One Month Until Start and It Keeps Snowing
One year ago I stood at the Southern Terminus of the PCT. I filled in the register, had my pictures taken, and set out on an adventure I could never have imagined the impact it would have on my life.
Over the coming months I would reconnect with my true and authentic self, forgive myself and others, and find some much-needed closure. I would find the courage to face my fears and reclaim control of my life and the direction of it, and I would find the strength to stand up against what tried to hold me back. I would hike the SoCal desert in March, and then again in June. I would enter the high Sierra and feel like coming home, knowing that this is where I’m at my happiest. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the months after I got off trail were filled with meetings that would play a major role in staking out the next direction in my life.
And now here we are; in just over a month I’ll set off thru-hiking the CDT. I’m in a great place in life right now, and really looking forward to heading out in the wilderness and surrender to its peace, beauty, serenity, challenges, and brutality.
So Are You Ready?
I am. And I’m not. I have not hiked a single mile this year, but I have been enjoying the Swedish winter to the fullest, with skiing and dog sledding almost on the daily. It’s been good soul food to do what I love and not stress about training. I believe I’ll find my hiker legs along the way in New Mexico; time will tell. I got my gear together pretty early on; it’s mostly things I’ve had since before and what doesn’t work or wears out I’ll replace along the way. I do want to have a resupply plan before I leave, not because I’m under the illusion I’ll follow it, but because creating one is a good way to familiarize oneself with the trail and trail towns. I’m still working on that one, but it’s getting there. I did decide to pick up a Garmin inRreach mini due to the remoteness and lack of phone service on large parts of the CDT—well, my loved ones basically made me. So I need to get that one up and running as well. Other than that, my bags are pretty much packed and I’m ready to get on a flight across the pond once again.
What About all This Snow?
There’s a lot of talk about snow going on in the thru-hiking community right now. This is shaping up to be a high snow year, and we like to obsess on what snow gear to bring and where to send it. As someone who’s been playing in winter mountains all my life, I find the arena where winter sports meet ultralight backpacking quite interesting. Tons of snow is, in itself, not a problem. With the right gear it’s a whole lot of fun if you ask me. But thru-hiking is not a winter expedition, and in a high snow year it comes down to how much winter equipment you’re willing to carry, and how much snow you’re willing to handle—and to adjust your hike accordingly.
When we start our thru-hike, whether it’s of the PCT or CDT, most of us have at least a month of hiking to do before we hit the Sierra or San Juans. I’ve seen winters turn into summers almost overnight and I’ve seen winters that never seem to let go, with countless late snowfalls. To make a prediction of snow conditions over a month in advance is as hard as any long-term weather prediction. It just makes more sense to wait and see what actually happens. My strategy will go something like this. Since I’m flying in from overseas I’ll bring snowshoes, an ice axe, crampons, Microspikes, and warm and heavy duty clothing to be prepared for cold weather and sketchy snowfields. I’ll let it sit at a friend’s house, but one could also keep it in a bounce box, of course. Once I get closer to the San Juans I’ll evaluate the conditions and make a plan from there. I know snow travel, but I also have great respect for wet snow avalanches and late-winter storms. And while I appreciate a good dose of type two fun from time to time, I’m of the opinion that hiking should be enjoyable. There’s so much fun to be had on snow, but postholing all day long for days on end is horrible, and if I can plan around that I most certainly will. The San Juans seem amazing and I want to enjoy them. If I don’t think I can once I get there, I’ll probably flip up north and come back for them later. There are options, and I’m eager to get going and start navigating through them.
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