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PCT in Winter
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Brandon Gottung

Locale: Southwest USA
PCT in Winter on 05/14/2010 06:26:14 MDT Print View

Since I'm seasonally employed during the summer, I've come to appreciated winter hikes, treks and camping. I've thought about do the PCT from October-April and it would likely be simpler starting in the north and walking/snowshoeing south. Anybody here know somebody that has done this? Any PCT-ers have input? Trail finding in deep snow? I imagine storms in the Sierras would be brutal. I'm curious what you all think.

Michael Demchak
(mikey) - F

Locale: new england
Re: PCT in Winter on 05/14/2010 08:17:37 MDT Print View

I can't tell you to much of the conditions (though i would imagine that would be the biggest obstacle) For me, the biggest problem would be the loneliness. going out by yourself for a week or so is no problem, but lacking that human interaction for month after month would get to me. granted you'll run into other people on the trail, run into some people in towns, but it's going to be a lot of quiet time.

However, some people fair better then others And I'd love to see you do it! I mean really worst comes to worst you can always carry around a volleyball....

thats an adventure for ya!

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Re: PCT in Winter on 05/14/2010 08:22:15 MDT Print View

There wouldn't be a trail to find in the sierras. Here is a picture taken around May 1st looking north from Forester.
North from Junction Pass

I wouldn't say it would be impossible but there are so many issues such as resupply that would make this this trip impractical. One example: if you look at the normal resupply points in the sierras from Sonora to Kennedy I believe the following would be closed or more difficult.
(Sonora Pass - Closed, could walk down off pass.)
(Tuolumne Meadows - Closed)
(Reds Meadow - Closed, could walk to Mammouth)
(Vermillion - Closed)
(MTR - Closed)
(Bishop Pass - Could probably hike over to Bishop)
(Kearsarge Pass - Could hike over but Road generally closed in winter adding additional 10 miles each way.)
(Whitney Portal - Closed but again you could walk down the mountain)
(Kennedy Meadows - I believe it is open year round.)

Bottom line, unless you are having food drops brought in, you would be wasting precious days just to access resupply. With the shorter days, higher elevations and snow I would guess that 10 miles would be the max you could plan for in this section. That would be 30 days of solid hiking not counting resupply. And that's if the weather cooperates. Trying to snowshoe in the sierras after a storm dumping a couple feet of snow is not my idea of fun.

There is a thread on here about a Winter JMT attempt. That would be my first goal if I was looking to attempt a trip of this magnitude. If anyone ever does a winter attempt I would certainly volunteer to do a food drop.

Edited by gg-man on 05/14/2010 08:24:18 MDT.

Brandon Gottung

Locale: Southwest USA
Thanks for the insight. on 05/14/2010 09:31:46 MDT Print View

Not an impossible feat, but there's obviously reason why it's only walked in summer. This next winter, I'll be doing the NCT from Marquette to Grand Marais MI - a more reasonable winter hike. If that goes well, I'll look into the JMT rather than PCT.

Kathleen B

Locale: Pacific Northwest
PCT in Winter on 05/14/2010 09:50:01 MDT Print View

You need to consider the avalanche danger, too. Mr. B and I hike year-round in the Cascades in Washington, frequently on or near the PCT. We've had several avalanche courses, carry beacons, probes,and shovels, check the avalanche reports daily during the winter months, and occasionally turn back when the route starts to feel dangerous. There are some days we just don't go out.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: PCT in Winter on 05/14/2010 10:14:09 MDT Print View

Even balmy Southern California can have lots of snow in its mountains in winter.

Have you considered section hiking the PCT?
or is one long push a must do thing?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: PCT in Winter on 05/14/2010 10:55:01 MDT Print View

I was cross-country skiing along the PCT near Carson Pass last weekend, and I wouldn't consider doing more than one week or so in a winter stretch, and I wouldn't consider it without skis.


Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
alternative to PCT in winter on 05/14/2010 12:19:36 MDT Print View

I understand your desire to put those periods of time off to good backpacking use. The Cascades in winter would not be good, due to avalanche danger, deep snow on side hills, navigation in deep woods and bad weather, cold, and the whole solo thing.

More promising is a desert hike, like ones in Canyonlands, Grand Gulch, and lots of others. Also backpacks in the SO hemisphere, like Peru, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand.

John Brochu
(JohnnyBgood4) - F

Locale: New Hampshire
Re: alternative to PCT in winter on 05/14/2010 12:27:25 MDT Print View

The AT is also doable in winter, if that's something that might be of interest to you.

Brandon Gottung

Locale: Southwest USA
alternatives on 05/14/2010 12:32:53 MDT Print View

I spent winter 06-07 hiking and traveling India and Pakistan. The Karakorum mountains brought wicked weather and I was forced to turn around on a seven day hike with no crampons and iceaxe. Northern Pakistan is a backpacker's paradise, but recently the political situation is getting so bad I would reconsider another season there.

Thanks all for the input. Not something I'm considering further.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
PCT during the normal hiking season... on 05/15/2010 23:42:35 MDT Print View

...Is taxing enough without the logistics of all that snow travel, shorter days and weather concerns. I think the mental challenge would be every bit as tough as the physical one.

Greg, that's a great photo! I was there last year in late June and it's amazing the difference. The snow was largely melted out in the valley below. Beautiful!

Edited by dirk9827 on 05/16/2010 02:38:41 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: PCT in Winter on 05/16/2010 17:25:21 MDT Print View

October to April is the rainy season for Southern California. Aside from the possibility of snow, you have the potential for really severe weather. People joke here that we really do have four seasons: fires, floods, earthquakes and mudslides.

That said, the So Cal portion of the PCT has many portions that are doable during this period. It also has many that are not. A continuous thru of the So Cal portion would likely be extremely difficult and probably earn you a helicopter ride somewhere along the way.

You could cobble together your own incredible hike in So Cal during this time, however. Consider getting maps of the national forests and wilderness areas closer to the coast and see if you could spend those months hiking in the Big Sur area, Ventana wilderness, the Los Padres national forest and some of the great desert areas like the Anza Borrego and Joshua Tree.