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Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear
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Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: "Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear" on 01/26/2011 14:42:52 MST Print View

Wow! I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. One of my dreams is to hike the PCT. I have been planning it for the last 2 years and it looks like the most extended hike I'll be able to put in is one month straight per year along with weekend and one & two week sections here and there. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, it's nearly impossible to find 6 months off. So, I've decided to do it in sections as my schedule allows starting this year.

Thanks again. That was very inspiring!

Jeff Hollis
(hyperslug) - MLife
Great Article on 01/26/2011 14:55:32 MST Print View

Thank you so much for writing this article, I really enjoyed it. That balancing act between fear and moving forward, too often we choose fear!


Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear on 01/26/2011 15:51:02 MST Print View

That was a very well written report and well illustrated. Thanks for taking the time to put something so nice together.


Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Advice on 01/26/2011 16:34:34 MST Print View

Unfortunately, when people give advice, or attempt to characterize some possible future for another person, they--usually responsibly--typically give worst-case-scenario characterizations, because no one wants to lead someone else into a bad situation with no fore-warning. (The opposite, in climbing, is called sand-bagging, where one person deliberately minimizes the difficulty of a route another climber is going to attempt, so that, when the climber finds it difficult, he's in awe of the person who--theoretically--found it easy.)

In the National Park System, things are even worse, because rangers don't want to have to come out to rescue you if you get in trouble. So if what you propose to do is at all sketchy, (like going off-trail), they amp up the dangers, and, more subtly, question your preparedness. It's all part of the overhead of humans trying to communicate with each other and not lead each other astray.

Then, as Ryan observed, in a group, things can spiral out of control as this over-cautious advice gets passed back and forth.

Excellent article, one that captures the reality of a long through hike as well as I've ever seen it captured. Thanks, Ryan!!

BTW, what's a bounce box?

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
bounce box on 01/26/2011 16:40:57 MST Print View

It holds extra supplies like batteries and gets bounced up the trail ahead of you to the next or later trail town.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear on 01/26/2011 18:34:13 MST Print View

Great read and really enjoyed your writing, which gives a good sense of what it was like to be there.

Hope that you will be able to write more about this amazing adventure....what you have written so far just leaves me hanging and wanting to know more!


Len Glassner
(lsglass) - MLife

Locale: San Diego
Hyperbole and how to deal with it on 01/26/2011 19:15:10 MST Print View

'Nothing back home in Maine can remotely compare to driving in San Diego, which I can only describe as the scariest driving conditions I’ve ever been in, even including Boston.'

LOL, That's just...well, sounds like fear-mongering and hype to me. I grew up in the mid-west, but I live in San Diego now, I can't see where driving here is any worse than driving in any other big city. But maybe I've developed the skill set to deal with it.

I just find this 'Look at me, I'm smarter than the herd' attitude a little irritating.

Skill also comes into play when the trail is under snow. Ask yourself, do you have the skills? It was a smart move for the author team up with others, so as to ensure a safe passage on difficult terrain, given his self-admitted rusty skills. Teaming up is how a lot of people got through that area last year. If an unprepared hiker blithely marches off thinking 'Don't believe the hype, it'll be easy.', bad things could happen. (Am I fear-mongering?) If you have any doubts, go see for yourself, but be prepared to bail if you're in over your head.

There is usually a grain of truth behind the things that people get concerned about on the PCT. Yes, things get overblown, and what may have been valid at one point in time likely isn't valid a few weeks later, snow-wise. One has to has to try to distill the facts from the fiction, and decide whether they have skills to manage the challenge, or not. In the end, I think it's better that people overestimate difficulties than underestimate and end up screwed.

I find it interesting that the author elected to skip the last half of the hike above Idyllwild, so he 'could get on with hiking' or something to that effect. I assume he didn't apply the same logic to the several hundred miles of snow hiking that remained ahead.

I hiked above Idyllwild in 2008 and 2009, and explored part of that area in 2010. There was essentially no snow to deal with in the first week of May the first two years. Last year at the end of May, it was still all about route-finding. People who hiked the PCT in 2010 faced a lot more snow challenge than the average. Hats off to the 2010 hikers who dealt with that!

Ryan Linn

Locale: Maine!
Re: warmth on 01/26/2011 20:35:33 MST Print View

John, I was a little chilly on some nights with just the thermawrap, railriders, and silks, but never particularly bad. I prefer cold temps, though, so it's hard to say how much insulation you or others would need.

Kendall, there are definite benefits to section hiking... like hitting each section of trail at just the right season (after the snow is gone in the Sierra, during the dry summer in Washington, etc.), and not being in as much of a rush to beat the beginning of winter. I'm already hoping to come back to certain sections for a re-do.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear on 01/27/2011 03:01:34 MST Print View

Enjoyed reading this part, and looking forward to the next one!

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear on 01/27/2011 04:14:53 MST Print View

Last year I learned (a bit late) to answer fellow hikers with what they should hear instead of directly answering their questions.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear" on 01/27/2011 05:27:49 MST Print View


Thanks for putting this labor of love together, very much hoping for future installments of your journey on the PCT.

Dennis Phelan
(dennisphelan) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Hiking Through Hyperbole: the vortex of fear article on 01/27/2011 14:03:08 MST Print View

I want to add my name to the long list of people who are enjoying your article. Having followed many hickers who did this at the same time you did and meeting many of them when I was hiking a section in Oregon (where I live)this summer; I know there will be several interesting experiences ahead. Thanks for writing a great article.

Dennis Phelan

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Hiking Through Hyperbole: The Vortex of Fear on 01/27/2011 19:51:40 MST Print View

Since not too far down the road I'll be in a position to take the time off for an adventure such as yours, I really appreciate your insights and impressions and look forward to the other installments. Good job!

Joseph Johnson
(jjohn06) - M
Fear and the PCT on 01/27/2011 20:12:57 MST Print View


Absolutely fabulous article. I too hiked the PCT last year and you very well describe much of my feelings toward PCT community. Both while hiking, and since, I have been very frustrated and even angry with that community. Certainly, fellow and former hikers meant well, but in all I think the PCT community did a great disservice to hikers. Fear-mongering was rampant: you needed a gps, crampons, etc. I was definitely present when so-called experts announced that one needed mountaineering experience for Fuller Ridge. Many people hiked around, or skipped sections of trail, without ever checking out conditions themselves.

I certainly have no problems with hikers bypassing sections of trail, depending on conditions, comfort level, their own goals, etc. My concern and my problems is that fear and misinformation was so common that parts of the trail were never even examined by many hikers. Furthermore, it is my opinion (despite my complete lack of desert, snow, and altitude experience) that every concern was blown way out of proportion.

I, as far as I know, was with the first group to traverse the Sierra in the 2010 nobo season, and the hiking was tough; really tough. We left Kennedy Meadows Mat 30th and didn't regularly see trail until after Belden, somewhere around July 4th. It was continuous, very slow, methodical map and compass work for 500+ miles. It was tough, exhausting, but by no means impossible. It has, in fact, been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I feel that is is something many people opted out of because of constant fear-mongering.

My major concern is that people, with the air of authority, speculated on conditions and convinced many hikers not to hike certain areas- Fuller Ridge, Baden-Powell, the JMT, etc. There were many ill-advised flip-flops that avoided no snow at all. Everyone, it seemed, was willing to believe that certain areas were impossible, or just down-right dangerous. I don't think I ever once heard anyone recommend to cautiously explore an area and decide for yourself. To me that is the greatest lesson I learned on the PCT. You can listen and evaluate advise, but that is certainly not a substitute for your own first-hand examination of conditions. Check it out for yourself, and if you are out of your comfort zone, you can always turn around.

Now that I got that of my chest I can work on a "This what they said; This is what we saw" segment for AZDPCTKO

Joe Johnson

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
The Vortex of Fear on 01/28/2011 05:44:49 MST Print View

Buenos Dias, What a great afternoon read! I hope you get to cover or publish ALL of your PCT sections in the future.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
vortex of fear on 01/28/2011 08:31:20 MST Print View

Well done sir! Excellent exploration of an interesting issue.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Hiking the PCT on 01/28/2011 14:19:42 MST Print View

It's a great article and entertaining to read. Much of it I found to be true for my hike. I thru-hiked the PCT in 2009 but had sectioned a few pieces of it prior to that. The whole fear thing is so true; especially about Fuller Ridge and the snow levels of the High Sierra (no matter how little snow fell that year). People talk their fear up and it feeds on itself until people are skipping or flipping around while missing some great trail that was in no way as bad as they thought. Never take comfort in the fears of others. The best advice I ever heard from a former thru-hiker prior to my hike is go look at the mountain for yourself and then decide. That said, unlike some, I never felt that the organizers of the ADZPCTKO training sessions were fear mongering. But maybe because I have some experience with the areas in questoin prior to my hike, I took their warnings and cautions differently then someone who was already nervous about the whole thing.

However, experiences from one person to another and from one year to another can be completely different so you can't apply one's persons experiences from their hike to your own except only in the most general terms. In contrast to the author's hike, in 2009 for SoCal, I normally carried about 4.5L of water and twice carried 6L and was glad for it. However, I also held my daily mileage down in comparison to the author. I never exceeded 20miles before leaving Cajon Pass at the I-15 and only twice went over 24miles before Kennedy Meadows. Slower pace means you need more water between sources. I didn't feel the need to do 25+ mile days until I left Lake Tahoe in mid July.

And it does sometimes rain in sunny SoCal. Most of the time, it is sunny, but not all the time. The year I hiked, I know someone who became hypothermic in SoCal in late May after hiking in a rain storm who had no raingear/packcover or shelter. They and all their gear was soaked. Fortunately some fishermen had a car nearby. Other years have caught hikers in the San Gabriel mountains in snow while other hikers a few days ahead only saw a few clouds. So its important to be flexible in your preperations and expectations. You may have a completely different set of experiences then someone just a week ahead.

Edited by Miner on 01/28/2011 14:35:07 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: The Vortex of Fear on 01/28/2011 16:45:54 MST Print View

Great story and the info about the vortex of fear is spot-on. The fear-mongering can get so outrageous that to even dare to say that it's not as bad as everyone is saying leads to cries of how irresponsible it is to encourage newbies to be unprepared!

The flip-side of going out and seeing for yourself is that sometimes you go out and see for yourself and don't like what you see. That happened to me in 2009 in the Tuolumne Meadows area (I was not a thru hiker). No problem though. I just did an alternate route, an option that is available to any thru-hiker. It's always better to go see and decide for yourself.

Dug Shelby
(Pittsburgh) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Fantastically fun & informative! on 01/28/2011 21:32:22 MST Print View

Mr. Linn, well done!

Seems like I echoe most everyone elses comments about your article. Your writing style is intelligent, easy to read and enjoyable, you're neither self-deprecating nor do you puff your chest up. Beautiful.

I'm hiking NoBo this year, late late April. My attitude towards the hike has and will continue to be "Forward." I don't want to skip, flip-flop, or miss any section. If things sound tough I'll continue, and see it with my own eyes, and do my very best to assess everything in context with my physical condition and skills/abilities. Thank you for your affirming view on this. My feeling is, that if I wanted something slightly tiring but fun, I'd take my three pre-teen nieces to Disneyland. If I expect a challenge of much more magnitude, which I can look back on and be proud of, I'll hike every mile of the PCT.

I look forward to someday combining the two: hiking the PCT with my nieces, then hitting Disneyland to celebrate! :)

Looking forward to more Ryan, and deep thanks for your time & effort.


Jared Slucter
(jslucter) - F

Locale: CA
Vortex of Fear on 01/28/2011 23:29:27 MST Print View

Guthook! A fine piece of writing. I'm looking forward to the next installments.