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Early Sierra Entry - False Information

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Early Sierra Entry - False Information

Postby postholer » Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:44 pm

Entering the sierra early is a choice not a necessity. It creates adversity. The odds of completing a thru-hike are against you. Introducing additional adversity will not improve those odds. The following is based on an average winter and melt.

The melt is less dangerous if you enter the sierra early.

False. An early season hiker is exposed to the melt for a longer period of time and more miles. All drainages see peak melt before June 15th. Entry after June 15 means dealing with a receding melt only and primarily in the south. Entry on say, May 15th, the hiker possibly faces an increasing, peak, then decreasing melt all along the south to north route in the sierra.

If there is too much snow for me on early sierra entry, I can always flip north.

False. Leaving early means you've forfeited your flip options. You will likely find snow in NorCal, Oregon and Washington. The extra travel and lodging may impact your expenses and it will certainly disrupt the hiking rhythm you've developed.

I'm an average hiker. I need to leave early to get to Canada before the snow flies.

False. Snow travel adds days to your trip. If the average hiker (152 days) leaves Mexico April 22, they will arrive at Kennedy Mdw on June 3rd and Canada on September 21st. It's possible, but unlikely winter will close the trail down before the 21st. For a hiker of reasonable age and fitness, it takes very little effort to shave a week off over the course of a thru-hike. 5 months is a long time to be on the trail.

Walking on snow is easier and faster. You don't have to follow the trail, everything is straight line.

False. Walking on snow is exhausting, requires more energy, more food, more equipment, more weight and you'll travel significantly fewer miles per day. Further, a common resupply over Kearsarge is all on snow. Typical resupply locations like MTR, VVR, Reds Mdw or Tuolumne Mdw may not be open. Most importantly it requires knowledge and skill the average hiker won't have and doesn't want.

Water is everywhere in the sierra.

Not necessarily. In the early season, all the frequent water sources the sierra is noted for may not be exposed, only major creeks. The terrain can actually be an extension of the desert in one sense. You'll require extra fuel to melt snow. Dehydration is a real issue in early season.

Early sierra entry means less mosquitoes.

False. You will still deal with mosquitoes, but not in the usual places.

Extensive snow travel is less efficient, introduces additional adversity, more costly, subjectively rewarding and it's a choice, not a necessity. The added adversity further reduces your odds of a successful thru-hike.

Most hikers understand that early entry is more difficult, that's why the vast majority just don't do it. Completing their thru-hikes is more important. Recently, there's been a few people heavily promoting early entry, for all the wrong reasons, personal gain. They want you to hike their hike. They are selling services that they will profit from. They will never tell you, 'Wait till the snow melts.' It doesn't serve them, yet it's what the majority of hikers have been doing for decades.

Be aware of what you're getting into. If hiking 2,650 miles is not enough adventure for one summer, then by all means go for it. Hike your own hike!

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