Our plan to spend a single zero in Bishop morphed into two zeros. I guess we should know by now that the PCT doesn’t care about your plans. Like our plan to continue back up from Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth.
As I mentioned before, the reports of the stream crossings in that section are not encouraging. In fact, they’re downright scary. Even worse are the reports of the crossings north of Tuolumne. It’s likely that water levels will only rise in the next couple of weeks. After a couple days of cool weather coming up (including more snow…), it looks like things will be significantly warming up. That’s great for getting rid of the high snow levels, but not so good for stream crossings.
We’ve played around with multiple options. At first we thought we could continue to Piute Pass, but then we realized that the turnoff is after the Evolution Creek crossing. Reports are suggesting that the water would be over my head and that I’d have to swim across… not a plan I’m comfortable with as a Plan A.
Then we considered continuing to Bishop Pass and exiting there. This would still leave us with potentially significant crossings that previous hikers were able to use snow bridges on, but which are likely gone by now. We’ve also heard second-hand that the Bishop Pass route might be a little sketchy. I’d love to see more of the Sierra in the snow because it’s been beautiful, but we’d end up having to skip north after this section and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the conditions.
Finally, there’s the option to skip north and return later to finish the skipped miles. The problem with this option (aside from my personal preference not to skip), is where to skip to? We know that there is snow pretty much everywhere. We don’t know a lot beyond that. Reports from people north of here primarily focus on the snow and need to navigate, but that’s not what we’re trying to escape — we’re trying to escape the river crossings. Piecing together the information that we’ve found, it seems like Sierra City is a good place to skip to, but it’s unclear what current conditions are. It’s also close to Reno, where we need to be in less than two weeks to fly to another wedding.
So basically, we’ve spent the last two days prepping a resupply for an unknown section, quizzing other hikers about their plans, and eating (because that’s what we do in every town). From hour to hour we’ve either been trying to come to a decision, or changing our mind as to our decision.
It’s been agonizing for me. While most hikers we’ve talked to have decided that they aren’t comfortable going back in to the Sierra (including Sam and Tam), there have been a few that say they’re going back. It sort of feels like skipping is taking the easy way out, even though I know (when I take emotions out of the picture) that skipping is probably the smarter (safer) choice.
So, long story short, it looks like we’ll skip ahead to Sierra City, hike to Belden, and then heard back to Reno to catch our flight. We’ll start trying to hitch up to Sierra City in the morning.
One recent discovery that’s made this decision easier is my review of Wired’s (my favorite blogging thru-hiker) account of her 2011 PCT hike. That year was a record snow year as well, so the fact that she was able to make it through without skipping made me feel like a bit of a failure for choosing to skip. Then I checked out her post and picture of their Evolution Creek crossing). It looks like the crossing was at knee height — that’s a big difference from the chin height on someone who’s 5’9″ that we’re hearing about. This isn’t to diminish her accomplishment, but more to point out that big snow years are not all alike. The river risk simply appears to be different this year. Knowing that oddly makes me feel a lot better about our decision.
So that’s it I guess. Hopefully the snow that’s expected tomorrow won’t be too significant and the conditions north of Sierra City will be an improvement. Wish us luck!