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PCT and AT
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Joseph Ainsworth
(jainsworth123) - F

Locale: Greater LA area
PCT and AT on 04/17/2011 12:25:53 MDT Print View

So I'm going to try for a thru hike next year and I wanted to get everyones opinion about a few things.
First, I am going to be doing the AT and the PCT in the same year. Or at least attempting to. I can only afford one flight out and back to the east coast, so I'm trying to figure out the best schedule for it. I was thinking of doing the PCT from Campo in early February to KM skipping San Jacinto and Baden Powell as I'm assuming those will be impassible that early in the year. I'll get to KM sometime early to mid march, then fly out to Georgia and start the AT. Will hopefully be done with that sometime around early-mid June, and will fly back to LA and get to start the Sierras with the pack, or shortly behind. I've done 25 mile days on the PCT without too much of a problem, so that's what I'm figuring for the trail after I get into shape. From what I understand the AT is a little harder, so 20 mile days should be doable over there, plus I'll be in shape when I start.
Option two is to head over to the AT in march, finish about the same time, then start the desert section of the PCT in late June. Doesn't sound like nearly as much fun, but coming from racing bikes, I've done plenty of training in 100+ degree days, so it is possible. What would be a better time as far as water caches/conditions?
Are there any other sections of campo to KM that I need to worry about early season? Is it possible to make it to KM that early? Any other ideas or advice for someone who's never done either before? I'm also still looking for guidebooks/maps for the AT (using halfmile +yogis for the PCT), which ones are the best?

Daniel Allen
(Dan_Quixote) - F

Locale: below the mountains (AK)
This may or may not be helpful. on 04/18/2011 02:05:56 MDT Print View

have you considered doing the AT nobo and then a sobo PCT? You can check out some of the virtues (and difficulties) of the latter here:

time-wise, it seems to me like this might be a really good fit for you, but I've never done any hiking outside of Alaska, so I don't really know anything but what I've read: no experience here!

Joseph Ainsworth
(jainsworth123) - F

Locale: Greater LA area
Re: This may or may not be helpful. on 04/18/2011 09:48:25 MDT Print View

I have read that article and that was going to be a backup plan if I take longer than expected on the AT, but I would prefer to hike with "the pack" if possible for the social aspect.
Also, what kinda temps should I be prepared for in the desert sections of the pct?

Trying to plan just two of these gives me a whole lot more respect for the hikers who have triple crowned in a year.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: This may or may not be helpful. on 04/18/2011 09:54:59 MDT Print View

"Also, what kinda temps should I be prepared for in the desert sections of the pct?"

Did you read the "Hiking through Hyperbole" series of articles? A lot of good info about PCT thru-hiking

Joseph Ainsworth
(jainsworth123) - F

Locale: Greater LA area
Re: Re: Re: This may or may not be helpful. on 04/18/2011 09:58:59 MDT Print View

I have, but unfortunately those are written (like most) for the normal season for a thru hiker. I've been trying to find info of conditions in February.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
I agree with Daniel --- AT, then PCT on 04/18/2011 10:46:02 MDT Print View

I started on the AT in late Feb last year, finished in July (I wasn't looking to do "two trails in a year" type of mileage). The south had a lot of snow last year, so lots of blowdowns and a lot of snow in the Smokies, but certainly do-able. If you go too early through the Smokies and no one has gone ahead, you could have occasional route finding issues, and/or be inclined to snowshoes on occasion. I wasn't the first through the Smokies but among the earliest through, and we had a short stretch we had to road walk around (Clingman's Dome to Newfound Gap) and were postholing in part of that anyway.

It's all do-able. Were I you I'd start in mid-Feb or so, keep the pace up through the AT, then fly from Maine to Seattle or Vancouver B.C. and get to Manning Park and walk south. Hmm, except I think it's not legal to cross into the U.S. that way --- Yogi's guide probably talks about this, or post on pct-l. I did the PCT NOBO, so a different issue.

Anyway, I think an early start NOBO on the AT followed by a SOBO on the PCT is your best bet. Best wishes!

Joseph Ainsworth
(jainsworth123) - F

Locale: Greater LA area
Re: I agree with Daniel --- AT, then PCT on 04/18/2011 10:50:03 MDT Print View

Hmm, so would starting the PCT in February, then heading over and doing the rest like you mention be a little easier in regards to snow? I would start the AT with the pack in march, skip the snow, do the desert in the winter, skip the heat, then head back to the PCT and go southbound? I feel like I'm still going to be coming back to early to the PCT (middle of june), don't most start middle of July? I'd rather not sit around for a month and lose the fitness from the AT

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
With the pack? on 04/18/2011 10:54:10 MDT Print View

I just noticed this comment:
"I would prefer to hike with "the pack" if possible for the social aspect."

FWIW, I hiked the PCT in 2008 as a standard NOBO starting right with the pack, and as a result I had more of a social life on the PCT than I did with an early start on the AT last year. That said, there are certainly others out early on the AT, and the ones that stay on trail tend to be some pretty fine folks.

In general I just don't see how you can contemplate doing both trails in the same year and have much of a normal trail social life. Those who are pushing the boundaries tend to walk away from any potential companions, unless and until they hook up with someone else who's doing aggressive miles.

The comment makes me wonder in turn whether you've done much long distance hiking before. If you haven't hiked a trail of significant length, I personally don't think it's a great idea to try doing two such trails in the same year. Apart from the social aspects, successful thru-hikers tend to learn from others on trail as they go and get better at it that way. Thus I wouldn't suggest an early start on the AT or a SOBO on the PCT to someone with little trail experience (much less both back-to-back).

No offense intended here; I have no idea what experience you have, these are just general purpose comments.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
how many plane flights? on 04/18/2011 11:07:02 MDT Print View

I'm a little confused about your last post given the earlier comment about wanting just one round trip plane flight. You said most recently:
"I would start the AT with the pack in march, skip the snow, do the desert in the winter, skip the heat, then head back to the PCT and go southbound? I feel like I'm still going to be coming back to early to the PCT (middle of june), don't most start middle of July? I'd rather not sit around for a month and lose the fitness from the AT"

Skipping Fuller Ridge, Baden-Powell etc means what --- just skipping them entirely, or coming back to do them later? Given the snow year anticipated, I'm guessing a PCT SOBO will be better started in July this year rather than June (that said, I'm hoping to start a CDT SOBO in early June ... TBD).

I don't think you can "skip the snow" on that AT unless you start later, though it will slow you down. I assume you have experience in snow --- there's no way you can do two trails in the same year and not deal with a fair bit of it one place or another. The snow on the AT will NOT be your biggest snow challenge.

I don't think you should focus on "skipping the heat" --- a PCT SOBO should get you into SoCal late enough in the year that I wouldn't worry about that.
You definitely don't want to sit around for a month. The time it will take you to get from one trail to another, plus whatever time off you allow yourself, will be as much as you want to take off. With a Feb start on the AT, you can potentially finish in June --- if you have a hope of doing two trails in the same year --- and then with some time loss in between start on the PCT sometime in July.

If you're set on flipping back and forth more, by all means, but I think it will be easier and cheaper to do all of the AT and then the PCT. Just recognize you'll go from nice weather in Maine to potentially a whole lot of snow still in northern Washington --- big snow year, best guess is for a late melt out, which makes any PCT SOBO a more difficult challenge this year. That is perhaps the biggest wild card in your plan I think.

You might well end up doing some flipping on the PCT to do large snow-free chunks first. Maybe start north of the Sierras and walk to Canada, then flip down to do the southern ~thousand miles southbound walking from, say, Sonora Pass or something like that. Tough to say for sure at this point.

Joseph Ainsworth
(jainsworth123) - F

Locale: Greater LA area
Re: With the pack? on 04/18/2011 11:15:23 MDT Print View

I realize I'm kinda jumping off the deep end here, as I have no prior experience long distance hiking (though I will be doing the JMT and SHR this summer). In fact, I've only been backpacking for about a year (although camping and hiking my whole life), but I tend to jump into things like this, granted I do have the fitness and can already put down 20+ mile days, so at least part of it is taken care of.
I'm taking next year off of school, and I want to fit as much into it as possible. Number wise I should be able to fit both, but if it doesn't work out, I'm not opposed to slowing down and just finishing one. I just feel like I would be wasting my time for a few months if I only did one.

As far as skipping the sections, I would come back, but I live in the LA area. San Jacinto is an hour or two away as is Baden Powell. Both would be easy to squeeze in at some point afterwords.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Re: With the pack? on 04/18/2011 11:35:04 MDT Print View

pm sent

Joshua M
(cwombat) - F
Same Year AT and PCT on 11/15/2011 12:07:49 MST Print View

I also and planning on doing the AT and PCT in the same year. I'm a little ahead of you on the experience side and have already hiked most of the AT and the whole PCT in 2008. Here is what I'm planning, maybe it will help you and maybe it will not.
I hiked the PCT after college so it was easy to get the time off. This time around I'll be married and in the middle of a move across the country, possible Alaska... so my priorities will be slightly different. The goal is to do this in 2013, I agree with everyone else that the snow will play a major part in how successful my plan actually is.

I plan on starting the AT nobo the first day of March and chasing winter all the way to Maine. My goal is to finish the AT by the end of May, possible the beginning of June. I'll fly to SoCal and hit the PCT early June. Since I've already hiked the PCT and have built up quite a few "real life" responsibilities I'll hike till I can't (finances or marital issues...), hopefully I can finish it in 3 months.

My reasoning? Starting the PCT I was slightly out of shape due to a few to many beers in college. I still managed 25+ in the desert, 25+ in the Sierras and 30-40+ from Yosemite north. All reasonable miles in my opinion. Attacking a much more challenging trail, the AT, first will require me to be in pretty good shape this time around. The plan is to do 25 mile days on the AT, which is more than manageable and cut back on my zeros. Maybe a week or two of zero's depending on my sense of urgency. Zero's will affect your time management more than anything else.

If I don't take a week off in between trails, I'll hit the PCT in early June. When I hiked it in 2008 I started in mid May. In my opinion it will be very attainable to do 30-35 miles a day and hit Kennedy Meadows in 3 weeks. That will put me right at the tail end of the pack. If I remember correctly when Scott Williamson starts his hikes he starts in late June... Keeping that pace and slowing down just a bit in the sierras, possibly slowing down a lot and doing the High Sierra route will put me right on track with finishing the PCT in 3+ months.

I think you have the right idea you just need to be aware what your body can do and how many miles a day you can hike without injuring yourself. If you are interested in being social and putting in the miles I can tell you that the two do not go together. You'll pass lots of folks but not have much time to build up relationships. Some of those relationships I built were the best part of hiking a long distance trail. In the end it's up to you what you chose to do. Hike your own hike, right? Being your're new to hiking you would probably have the best time if you stayed out west and started the PCT at the end of April. Best of luck and if you do manage to do both next year I'm sure you'll hear from me for some advice. =)

Joshua M

Chris Muthig
(cmuthig) - M

Locale: Georgia
Re: PCT and AT on 11/15/2011 13:11:18 MST Print View

I have some questions. You mention you want to do this "next year" and will be taking a year off from school. By "next year" do you mean academic year or calendar year? And which exact year do you mean? Are you thinking you have from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 or is it more like August 2012 to the end of summer 2013?

I ask for two reasons. First, I plan to do a NOBO hike of the AT starting in either January or February. I graduate in December and will have until fall, when I should start grad school. I have hiked the very Southern end of the AT a lot, but never thru hiked, and would enjoy having a hiking partner if that is when you plan to go as well.

Also, if you are talking academic year, you could always do a SOBO AT hike starting in August and ending in January. This is normally thought of as a slightly more solitary way of hiking the AT, but is very doable. Then have time off and start the PCT with the pack in the spring.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: PCT and AT on 11/16/2011 12:26:23 MST Print View

If you can get the AT done by June you can start the PCT in June. If you are a little late, start at Kennedy Meadows and save the "desert" for autumn.

So Cal can really suck in early spring. It's not the hot desert people believe it is. It's very pleasant in fall. Our weather pattern is winter storms from about November to April.

Joseph Ainsworth
(jainsworth123) - F

Locale: Greater LA area
Re: Re: PCT and AT on 11/17/2011 19:54:46 MST Print View

Josh: I can put in 20-25 a day out of shape. I did a few back to back 30s through the sierras when I had not been hiking for long and felt ok. I'm going to be starting out doing 15 a day and building to 25 by the time I hit Kennedy meadows, then fly over to the AT, that way by the time I get there, I'll hit the ground running, finish in 90ish days, and then head back to the PCT mid june and pick up with the main pack back at Kennedy Meadows and I can have all the social experience I want for the last few months.
Chris: I will be starting February 1st after I finish a marathon I'm doing at the end of January. Will hit Kennedy Meadows a little before march 13th. Fly out to the AT on the 15th and head northi finishing in mid june, then hitch back to Kennedy meadows. I've got plans for after the trails so this is the only way that would've worked.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Two trails in a year on 11/18/2011 06:13:51 MST Print View

" I will be starting February 1st after I finish a marathon I'm doing at the end of January. Will hit Kennedy Meadows a little before march 13th. Fly out to the AT on the 15th and head northi finishing in mid june, then hitch back to Kennedy meadows."

You will likely be skipping major sections of SoCal more than just SJ and BP. While every year is different go to Postholer and look at at journal from Spitfire in 2011. He was one of the earlier starters and learned real quick what SoCal "desert" was like in early season. He was hopping all over trying to find snow free sections.

You won't be hiking with "the pack" with your plan. You will have few people on the trail in SoCal then you will zoom through the pack on the AT because you will be in shape AND have a deadline. You may find others that need to do a fast schedule but very few. (Iceaxe did similiar mileage as your plan, he could speak better on this.)

If it were me, I would do early NOBO AT hike looking to finish in late May and then hit the PCT NOBO around June 1st. With the mileage you're planning you will likely find yourself up near the front of the pack somewhere around Sierra City. (I started May 21st and only had 5-6 people in front of me by Sonora Pass.) So, you would the ability to dial back and hike with all but the front runners if you desire.
(Plan B if conditions in Maine delay your AT finish would be a SOBO PCT hike or a flip flop PCT hike starting at KM going north with "the pack" and heading south from KM to Mexico.)

Bottom line, I believe your desire to hike "with the pack" is in direct conflict with the mileage needed to do two trails in a year. The pack doesn't do the high mileage that you will need to do.

Also, assumming I'm still in GA in March, I can help you get to Springer if needed! Enjoy!

Edited by gg-man on 11/18/2011 06:17:59 MST.

Joseph Ainsworth
(jainsworth123) - F

Locale: Greater LA area
Re: Two trails in a year on 11/18/2011 08:12:30 MST Print View

I honestly don't even expect to skip those sections. I'm fully prepared for a winter assault on the trail and have done all of those peaks under full winter conditions many times as I live within about an hour and a half of those mountains. I'll be carrying an ice axe and crampons, and possibly pick up snow shoes for certain sections. I will have the advantage of having a full resupply when I need it as all my gear is only a few cities away so I can adjust gear as needed and make and make day of decisions on what I'll need.
I have one friend doing the start of the PCT with me, so I'll have someone there, I know I won't stay with anyone more or less on the AT, but once I get back to the PCT there's nothing stopping me from just jumping in with the pack for the last few months and having a normal experience. Plane tickets are bought already so I couldn't change things now if I wanted. If the AT takes longer than expected I'm fully prepared to do a SB hike of the PCT, but I don't think that will happen barring some unforeseen injury. My legs can take the miles.
I appreciate all the advice, but after going over everything for the last year I think I have a plan for everything that I can have a plan for. I know it's all probably going to be immediately chucked out the window as soon as I get on the trail, but for now I have a plan :).
I appreciate all the help, and I would love to do some hiking with you next march if things work out though. Good luck on the trails.