Mountain Passes in the High Sierra
PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) hikers receive loads of advice on how to handle the snowy passes in the ‘High Sierra’. Generally, it is suggested (Yogi’s PCT Handbook) to attempt to clear the mountain pass in the late morning after the pass is no longer icy. Then the hiker should try to get down from the mountain pass in the early afternoon before the snow turns mushy, thus avoiding postholing. Often thru-hikers will glissade down a mountain pass, which saves time and energy, but can be precarious. Generally, a thru-hiker’s mileage will fall in the High Sierra, as it is suggested to only attempt to clear one pass per day. A hiker can expect to sleep above 10,000 feet for several nights straight.
Some hikers carry ice axes. Others wear crampons. Many choose to use neither, depending on just how much snow there is that year. The ice axe is the most common. However, experts are clear on one thing. It will do more harm than good if the hiker is not well-versed in its use. It is also recommended for hikers to stay together through the High Sierra. Believe it or not, that is about the only directive I did see hikers follow. At Kennedy Meadows (mile 703) when leaving the desert, is the place everybody sends food drops and bear canisters, and bunches up for the great journey ahead to high elevations.