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[pct-l] Cascade snow and trail conditions for southbounders

For those (few) hardy souls who intend to start a southbound thru-hike
attempt in the next few weeks, here is a little info on what you can expect

I work on trail crew for the Lake Wenatchee Ranger District of the Wenatchee
National Forest (the area roughly between Glacier Peak and Stevens Pass).  We
began work this past week on our lower elevation trails and I hiked last
weekend in     the eastern side of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness up toward the
Enchantments area.  

The snow level last weekend 30-40 miles east of the Crest was about 4,000
feet with several feet of snow still on the trails (in the trees) above that
level.  Our recent warm weather is melting it fast, which makes the snow
pretty rotten for hiking (lots of deep post-holing) and makes the stream
fords tricky.  Stevens Pass ski area (on the Crest at 4,000 feet) could still
be open given the snow-pack still on the ground there.  I haven't measured,
but when I drove over this weekend, there was still ( I estimate) 8' of snow
in the trees.  We still have patches of snow at the 2,000 foot level 20 miles
east of the Crest.  

In addition to the snow-level on the ground, avalanche depositions and
blown-down trees, limbs and tops will present obstacles, even where the snow
has melted clear.  Keeping in mind that we received about 230 percent of our
normal snow-fall, there are bound to be hundreds of deeply deposited
avalanches across the trail.  These depositions (as I experienced first-hand
last weekend), when melting out, can create vertical walls 10 feet high and
rotten snow bridges.  I have fallen through these snow bridges and can attest
that getting caught in the fast, icy torrent underneath is very scary.

I hope this information is useful to you.  I hope that if you plan on
departing before mid-July, you have the experience to travel safely over the
snow -- and that you plan on relatively low mileages.  (After spending a
couple of weeks this spring hiking from Campo to Big Bear City, I was amazed
at how long it took to go 6.5 miles with a 12 lb. overnight pack, on the
rotten snow with lots of blow-downs to climb over.)

Best of luck.

AT '95

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