[pct-l] Late Start 2014

Steve Rolfe steve.rolfe at comcast.net
Tue Oct 1 15:42:23 CDT 2013


You should be concerned about a late start.  Summer in the Washington
Cascades begins on July 5th and ends on Labor Day.  You should have a
bailout plan if your hike goes beyond September 15th.  I'm not suggesting
you can't complete the hike in late September or early October, but I am
suggesting in some years it can be difficult to impossible.  So, you should
plan to either wait out the really bad weather or bailout so you can live to
try again.

Two weeks ago I was in the Goat Rocks.  The temperature in Seattle was 93
degrees; a record.  At 7000 feet it must have been in the high 70's.  Last
week it snowed two feet.  Today, Crystal Mountain Ski Resort opened for
skiing; also a record! I've woken to 8 inches of snow on my tent on
September 15th near Washington Pass; had to cancel my climb of Liberty Bell.
I've climbed Sahale on October 30th in beautiful weather; it snowed the next
day closing down the Cascade Pass trail for the season.

In most years in the Cascades there will be many nice days in September, but
almost certainly there will be a few really harsh days of high winds, heavy
precipitation and cold temperatures.  When those days occur in early
September they are just unpleasant (really unpleasant, miserable). Those
days may pass quickly followed by pleasant fall weather.  Each day later in
the month the chance the storms are bigger and colder increase.  By October
there will almost certainly be some really nasty winter weather in the

Experienced winter travelers can navigate parts of the North Cascades most
months of the year, but only with the right skills, right equipment, careful
route planning to avoid avalanches and helpful weather.  Don't let anyone
talk you into being macho and toughing it out, however.  Once snow covers
the trails navigation can become difficult to nearly impossible to find the
trail.  And, travel over new unconsolidated snow is very difficult and very
slow, and potentially very dangerous along some of the steep sections of the

Hiking the entire PCT is a very hard task -- in the summer.  In the fall in
the Washington Cascades you will experience winter conditions some of the
days which require very different equipment, skills and experience than what
you will have experienced in the preceding months.

PS May isn't any better.  May is the second most likely month for avalanche
fatalities in Washington as people begin to venture into the mountains
again.  In the higher elevations there will still be many feet of snow on
the ground and it can snow several feet of new snow.  In good weather spring
hiking and climbing can be great fun especially since hiking on consolidated
snow can be easier on the body that hiking on harder ground.  But, severe
winter weather conditions can also occur anytime in May and sometimes in


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