PCT 2017 Conditions


I am a 48 yr old male with a fundamental aptitude in the back country, mostly focused around single day technical rock walls. I’ve been blasted off of Bear Creek Spire in a snowy thunderstorm in late July and I have stood on the summit of Russel after a sunny, albeit windy ascent of Mithril Dihedral, a must do which I would climb again in a heartbeat given the oppty. (previous as examples only). I have spent weeks at a time in the back country peak bagging and have been pinned down more than a few times not only in the Sierra, but also the Rockies and the Winds.

So once upon a time, I decided that I would wait to do the PCT and it turns out that the year that Karma has thrown me in terms of everything aligning in “real life” is this year. For those of you who had not heard, the La Nina this year was supposed to keep the Jet Streeam farther north…NOT. And so a plan morphs and adapts.

I know it is a little early to make generalizations about what specific sections of the Sierra are going to be like in mid-may of early June, but I am curious if anyone has any first hand experience with the objective avalanche danger along route that one might choose to navigate the PCT in a high snow year. My initial thought is to leave KM early and hope to beat the worst parts of melt and bring along a bit of climbing gear (assorted nuts, a few’biners, a few 60 foot sections of Cordage and a maybe 6 double length runnners to protect sketchy river crossings and potential rock and ice moves if necessary. I also plan to carry/use snow shoes at least to Red’s Meadow.

We have a lot of winter to go, but I am hoping to get honest and objective feedback from someone who spends time during the winter above between Forrester and Bishop passes. I’d ask Pete Croft but I don’t have his number so any constructive feedback is appreciated.


Todd Cantor


I don’t understand a lot of what you wrote and something about the tone makes me unenthusiastic to reread it (maybe I’m just lazy). l left KM in mid-June in '05 after a high snow winter and a slow melt spring. I found crampons very useful whereas snowshoes would have been unnecessary. Even with high cfs at river crossings, sun-cupped snow and post-holing late in the afternoons, “the worst parts of melt” were not bad at all. Navigation was a bit challenging and I was happy to have the smaller scale color topo maps. Definitely hiked with the ice ax in hand for maximum confidence. Forester was fun but it wasn’t wintertime, sorry about that. I saw minimal avalanche debris and I don’t feel that I faced much avalanche danger. If you’re going in May and it’s snowing in May, avalanche risk may be greater. Please start a trail journal, post a link in this thread and best of luck. Keep us posted and happy hiking!

Jewel Thief


If you don’t mind carrying all the pro, i think you’ll be fine. Thing is, it will be more mess and a couple of cornices than very much technical. I guess i’ve heard of people doing some mild-Sierra-Class-3 in order to avoid Mather and Forester passes.

I’m not an avalanche expert, but the few similar situations i’ve read about in the Sierra (and late May '17 is almost certainly not going to match up with mid-June '05!) downplay the avalanche danger. With both that and iced slopes, a little patience and planning probably makes it so you can hit things at the right time of day and be safe. Don’t believe me entirely, but also don’t believe the IMPASSABLE freaked out crowd. Very few PCT hikers and hangers-on have your climbing experience. Your “just fine” is probably my “that’s worth being careful” and that equals “you’re gonna die!” to the majority of advice you’ll get.

A bigger deal will probably be what you keep having to deal with north of the High Sierra. If you’re through in May or early June, you’re going to have snow cover the majority of the way to Oregon. That’s fine on a short trip, but on a thru-hike when you need to make consistent miles for weeks, being on Week 10 of snow travel wears down even the strong, mentally and physically.

I wish i were out there this season, but i would probably try to time it to hit the High Sierra in late June. That will probably be still extremely snowy.



From several reports I have read, I provide the following:

Current Snowpack:
Percent of Average for
March 27.

N Sierra: 145%

Cen. Sierra: 174%

S Sierra: 166%

Ca State: 163%

The Sierra snow pack has dropped from 201% in the South since March 1st to 166% as of the 27th. Still alot of snow up there. Be careful, be prepared and have a safe trip thru the Sierras.