PCT: Where to go? Straight ahead? Bounce north and hike south? Bounce a bit north and hike north?

Guthook Screenshot
Guthook Screenshot

June snowpack

Leaving KM and finding cell service allowed us to start looking at data instead of listening to rumors. The map above and below (www.postholer.com) allow us to view the snow water equivalent (SWE) in relation to the trail mile. This indicates that we’re about to head into snow shortly after mile 702, Kennedy Meadows.

How does this compare to previous years?

Higher than most years! Should we care? Absolutely. The SWE impacts the speed at which we can hike, thus the amount of food we’ll need to carry and the type of gear that we’ll need to carry.

Even more critical is the amount of snow run off as the massive snow pack begins to seriously melt. Hikers will be fording streams and rivers. More snow equals bigger water run off equaling deeper, faster currents.

Guthook Screenshot

Halfmile snow

In Kennedy Meadows we are at beginnings of the serious snow section of the PCT. I keep rambling about how much snow there is this year, but there’s a lot of snow! The map above allows the user to educate themselves on snow levels on different parts of the trail. The same map can be used anywhere, do check it out.

A common theme among hikers is to head into the Sierra and use Lone Pine as a early bail out point if the hiker decides the snow level isn’t their cup of tea.

Guthook Screenshot

Big Pine snow

(You can find these interactive maps at: https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps/ )

There’s a huge part of me that wants to head into the Sierra today. I signed up for adventure! Let’s do it! There’s also a part of me that’s scared of the Sierra’s right now.

I don’t have a tramily, so I’d need to connect with new folks that I don’t know. I was invited to join one group, but (based on my trail observations) I believed one of the hikers to be a very weak hiker. It seemed like a recipe for future trouble. Yes, this is an absolute asshole kind of assessment on my part. In assessing the hiker I asked myself if I was in trouble could they assist me? The answer to my own question was no, so my answer to their group was also no. Folks have died on the PCT Sierra river crossing, it’s serious business.

Looking at a risk reward scenario I believe the risk outweighs the reward at this moment. I have reasonable backpacking skills but much less developed (that’s a kind way to phrase it) mountaineering skills.

I decided to bounce ahead somewhere “North” of KM for now and return to the Sierra in Aug/Sept. I researched going South from Canada, or North or South from Ashland OR. I reached out to the PCTA and asked for their input on my plan and they were incredibly helpful! I’m so glad I contacted them.

Canada SOBO appeals to the ease of logistics. Ashland North appealed to my desire to skip the snow. I bounced my idea off Cassidy at the PCTA and was so grateful for her detailed, thoughtful input. I had hopes for a general response, but I received detailed information, and website links to assist in our decision making. Game changer!

So, at the moment I’m going to start hiking North from Old Station CA, roughly mile 1377 of the NOBO trail. The snow levels moving forward will be variable depending on the melting rate and the speed at which I hike.

Guthook Screenshot

Guthook NorCal

Time to relocate! I’d like to be back on trail hiking as soon as possible, hopefully less than a week. Now that I have hiker legs I don’t want to lose them.

So, see you at Old Station…with a new hat!


  1. Colleen

    I’ve been waiting with bated breath (yes, I started typing “baited” and then decided to check if that was right…fish breath – NO!) to hear what your plans are. Can’t wait to start seeing updated from NoCal! And, can’t wait to celebrate with you at Cascade Locks!!! Be well!

    • Anonymous

      Updates, not updated. How do you edit comments, anyway?!?!?

    • Colleen

      Updates, not updated. How do you edit comments anyway?!?!?

    • mcgarveysan

      I didn’t know that about bated vs. baited breath! Guess I’ve described myself a few times with fish breath!


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