20 May Taking a 26-Zero on the PCT
Having hiked 650 miles from the Mexican border at Campo to Walker Pass in 37 days without having a single zero day, I’m now taking a 26-Zero. That’s 26 days off the PCT. Over this break I’ve eaten a lot, but I’ve also started back with some high intensity training by pushing my heart rate to 160 plus during short workouts. I have to admit that the eating has happened more frequently than the training.
The reason for this planned return to Roswell, Georgia was the expected birth of my first grandchild. It’s a BOY! His birthday is May 9, 2018 so I made it on time. His name is Declan. Here is Declan with me, Grandpa Uphill.
I also wanted to be back for my daughter, Maura’s college graduation, and to spend time with my wife, Sandra, who I will miss a great deal when I return to hike the final 2000 miles of the PCT. So May 9th was a busy day. Maura’s college graduation and Declan’s birth happened within a few hours of one another.
Since I left for the PCT in a hurry, having been in the office at work one day and on the trail the next, there was a lot of incomplete PCT planning. Now I have 26 days to catch up. First, I need to prepare all of my mail resupplies. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks running back and forth to the grocery store, ordering via Amazon, dehydrating food, vacuum sealing food, sorting food, finding myself short of food, and repeating the process. I’m tired of working on the mail resupply and want it to be over. It has been chaotic. Right now the resupplies are sorted into grocery bags and laid out in the hall in an order only I understand. Here they are.
The first bag on the left contains the food that I’m carrying with me for the first 4 or 5 days. Other bags on the left at the far end of the hall contain resupply for the High Sierra section of the trip where all food will need to fit into a Bear Vault.
Here is a photo of some of the contents of my resupply for the 10 day hike between Tuolomne Meadows and Vermillion Valley Resort in the high Sierras. Before sending, 20 tortillas will be added. All will need to fit in a Bear Vault. I will probably need to empty the oatmeal and almonds out of ziplocks and dump directly in the Bear Vault to make everything fit.
Even before returning to Georgia, I had been rethinking my PCT hike plan. Many thru-hikers were ready to plunge into the high Sierras in early May or even late April. I, on the other hand, considered the added effort of hiking through snow that would still be present in June. Upon my return, I plan to skip north 440 miles from Walker Pass to Highway 50 near South Lake Tahoe. I’ll be able to cruise through Northern California without trail snow slowing my progress and wearing me down physically. By the time it gets hot, I’ll be out of Northern California. With luck, I’ll beat much of fire season with it’s likely detours and guaranteed hazy skies. After reaching Canada, my plan is to return to South Lake Tahoe and hike south for 440 beautiful snow free miles and finish up at Walker Pass.
My first look at PCT Trip Planner predicts that I will reach Canada on September 10th. Here is the PCT planner link for my hike. Click here to see hike plan from South Lake Tahoe to Canada. Returning to South Lake Tahoe, I’ll need to finish the first 350 miles of the remaining 440 miles before any show stopping snow hits in September or October. The last 90 miles between Lone Pine and Walker Pass are pretty safe from heavy snowfall.
I checked on snow information for the first 70 – 80 miles of my return to the PCT at South Lake Tahoe and found that I may get a little taste of trail snow. Here is a recent graph of conditions showing 100 miles from South Lake Tahoe to Sierra City. The blue line indicates the maximum historical snow water equivalent. The green line is the current percent of historical snow water equivalent. The yellow/orange line is elevation. The green bumps between mile 1095.6 and 1121.0 is the area around Dick’s Pass. The last green bumps is just beyond Donner Pass.
For a closer look at Dick’s Pass, I used the photo below from Jenn Hikes 2017 PCT blog. Here is the link to her blog entry for the day she hiked over Dick’s pass. Click here go to Jenn Hikes – Day 74, Dick’s Pass . This will be the same trail section I’ll start off with on the first day of my return to the PCT. By the way, Jenn and her companion, Colton, are my PCT heroes. They braved incredible challenges on their 2018 PCT hike. It’s a blog worth reading.
This is the view from the top of Dick’s Pass, looking north toward Dick’s lake. It was taken last year (2017) a full 2 months later in the summer than when I’ll be passing this point in late May. Can you imagine the snow that would have been here in May 2017?
You can see why I have a little concern about the snow I’ll encounter here in late May. My plan was to skip sections that would require my ice axe, but the snow reports give me second thoughts. I haven’t heard stories of treacherous ice along this section, but I don’t really know. For now, I’ll plan on leaving the ice axe at home and bringing only the microspikes.