WHERE: Kennedy Meadows — Lone Pine: California, USA
WHEN: March–August, 2018
WHO: Karma & Scott
OBJECTIVE: Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru-hike
DISTANCE: 702 – 745 mi (769 – 1199 km)
We left Kennedy Meadows and headed north. Sun was shining and we were really excited to finally get to experience the mighty Sierra mountains! Packs are pretty heavy now as we are carrying the required big and bulky bear canisters for our food (thanks a lot for the loan Ralph!), crampons, ice-ax, and warmer gear as well as boots.
After a slow climb out of Kennedy Meadows the terrain changes as you get up to altitude. Beautiful mountains and impressive pine trees. We enjoyed a clear and sunny day, but cold and quite windy. Not a whole lot of snow up here, but pretty hard and wind-slabbed snow with ice and we were post-holing through deep drifts on top of it on the northern slopes from midday on.
Second night out of Kennedy Meadows we dry camped in a pretty sheltered spot behind a big fallen tree at around 10500 ft. It was supposed to be a pretty cold night, 17F/-8C and stay cold for the next few days. We had stopped for water from a spring about a mile down trail, it had been frozen over but we managed to dig a hole in the ice and snow to scoop out some water from the slow trickle. Other than that the water situation up here has been good, a nice change from the desert. We slept good but wearing pretty much everything we have, lol. We woke to a dusting of snow and frozen solid boots.
Given the late Sierra winter with new storms still rolling in and the current condition of the snowpack, the concern for avalanches is real, especially on the 30 to 40-degree slopes higher up. Another thing we had not really anticipated was the fact that nothing up here is really open yet. So places where you normally can send a resupply box to or buy food are closed. So a resupply involves huge road walks out since the mountain roads are closed and you cannot get rides to/from trailheads. We just came out into Lone Pine on Horseshoe Meadow Road – an 18 mile (28 km) road walk! The alternative is huge food carries to get through with fewer exit points. A logistical struggle.
So we decided to change the original plan and exit the Sierra at Lone Pine and jump north on the PCT to continue hiking for a few weeks and then return to the mountains mid-May. While still early spring, the logistics will make more sense and conditions will be safer and more enjoyable then.
That is pretty much all part of a thru-hike though… assessing the conditions to make wise decisions on how to get the trail done safely. Everyone hikes their own hike, but being flexible and smart should be in everyone’s plan.
So, our next report will be from Northern California!