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Sierra High Route or Oregon via PCT? - July 15th - Aug 7th
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shaun carrigan
(ShaunCarrigan) - F
Sierra High Route or Oregon via PCT? - July 15th - Aug 7th on 07/05/2011 00:19:58 MDT Print View

Hi all,

Here's the deal, been training, packing, weighing and planning an attempt at the Sierra High Route for the last six months.

Sadly due to projects at work the only time I can get off is July 15th to August 7th.

Basically only 10 more days of snow melt before I would start. With the snow levels being what they are, my doing it solo and an aversion to heavy snow gear... I'm thinking about holding off for this season.

1. Anyone think I should reconsider?

It seems the snow really is as bad as they've been saying and at 9k-12k feet snow levels are ridiculous. I was up on the PCT near Quincy this weekend and we got stopped at 6700 feet with five feet of snow.

Instead, I'm thinking about a fast thru hike of Oregon via the PCT. I'm going to try to do 26+ miles to earn some zero days.

2. Anyone think snow levels would be an issue in Oregon?

3. What if I started July 8th and hiked until July 31st instead?

Thanks for your thoughts. Bummed about the SHR, but trying to make the best out of this snow year...

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Sierra High Route or Oregon via PCT? - July 15th - Aug 7th on 07/05/2011 03:36:26 MDT Print View

One source to check for PCT trail conditions in Oregon can be found here:

The recency of reports varies for different sections in Oregon, as you'll see if you browse through the section descriptions. For example, here's the latest entry (dated 6/22/2011) for Section F, which includes Mount Jefferson Wilderness:

"Field report indicates a major avalanche at the Milk Creek crossing of the PCT in the Jefferson Wilderness. Snow depth measured on 6/20/11 at 50ft."

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Re: Sierra High Route or Oregon via PCT? - July 15th - Aug 7th on 07/05/2011 07:31:19 MDT Print View

Put it off; save your money and time. With your aversion to heavy snow gear, you'll never make it through (OR, at least).

I live just south of Portland. My wife and I hiked up the Eagle Creek Trail (Cascade Locks) to the PCT at Wahtum Lake June 25 - 27. We hit snow patches across the trail at 3700 feet and almost solid snow at Wahtum Lake where the PCT and Eagle Creek trails meet (3800 feet). We had planned to take the PCT across the Benson Plateau into Cascade Locks, but quickly lost the trail in large snow patches under the trees. Others reported 2 miles of solid snow about 3 feet deep up on the Benson Plateau. We'll try it again on July 11.

For reference, Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood is at 6000 feet, and the chair lifts are still operating at the ski resorts on the mountain.

See for web cams and current snow conditions (looks solid to me) and for recent trip reports.

Sorry; it's just a bad year for hiking the higher elevations in the western mountains without snow shoes and a GPS, neither of which we have.

Edited by wandering_bob on 07/05/2011 07:57:37 MDT.

Mark Hudson
(vesteroid) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Sierras
thoughts on 07/05/2011 08:52:34 MDT Print View

I dont think you have a prayer of doing the shr at that time without serious snow.

I too have been all over the pct from donner up to north of 70 and there is still snow of 3-5 feet most places. I have yet to find a single stretch of more than say 7 miles I didn't run into major snow.

My guess is even the first week of august you are going to run into snow sections.

A local guy just went through desolation wilderness this weekend and reported no major melts. Still 5-8 feet of snow and the creeks are screaming. At maybe 2 feet of melt per week, thats august.

I live within 20 minutes of the tahoe rim and went up to see what it was like at 8K feet this weekend. The minute you hit the trees, drifts from 3-5 feet in tahoe meadows.

Darn tired of snow so far this year, has put a serious damper on my hiking.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: thoughts on 07/05/2011 09:18:30 MDT Print View

ok so there's lots of snow in the Sierra.
next question ... how consolidated is it for cross country travel ?

We were hoping for the Southern section of SHR last week of July.
I don't mind snow travel if its not constant post holing.
The heavy snow could actually make crossing scree and talus fields easier.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: thoughts on 07/05/2011 10:50:18 MDT Print View

I subscribe to the PCT-L and people are dropping out of the Sierras and trying to find places to skip ahead and not having any luck. About the only section of the PCT people are able to do without endless slogging through snow is the section between Old Station and Burney Falls.

People are turning back trying to hike Seiad Valley to Ashland even. Somebody nearly risked their life in the Marbles and gave up there. People are reporting difficult snow ocnditions in Section O on the way to Castle Crags.

It's just a bad year for this. If I were you, I'd try something on the coast maybe or go east.

shaun carrigan
(ShaunCarrigan) - F
Brainstorming... on 07/05/2011 11:41:42 MDT Print View

Thanks all.

I was bummed enough that the SHR wasn't going to happen, the inability to also do OR has my mind churning...

-Camino De Santiago
-Couple of states on the AT
-Half of the Hayduke Trail...?
-Try the SHR with snow shoes and a heavier pack?

I'll think of some more...

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: thoughts on 07/05/2011 17:38:18 MDT Print View

"The heavy snow could actually make crossing scree and talus fields easier."

And also expose you to the risk of punching through a soft spot between talus blocks and busting up a leg way back in there. Risk vs reward, as always.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Live from the PCT on 07/05/2011 17:46:58 MDT Print View

I have done the high route and I also just completed the Sierra section of the PCT.

1) the high route is easier with at least a moderate amount of snow. Otherwise you are crossing miles of talus.
2) I had little postholing on the trail and I crossed Forester & Mather in the afternoon. Conditions could be quite different since there is major changes daily.
3) as far as snow equipment I would take a lightweight ice axe and lightweight crampons for the high route at this point. That's not much additional weight.
4) you may not be able to do as high of mileage but it could be a great trip with few people. I doubt there are many years when there is no snow.

Finally, if you have doubts then you probably shouldn't be doing a trip like this. The high route in perfect weather conditions is not a walk in the park, well I guess it is.

Have fun on whatever trip you end up taking.

David T
(DaveT) - F
shr on 07/05/2011 18:07:47 MDT Print View

I echo Greg's comemnts that the SHR is not ideally suited to solo travel, although folks on BPL have done it. I did it in lots of snow, with a friend, and was happy I did, both for safety and for having someone else to take on all the challenges with. You are in pretty lonely country much of the time, especially early in the season. We took light ice axes (Cassin Ghost) and used them often, as well as lightweight crampons, used infrequently. If you do it solo, definitely know what you are doing, be risk averse, and take a PLB or such. As Tom said, you can definitely posthole down to your hip unexpectedly - on one of them I had to pull my foot out of my shoe to get my leg out from the snow and rocks (and then recover my shoe!). That said, it's a beautiful and amazing route.

seven gables area.

Edited by DaveT on 07/05/2011 18:14:39 MDT.

shaun carrigan
(ShaunCarrigan) - F
Balance... on 07/05/2011 20:40:11 MDT Print View

I am going solo and have hiked the PCT through the Sierra in 2003 in earlyish season, lots of snow travel, but I figure the SHR will be mostly snow travel this season.

At 6'5 and 235 lbs, I'll be the guy to posthole to my neck. If maps were good enough to tell me what's scree, what's a boulder field and if I didn't feel like I'd be testing every other step with a trekking pole for two or three good pokes I may take a shot at it.

For now, I'm leaning towards Oregon, but discouraged by the comments and conditions I've read about... still thinking.

In these conditions I would carry a Spot and my iPhone (GPS). Also my Cassin Ghost and probably kahtoola's.

I just want to enjoy the trip and feel like I'll be too focused staying on trail and postholing rather than enjoying the experience. I have a few days to throw an audible... still thinking.

Edited by ShaunCarrigan on 07/05/2011 21:10:28 MDT.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Balance... on 07/05/2011 21:06:37 MDT Print View

"Field report indicates a major avalanche at the Milk Creek crossing of the PCT in the Jefferson Wilderness. Snow depth measured on 6/20/11 at 50ft."

The Milk Creek avalanche at Jefferson is piddly (and fun to walk on). Here's a pic:


That being said, Oregon is snow country right now. You will definitely be hiking dozens of miles across snow. Here is the current NOHRSC. The PCT basically traverses through all the snowy sections, and the NOHRSC data, while somewhat accurate, does not account for drifts and those sides of the mountain on which the snow lingers (in other words, expect more than what's pictured):


Californians, how is Trinity Alps looking?

Edited by ChrisMorgan on 07/05/2011 21:16:32 MDT.

shaun carrigan
(ShaunCarrigan) - F
more on 07/05/2011 21:12:24 MDT Print View

Thanks Chris...

Yeah - I was at 6700 feet near Quincy on the PCT and found 4-5 feet of snow.

I've heard the Trinities isn't great and I've already hiked that section. I really don't want to do the desert, but may be what I have to do if I want to the the PCT this year...

shaun carrigan
(ShaunCarrigan) - F
SIerra High Route - August 12-21st on 07/06/2011 19:48:13 MDT Print View

My boss is letting me move dates but can only give me a week off due to projects.

I'm thinking about doing the first half of the SHR.

Any guess on trail conditions in five weeks?