[pct-l] PCT in Washington

Barry Teschlog tokencivilian at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 24 10:06:56 CDT 2017

Jim said, in re the subject:"it it travel able need some feedback i was thinking sobo"
There was also a question from the same poster:
"how are trails vvr to Yosemite,,  around may 20   ,, would it be better to start from Hart's pass  can anybody help with ???"

Washington right now is still buried under many feet of snow, and will be until well into June before the first significant stretches melt out.  Note that the earliest clear parts of the PCT in northern / central  Washington are around Stehekin & the Suiattle River, due to the unusually low elevation at these locations.  Either side of these sections are significantly higher in elevation and will be snow bound until the noted time frames.  There will still be significant snow in places until well into July.  Early season hikers in Washington must be ready to deal with snow covered trail in both forest and on open, steep hillsides.  Navigation in forest is challenging.  Slips and falls in either case can result in slides into rocks / trees.

As for VVR to Yosemite in mid / late May, unless the Sierra gets sustained 110 degree days and 80 degree nights starting about now, the PCT is likely to be more or less still solidly covered in snow around May 20th.  If the question is to start at Hart's Pass on May 20th in lieu of a VVR to Yosemite area hike, note that it's unlikely that the road to Harts Pass will have melted sufficiently to drive there.  WSDOT is currently clearing (plowing / snow blowing) the north Cascades Highway (to Rainy Pass, 31 trail miles south of Harts Pass and significantly lower in elevation).  They're 2 weeks into what they estimate to be an 8 week job, which will put it about first of June, roughly.  Typically there is still feet of snow at Rainy Pass when they complete this task.  The PCT is substantially higher in elevation north of there.
North Cascades clearing can be monitored at:http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/Passes/NorthCascades/updates2017.htm
Google "Snotel" and look for both the Rainy Pass and Harts Pass sensors for a guide to the melt in the area.  Note that a "zero" SWE reading on a Snotel sensor doesn't mean the trail is clear, it just means the sensor is at zero.  Experience indicates that substantial snow lingers for 2-4 weeks, sometimes more, beyond when a sensor reads zero.  

Also understand a quirk of geography of the PCT.  In Washington, the passes are usually the LOW points of the trail, with respect to the local terrain, while in the Sierra, the passes are the high points.  Ridges generally are north south in Washington and the trail descends from the ridges on either side to the pass.  In the Sierra, the ridges are more east west and the trail ascends to the pass to get to the next drainage.

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