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Planning a PCT Section Hike

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Planning a PCT Section Hike

Postby 3k5k » Tue Feb 02, 2016 4:51 pm

Hello everyone!

I’m hoping to hike the PCT for about two months starting June 1st. This is my first time backpacking alone, my first time going more than five days, and my first time on the PCT, so I had a few planning/safety concerns I was hoping people would know the answers to.

I was originally hoping to start in NorCal on June 1st and work my way up though Oregon. However, it looks like snow will make that almost impossible. The resource that I’ve been using is ... art.action, and it seems that in a normal snow year good chunks of NorCal and Oregon will be snowbound through July. Because of that, I’m looking for a new plan.

My major concerns are altitude/snow safety and water. Since I’m planning on going alone and I’ve never spent time at altitude, I would like to avoid higher stuff (9,000+ft) for the first week or so, and preferably ease into things. I’m extremely fit and determined and will be carrying a SPOT beacon, so I’m mostly concerned with HAPE/HACE potential early on, and those worries would be nice to avoid altogether. I’m also hoping to avoid long stretches where water will be an issue.

The two plans I have as of now are below, but I don’t know when I will be able to make the call on snow (don’t know if el Nino will dump on the PCT), and how I would definitively make that call.

Lower Altitude: Start off by Lake Tahoe on June 1st and head north. Not sure how the snow will be on this plan, as it seems like that would put me about a month ahead of the average NoBo thru-hike plan. I was hoping the lower altitude start would make up for the fact that it’s an el Nino year and that I could head north unimpeded. I have no idea what snow conditions are like in NorCal/Oregon, but I’m assuming the snowpack would be less than in the High Sierra. This is definitely my preferred plan.

Altitude-Adjustment: Start around Wrightwood/Soledad Canyon on June 1st and head north. I’ll have some time to acclimate to medium altitude before I hit the High Sierra, but I’m guessing I’ll be behind the pack and it seems like heading out of Kennedy Meadows is a big jump in altitude. I’m a bit nervous about altitude and snow for this plan, since I expect I’ll encounter some of both in the High Sierra.

I’ll be relying on public transportation to get to the trail, so easy access helps a lot. I’m very open to plans that with qualifications based on the snowpack, and any general advice about the snowpack.

Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

I'll also be posting this on, and I'm not sure how much forum crossover there is. I didn't want to waste anybody's time in double-posting.
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Re: Planning a PCT Section Hike

Postby Gary Schenk » Wed Feb 03, 2016 8:20 am

June 1 is a tough time to start if you want to avoid snow. At the same time the lower southern sections can be very hot. Starting at Big Bear or Wrightwood might be a good idea. In a heavy snow year, there can still be plenty of snow on north facing slopes in the San Bernardinos and San Gabriels. But it might be OK.

I wouldn't worry about HACE or HAPE. (Although I've seen a couple of people feel bad at 7000') If you are really worried, just spend a couple of nights at Big Bear or Wrightwood.
Gary Schenk
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Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:42 am

Re: Planning a PCT Section Hike

Postby Fish » Sun Feb 21, 2016 4:19 am

It can take a month to acclimate to the elevation. I live at 10k ft in colorado and it took forever to get use to it. Idk if while backpacking through high elevations your body will even start to feel effects sometimes it takes a week to notice it.
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