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[pct-l] Re: El Nino

Hello Blisterfree -

The Happy Trails Couple said:

>Don't give up hope just yet Bliterfree, it could be that the Southern
>part of California will be much better for hiking this year than most
>years, more available water and maybe cooler too!
>When you reach Kennedy Meadows if the snow outlook is still unfavorable
>and DANGEROUS an alternative would be to hike out Cottonwood Pass to
>Lone Pine. You could then take the bus to Tahoe and hike north and
>avoid the heavy snowfall in the Sierras. After making it to Canada you
>could return to Tahoe heading South finishing your hike throught the
>Sierras with a side trip up Mt. Whitney.  You would probably avoid
>hiking through Washington during the rainy season -- what a plus!

If our hike is any indication...this is good advice!

As far as I know, everyone who finished in '95 (good snow year <g>) did
some kind of skip/flip/backfill.

My son and I started north on May 19th.  We ran into 100% snow above 7,000'
as we approached San Jacinto.  We couldn't find any sign of a path anywhere
near where we thought the PCT must be hiding (a Ranger we ran into said
that he thought that most had walked around this stretch).  We wound up
climbing to the top of the mountain (on the path the tram riders had made)
and going down the other side.  We were lucky enough to find a clear patch
right where we thought the trail should be...gave us more confidence in our
land nav skills when the trail was there, too <g>.  We guessed our way on
around the ridge and finally ran out of snow on the way down to the valley
below (BTW, we ran into our hottest temps of the trip down there...105 f).

We got to Kennedy Meadows (early July, I think) and discovered that a bunch
of northbounders had held there for a while (Thanks, Ed!) and then had
either tried a skip or decided to wait for another year.  Some went in at
Tahoe and a few tried other places (apparently nobody was able to get thru
if they started south of Old Station)...AND they were kind enough to tell
Val at the PCTA office when they made it out!

My son and I spent a week down in Ridgecrest recovering from the "big G"
and camplobactor (sp?)...curse the Kelso Rd. cow hoof-washing station
<VBG>. We got back up to the Meadows and decided to try to push thru
anyway. We walked the snow (and forded the creeks...DANG - that ice cold
water does things to your...belly button! <g>) up to the PCT/JMT junction
at Crabtree meadows.  The seasonal backcountry Ranger was home...he was
baking bread when we pecked on his door.  He had pushed thru up to Forester
Pass to meet the next Ranger north there.  He gave us a trail report for
the next two passes and added that he doubted that we would be able to make
it over ANY of the passes without mountaineering gear (cathole trowel was
all we had...not even an ice axe between us <f>).  We sat on his porch and
decided that we were going WAY too slow to have any chance at all of
completing an end-to-end thru-hike in one season...and prospects sure
didn't look to be getting any better on up thru the high passes.  My son
clinched the discussion when he mused that he would enjoy seeing the
Sierras without all the snow cover...so we decided to try a skip.

We also decided (for reasons that escape me now <g>) to go out over Trail
Crest instead of backtracking to Cottonwood Pass.  The Ranger was so
positive that we were going to die that he insisted that we let him know
over the radio net IF we made it out to Lone Pine.  We got turned around a
couple of times as we land-nav'ed our way out (no trail evident from
Crabtree Meadows up to Trail Crest).  When we got to the top of the ridge
we picked up the snow path made by the climbers coming up from Lone pine,
got turned around again, and wound up going towards Whitney instead of
Trail Crest.  We got to the bottom of the last big snowfield below the hut,
figured out where we were <g>, had a confab, and decided that we would turn
around and save the summit for a neat grand finale of what was becoming a
skip/filpping PCT thru-hike.

I think that this little decision probably saved our buns from getting
hurt.  We dropped over the edge of Trail Crest (heading down on the east
side toward Lone Pine) at about 5:30 pm.  Had we camped in the hut on
Whitney and done the drop the next morning when the snow crust was frozen
solid...we would have had a very loooooooong and steep slide indeed.  As it
was, we wound up post-holing (up to our thigh's usually and to our waist
sometimes) all the way down to the solar potty...in that late-day soft snow
we couldn't have slid anywhere if we had wanted to <g>.  No problem after
that, we walked the snow down to where it started to break into patches and
found the trail. We did the BIG pancake at the trail-head cafe the next
morning <VBG>.

We accepted Val's fantastic advice and skipped up to Old Station.  We had a
good hike from there on north with just a few interesting snow patches
(Goat Rocks was another place where our lack of an ice axe almost got us
into trouble...).  We took a week off (wives met us for the equip. show in
Reno) and hit Manning in late Sept.  Decided to backfill our skip by
starting at Old Station and going south.  We had a nice solitary hike (met
Bones in Sierra City and met Jane/Flica north of Desolation).  We hit
Tuolumne Meadows (went into Lee Vining to resupply) on Friday, 13 Oct.

Friday 13th held true to its reputation, we discovered that we couldn't get
back on the trail the next day...some jerk had done an armed assault on a
female Ranger and the Park was closed while they conducted a manhunt!  We
waited a couple of days and decided to do another skip/flip down to Whitney
and to hike back up.  We loaded up with food and hiked the passes with one
eye looking for snow clouds.  Only had a few flurries and finished our hike
on Oct 24 with no problem.

I had scratched my "purist" itch on the AT and my son had other personal
goals.  We were happy as clams with our fantastic PCT hike and wouldn't
hesitate to suggest a skip/flip/backfill to anyone who didn't feel they
just had to do an end-to-end.  Next time, I WILL pay better attention to
the "ice axe" advice, though...<g>

Be sure to let us know what you decide to do...and GOOD LUCK!

- Charlie II  AT (MEGA'93)
             PCT (Mex@Can'95)

BTW, "Mex@Can" means:  Mexico to Canada...with a lot of running around in
the middle <VBG>

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