Snow on the Pacific Crest Trail

The 2017 thruhiker season seems to be an interesting one according to the snow levels on the west coast. I thruhiked the PCT in 2011 in a similar way above average snow year.
The snow pack lasted much longer than I thought, from Trail Pass after Kennedy Meadows till Sierra City (about 500mi) with very little stretches of dry trail.
You might encounter snow even earlier, up Baden Powel and San Jacinto. This is nothing compared to the Sierras.

This is what I have to share about my experience for the class of 2017:

  • Start late in Campo, and try to enter the Sierras as late as possible.
  • Your progress will be slower than you think.
  • Use every resupply option, you will be happy about every day off the snow.
  • Do not expect dry feet.
  • Surround yourself with a group of good navigators to take turns on navigation.
  • Hike early when the snow is hard.
  • Put on your crampons or spikes before you enter a difficult spot.
  • Use new shoes with a stiffer sole and a good profile.
  • Make sure your poles have snow baskets!
  • Try to cross rivers early or late in the day.
  • Take time to look for a save spot to cross rivers, this is likely somewhere else than shown on the map.
  • Learn to ski on your heels!
  • Take good care and don’t under estimate avalanche danger!
  • If you don’t feel like you can do that after the first 2 days, turn around.
  • Sunblock and very good sunglasses are a must!
  • Forget snowshoes, suncups and going up and down steep slopes are not the ideal terrain for them.
  • The road to Reds Meadow was still closed, also the road to Mammoth.
    We had to roadwalk to Mammoth Ski Resort and took the free bus to town.

The good things about the snow:

  • There will be no mosquitos.
  • Bears are at lower elevations.
  • The Sierras will be not crowded at all.
  • Heel skiing 🙂
  • The adventurous feeling.
  • Water will be everywhere!

Feel free to ask me questions in the comments!





4 Responses

  1. Linda Clark-O'Brien

    In 2011, could you get out from:
    a. Horseshoe Meadows?
    b. Kearsarge Pass?

    Were these locations open?
    c. Muir Trail Ranch or VVR?
    d. Tuolumne Meadows Post Office?

    14. April 2017 at 18:02

    • Matthias


      I dont know about Horseshoe Meadows, I went out over Kearsarge Pass down to the Onion Valley TH.

      Muir Trail Ranch was closed, VVR was open but the ferry was not running because the did not expect hikers.

      The Tuolumne Meadows Post Office was not open. We went down to the valley.

      14. April 2017 at 18:15

  2. fellow

    To put your experience into perspective:
    When did you start in Campo?
    When did you enter the Sierra?
    In hindsight, would you have postponed the Sierra entry date?

    14. April 2017 at 19:33

    • Matthias

      Hi! I started in Campo on April 28th and left KM about a Month later.
      With my knowledge today I would have started the hike way later, like mid May.

      15. April 2017 at 05:38

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