Upcoming Trip – Winter PCT Thru-hike Attempt

Ever since I first stepped foot on the PCT I have been thinking about this trip. For years I have been calculating and coordinating various aspects and weighing the challenges, equipment, and possibilities. It’s been on my to-do list for a while now, or maybe I should say to-try list. More so then ever, this will be a highly variable trip. One that we will need to be flexible and accommodating, and often our schedule will take the backseat to Mother Nature’s. It will be a challenge and I know it’s not always going to be fun, but oddly enough that is part of the fun.

The plan is to try to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail this winter. By thru-hike, I mean use whatever human powered means of travel is best for the conditions. This will range between, hiking, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing, and staying along the PCT corridor. We are calling it the PCT corridor because due to conditions and snow cover it will be virtually impossible to stay on the trail at all times. Often the trail tread will be buried under 15 feet of snow.

Pepper and I will be heading out from Campo, CA at the Mexico/U.S. border on October 21st. We will be heading in to the heart of the winter as we move north. Planning and logistics get interesting for the trip too. Some of the factors that we have had to think through are seasonal road closures and resupply options, lightweight gear options for 4-season use, and potential avalanche safety and conditions. It has been an interesting challenge. We both have a decent amount of winter travel experience and this should help a lot although we have still factored in nearly 30 zero days to give us some flexibility to wait out conditions or storms. We’ll likely have to carry at least one extra day of food at all times once the winter sets in. We are factoring an average daily mileage of around 15 miles per day, well below our typically on trail daily mileage, and if all goes well we expect the trip to take somewhere around 5 months. Lastly, we will be taking pika data for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation again along the way.

Some reasons this trip has appealed to me for a number of years:

  • Hardly anybody will be in the backcountry and seeing familiar places at a different time of year.
  • This type of trip adds additional physical, mental, and logistics challenges to a normal three-season thru-hike. It is the progression of challenges and building of skills that I enjoy.
  • I hope to extend the view of “the hiking season”. Overall my winter thru-hike of the AT was very enjoyable and an amazing experience. It is so different from summer on the AT, but is not crowded and still largely accessible for a wide variety of people.
  • It will be interesting to incorporate our typical ultralight mindset to all of the equipment and systems that we will be using throughout the trip.

Some reasons this trip will be challenging:

  • It will be very hard to make solid and consistent progress during the winter, especially in fresh snowfall.
  • Winter storms can leave feet of fresh snow in the Sierras and Cascades.
  • It will be hard to motivate and get up and get out of the sleeping bag and pack up in the cold weather every morning.
  • Some of the roads and towns or resorts are closed seasonally and create some logistics challenges that are not present in the summer.
  • Some of the equipment that we will be using, like skis and alpine touring set ups, are not typically used for this style and duration of travel and therefore we do not know how they are going to hold up over time.

That’s the background for the upcoming adventure………..so here goes nothing!

Check back and I’ll update with photos and more information on the trip, as well as the gear we will be using and our thoughts and rationale on various logistic challenges that we’ll face throughout the trip.