them, grain + soupy mix + protein and olive oil for dinner.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
pct southbound 2009 on 04/30/2009 00:57:36 MDT Print View

A lot depends on the weather between now and the time you start. Although the North Cascades have had below average snowfall, the entire Pacific Northwest has had a cold wet spring, just like last year when snow was a problem for through-hikers at high elevations until well into August. This week we're still having snow down to 2,000-1,500 feet. Unless we get a warm May and early June, you may find yourself flip-flopping to a lot farther south! From the Mt. Rainier area south in the Cascades, the snowpack is above average, but not quite as much as last year.

Here are some sites for you to keep track of the snowpack: : Washington Snotel sites : Oregon Snotel sites : Seattle area hikers forum-check recent trip reports for the North Cascades NW Oregon/SW Washington hikers forum-check recent trip reports

Sorry, I tried html links but they don't seem to work here any more.

I suspect that that early you may have to road-walk the detour. The Chiwawa and Napeequa rivers will be extremely high from snowmelt. There may or may not be too much snow on the original route.

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/30/2009 01:06:30 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
GPS, food on 04/30/2009 11:24:42 MDT Print View

"Any GPS recommendations?"

If you get one with pre-loaded maps, check out the scale --- a friend doing the CDT this year got the Garmin Colorado and it has preloaded maps, but at 1:100,000 scale. I prefer at least 1:50,000, and more typically 1:25,000. Typically you can buy such as an additional cost. For most of the PCT a GPS is very infrequently comforting but not necessary, but for a SOBO start, you might want one in the northern area. I just used the GPS in my smartphone, got Topo's software for using their (NG Topo) map data that way, worked well enough.

"Also, for those of you with thru hinking experience, how many pounds of food / calories were you carrying per day?
Did this differ depending on the conditions and amount of time you'de been hiking?"

Last question first, yes it definitely changes. For some people it takes a couple of weeks, for me it took a month before I had thru-hiker hunger, YMMV based on metabolism, starting body fat, etc. Normal for me in "normal" conditions is between 1 to 1.5 pounds of food a day, but I regularly at least 2 pounds or more per day when fully up to speed, and like many I think, was still perhaps losing weight between trail towns and somewhat compensating by eating like a pig in trail towns.

I don't recollect what this works out in terms of calories per day, but this was with a general attempt at a high calorie diet, things like adding olive oil to any dinner meal.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
pct southbound 2009 on 04/30/2009 12:28:23 MDT Print View

A backup plan, in case of too much snow, might be to start either at Walker Pass or Kennedy Meadows and go northbound, then flip back to S. California after reaching Canada.

Note that the first possible resupply after leaving Canada is Stehekin, unless you can get someone to meet you at Rainy Pass (which isn't that far from Stehekin). It's extremely unlikely that the Harts Pass road will be open.

Remember that hiking/navigating over snow will slow you down!

We Pacific Northwesterners are all praying for a nice warm May and June so we can get into the mountains earlier than last year! I hope the SOBO trip works out for you!

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/30/2009 12:30:29 MDT.