Backpacker Radio #193 | Hiking the PCT in a High Snow Year with Daniel Winsor and Ned Tibbits

In today’s episode of Backpacker Radio presented by The Trek, we are yet again talking all things hiking the PCT in a high snow year. This episode was recorded in early March, now that we have a clearer picture of what the 2023 hiking season will look like, and it is historically snowy. Today’s episode features a pair of interviews- first we are joined by Daniel Winsor, 2017 PCT NOBO thru-hiker and author of “Crunch: A Million Snowy Steps Along the Pacific Crest Trail”. Daniel was one of the first people through the Sierra in 2017, another historically high snow year, and shares in detail what his experience looked like, including his preferred traction, how to safely navigate high water crossings, the importance of traveling with a group, the schedule necessary for making miles, his close calls, and more. We are then joined by Ned Tibbits, founder of Mountain Education, a non-profit, public charity wilderness school that has been teaching people how to safely backpack year-round since 1982. Ned gives us even more nitty gritty detail about his advice for navigating the Sierra in high snow, including the safest time to enter the Sierra, the proper traction equipment, managing water crossings, and more. A lot of Ned and Daniel’s advice overlaps, some of it deviates.

Importantly- the advice issued in today’s show is for informational purposes only. This is not intended to and should not be relied upon solely for how to navigate dangerous, backpacking conditions, which the PCT is sure to offer this year and beyond. Please seek the guidance of a skilled instructor for learning how to backpack through high snow and do not rely solely on any podcast, this one included.

We wrap the show with two very embarrassing stories for ole Badger.

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Interview with Daniel Winsor and Ned Tibbits

Time stamps & Questions

00:05:54 – QOTD: Do you prefer dry food or wet food?

00:09:42 – Reminders: Take our listener survey! Support us on Patreon!

00:11:23 – Introducing the episode and Daniel

00:13:47 – Tell us your outdoors experience.

00:16:52 – What prep did you do before hiking the PCT in 2017?

00:20:19 – How much of your prep was self-taught versus watching tutorials?

00:23:50 – Tell us your start date and when you reached Kennedy Meadows.

00:26:00 – What was your mindset at the start of the Sierra?

00:29:49 – What were other people’s mindsets at the start of the Sierra?

00:36:10 – Did you encounter sketchy parts of trail prior to reaching the Sierra?

00:39:05 – Which conditions are better for crampons versus microspikes?

00:43:30 – What are your opinions on snowshoes or skis?

00:48:08 – What other gear changes did you make going from desert to snow?

00:55:00 – What were the snow conditions like given that you were so early in the season?

01:03:10 – Discussion about 2017 Sierra incidents

01:18:30 – Can you talk about your approach to water crossings?

01:23:06 – Was there a chain of command within your group?

01:27:38 – What other non-obvious advice do you have?

01:29:42 – Walk us through the schedule of your typical day in the Sierra. 

01:32:30 – What other elements were particularly difficult to deal with?

01:36:15 – What signs did you look for to indicate if you were walking over water?

01:39:23 – If someone was on the fence about the Sierra this year, what should their thought process be?

01:42:25 – Where to find Daniel’s book

01:44:15 – Introducing Ned Tibbits

01:45:53 – Tell us about hiking the PCT in 1974.

01:51:00 – How did you plan your PCT hike?

01:54:18 – Were there other people on the trail?

01:55:20 – How did you stay so connected to the trail all this time?

01:59:15 – Have you ever estimated how many hours you’ve spent traveling on snow?

02:01:35 – Can you put into context what we’re looking at for the 2022-2023 winter?

02:09:38 – Is March the right time to start, or no?

02:15:58 – Do you have thoughts on the safest window for entering the Sierra?

02:20:28 – What day would be Ned Day?

02:24:14 – What are the requisite skills a PCT hiker should have before arriving at Campo?

02:29:50 – Can you talk about an ice ax versus a whippet?

02:38:00 – Is using a whippet ever risky during water crossing scenarios?

02:49:10 – Discussion about traction

03:01:10 – What’s your take on the appropriateness of snowshoes?

03:06:27 – Can you talk about pitching a tent in snow?

03:11:30 – What’s your top advice for dealing with water crossings in a high snow year?

03:25:29 – For river crossings in general, what shoes should I wear?

03:31:51 – Where can people find more information from you?


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Comments 2

  • Chris Browder : Apr 3rd

    The radio episode with Daniel Winsor is quite good. He is a very well spoken guy. I am starting the PCT is late May this year. This has some great advice. Thanks!


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