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FW: [pct-l] Winter thruhike

Seems like a lot of people had that idea. I thought quite a bit about it on
my thruhike this year. X-country skiing is my favourite activity, so the
rest of this mail assume skiing (hiking where there is no sno).

When to do it: I'd say as early in the season as possible, probably
southbound. What you really wont to avoid is snowcups, and spring snow in
general which tend to be very difficult to ski on (too hard). You also wont
as much snow coverage as possible. Back country skis are HEAVY to carry. On
the other hand, too much loose snow slow you down. Ideal conditions are when
the snow has settled a bit. Of course on a long trip you wont have ideal
conditions, and I dont know too much about winters in the US. Maybe someone
has an idea about the "limits" of the season.

Speed: I find it much easier to ski 20 miles than to hike it, even without
tracks if the snow is firm and/or has a crust. In Norway the snow will often
get a crust from the wind pretty fast above treeline, but below treeline
could be a huge problem. A foot or more of loose/powdery snow will slow me
down or stop me completely. I think loose snow/no tracks are the main
problem for someone skiing the PCT.

Avalanches: Saw a lot of places where I wouldn't wont to be on snow, at
least shortly after a snowfall. Also a big problem if you wont to keep at or
close to the trail at all times.

Routefinding: I think flexibility about keeping close to the trail could
make a winter thru hike feasible. Be prepared to be miles away from the
actual trail.
* Use tracks if possible even if they dont follow the trail.
* Try to find firmer snow when necessary (lots of possibilites, but probably
also means leaving the trail).
* Detour around avalanche areas if necessary.

Gear: I generally end up carrying about the same weight when winter camping.
On my hike this summer I had 25-27 pounds most of the time (plus food and
water). For winter I'd have to get a warmer bag, thicker fleece and
fleece/wool pants. A couple of things go out too (like a cap, shorts etc).
In the end it's not much difference. I think pack weight is even more
important in the winter as the ability to glide disappears if the pack gets
too heavy. Handling downhills and loose snow is also much easier with a
lighter pack.

Conclusion. Would I try? No. I always tell people I've quit winter camping.
Not quite true, but a couple of months out in the snow just dont appeal to
me. For me winter camping was interesting as long as it was a challenge.
Turns out it's not much to it, and then what's left? Just a lot of short
days and very long nights. I think that's what any winter thruhiker will
have to deal with. Even if the days are incredibly beautiful - and they
often are, any thruhiker really have to love winter camping.


Anyone know anything about Catamount trail (that's something I'd like to

 Thanks to the PCT being so well graded it should be very skiable. There are
some problems though. 
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