Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Hiking Through Hyperbole Part 2: The Snowy Sierra


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Patrick McNeill
(patmcneill) - F
A superb write-up Guthook! on 02/05/2011 12:46:59 MST Print View

I left Kennedy Meadows a day after Guthook and a day before Uncle Tom with Megatex and hiked most of the Sierra solo.
I might only add or underscore:
(1) For me some kind of traction device on my shoes was essential in 2010 - many slopes were steep and icy and there was not enough food in my pack to wait around for the best time of day to cross.
(2) I carried my ice axe as a self-arrest device many dozens of times. I never fell, but I might have and I was very glad I had it - YMMV. It was also useful as a breaking device when glissading.
(3) I was swept away in a stream and spent about 5 minutes in the ice water - I had become overconfident in fording streams and misjudged one. My BPL emergency fire starting kit probably saved me from hypothermia and my firesteel is now one of my most cherished possessions. http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/firelite_firesteel_mini_firestarting_kit.html
(4) I had to take 6 days off after the Sierra because I couldn't walk without great pain - I had Immersion Foot.

Fantastic photos and discussion. Thank you Guthook!

Edited by patmcneill on 02/05/2011 13:12:05 MST.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Hiking Through Hyperbole Part 2: The Snowy Sierra on 02/09/2011 14:23:39 MST Print View

Ryan, sorry for the late post- did your trash compactor bag function well when you were swept down stream. How much of your gear go wet?

Ryan Linn
(ryan.c.linn)

Locale: Maine!
Re: compactor bags on 02/09/2011 19:31:55 MST Print View

Tad, good question. Unfortunately, I don't have a great answer. When I fell into Evolution Creek, I didn't have my pack with me. Long story, but I ended up crossing three times-- first to bring my pack across, the second time to go back and help my fellows, and the third to do a group crossing with the others. I fell in on the second crossing.

From later experience in torrential rains, though, I found the compactor bag was more than adequate for keeping the sleeping bag and sleep clothes dry.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
June 15th entry on 02/16/2011 11:40:03 MST Print View

Another great article on the PCT. Your experience in the Sierra was definitely harder then many thru-hikers will ever see.

I just want to make a comment on the whole June 15th (Ray Day)being the optimal entry date for an average year..

The date originally comes from Ray Jardine's out of print PCT Handbook and I tracked down an used 1st edition before my own thru-hike to understand it better. Actually the June 15th date comes from those using Jardine's 5.5 to 6 month schedule tables which is longer then most hikers today take(4.5 to 5 months is more typical). All schedules taking less then 5.5months were suppose to enter the Sierras on June 13th not the 15th according to Jardine's book. And no where does it talk about those dates being somehow optimal for snow or ford levels in an average year which is what the trail community has assumed. The only thing he talks about in mentioning those dates is trying to create an artifical gathering at Kennedy Meadows (much like how the ADZPCTKO formed near the border whose dates is indirectly related to Ray Day) where hikers could form groups and enter the Sierra together. This isn't a bad idea. But if you think about it, if someone was only taking 3-4months to hike the trail, why would they want to leave KM on June 13th like Ray's schedule tables show? A later June entry would allow them to keep their speed and distance up more and still finish in August long before snow comes to the Cascades. From looking at Jardine's own 2 NOBO hikes (a 3rd was SOBO), he never used the date himself having gone in earlier.

So there is nothing magical about June 15th. The only valid advise seems to be the latter you can delay your entry into the High Sierra, the less snow you'll encounter. Only you know how fast you want to hike the the trail and what date you need to finish before. That would seem to be more relevant to determining your Sierra entry date.

Edited by Miner on 02/16/2011 11:41:45 MST.

Gabe P
(Gabe) - MLife
suncups on 01/26/2012 12:51:11 MST Print View

what an amazing trip!

Ryan Linn
(ryan.c.linn)

Locale: Maine!
Re: suncups on 01/26/2012 14:41:59 MST Print View

Gabe, the word "suncup" instills a rage in me that not much else can. I hate suncups! :)
Glad you liked it. cheers!

Michael Sagehorn
(msagehorn) - F
River crossings..watch it as you age on 02/12/2012 22:43:01 MST Print View

As a US Marine and a longtime Sierra backpacker, I have training and experience crossing swollen creeks with a heavy pack. Last summer I thought all of my skills/experience would make a Trinity Alps creek/river an easy affair. Being north of 50, my strength and skill with a loaded packed in a cold creek was not the same as a young man. I splashed across after falling face first with a loaded Dana Design Astralplane OverKill. Soaking wet I made it to the car, but a realized my age and physical abilities have declined my abilities to make water crossings alone.

Chris Bailey
(ChrisNZ) - MLife
Great article on 04/02/2012 01:06:00 MDT Print View

Apologies for the late post too Ryan but I have to agree that the article is great and give you thanks. I am coming in from NZ to do a section of the PCT in May amongst other things this year and am considering my options. Ideally I would want to be in the prettiest terrain at higher elevations but it really will be too early to be very far north of Kennedy Meadows, especially considering my newbie status. So at this stage I think I will be going in at Mojave or Walker Pass and heading to Kennedy Meadows or vicinity.

I was interested to see that temperatures in June 2011 when you would have been on the trail north of KM were down to between 15 F and 0 F at night (Casa Viejo meadows weather station at 8300 feet). And your gear lists silk base layer, a North Face Beeline bag and a thermawrap. Were you wishing for more insulation? The daytime photos show your party in shorts at times so perhaps the weather station info is not a good reflection of conditions?

Thanks again for the great read. Cheers.

Ryan Linn
(ryan.c.linn)

Locale: Maine!
Re: Great article on 04/02/2012 11:53:49 MDT Print View

Hey Chris,

I don't think I had a cold sleeping night at all through the Sierra, but it did get below freezing each night. Definitely not down to 15 F. Being in the trees, in a tent (even a tarp tent), eating an insane amount of food, and supplementing the sleeping bag with the thermawrap was just fine for me. The only time I wished for more insulation was after I left camp in the morning, before the sun came over the mountains. The temperature swings between night and day were like... well, night and day.

For current conditions, I'd recommend getting on the PCT facebook groups (the official Pacific Crest Trail group, and right now the PCT Class of 2012 is a good one). I haven't been out there since 2010, so my info may be a little clouded by memory.