This hike is a race. I have to finish it before October 1st when snow conditions in Washington will be too dangerous to continue. So, why didn’t I choose to leave March 15th to give myself enough time? Because I have the Sierra Mountains to cross and the rule of thumb is that you cannot enter the them until June 15th. That was especially true in 2017 when there was record snow there. In fact, most hikers of the Class of 2017 skipped that section, hiked to the Northern Terminus. Some went back and finished what they missed, but many chose to end their hike there.
My start date is April 6th. In general, it takes about 40 days to get to Kennedy Meadows. With an April 6th start, I would expect to get to Kennedy Meadows about May 20th or so. I left a bit early because it is not possible for me to train going up and down mountains in Wisconsin. That and I’m not 20 years-old any more.
What would I do if I cannot enter the Sierra Mountains for nearly a month? Visit friends! I lived in California for ten years. I might even go home for a bit. It is no big deal.
It is February 8th. How is it shaping up? Some pictures will help. Here are the current snow depths in the mountains.
Now we need two examples. The first is last year, a high snow year.
Clearly there is a big difference there. What is the first year that looks the same? That would be 2015.
2015 was a big drought year. That year it was pretty much safe to enter the Sierra Mountains right away. That is good news for me. That path is being made clear.
That being said, there is a side affect to all of this. Less snow also means less water on the trail. I will have to carry more and water is very heavy. My base weight of 15 pounds is equal to six liters of water. I might need to carry six liters regularly if conditions are similar to 2015. So, the good news is that the path through the Sierra Mountains looks safe. The bad news is that it is going to be hot and water will be scarce. I wanted an adventure. I’m going to get one.