Low Snow Year in ‘High Sierra’ Affects Pacific Crest Trail Hiker Calculus
iof”Be finished by October 1st,” they told us at the annual Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff. “Anything after that is borrowed time.”
That, folks, is good advice. I know. I was still racing north in early October, 2009, down 40 pounds and worried about either getting badly lost or
caught in a bad snowstorm. Fortunately neither happened (both happened plenty of times before that last week), and I was able to arrive at Manning Park in Canada on
However last year the PCT thru-hikers didn’t have any such luck. Those still schlepping north in early October got caught in mounds, waves, and drifts of snow, some unable to
find any way out. Four people were rescued by helicopter and one lady flat out cheated death.
That gets back to this year’s low snow levels. The rule of thumb is that thru-hikers should not enter the ‘High Sierra’ at mile 703 at Kennedy Meadows until
Ray Day,which is June 15th. However with snow levels only ten or twenty percent of normal, hikers can now enter the High Sierra in early June, if not May. This
gives them an extra margin of safety as they zero in on the Canadian border come late September.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail,
The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago, Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and Tall Tales–The Great Talisman of Height.