We set out to hike from Mt. Hood to North Terminus, exiting Canada (Manning Park BC), roughly 560 miles in a month.   We ended up with 217.4 miles in two weeks, ending in Stehekin, WA.

Total Miles Hiked: 217.4

Total Elevation Gain:  48,661 ft.

Total Elevation Descended:  52,161 ft.

 


6/22/2017 – Austin

One week to our departure at Mt. Hood. Leaning on my law partners for coverage. Reminding clients of that email I sent 6 months ago explaining my absence. Shipped out first resupply boxes.  Last minute gear selections.  Scouring blogs and snow reports for Northern Cascades. Its a huge snow year.   Looks like we’ll be hauling microspikes, ice axes, and puff jackets.

My niece Trisha and her boyfriend Luke (Tink and Pan) are two weeks into their SOBO AT adventure.  Just completing Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness, they have their blog up at https://girlhikestrail.wordpress.com.


6/30/2017 – 7/02/2017 – Mt. Hood to Cascade Locks

Total Miles Hiked: 50

Total Elevation Gain:  8,107 ft.

Total Elevation Descended:  13,731 ft.

We hiked into Cascade Locks, Oregon on Sunday 7/2/2017, 50 miles into our journey.   We had left Timberline Lodge on the Western flank of Mt. Hood two days ago, late morning.   That day we made 14 miles, five of which were in and out of snow.

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We constantly lost the trail under several feet of snow and used GPS to get back on track.  We could not have found our way without GPS and Halfmile’s app.  There were faint tracks at times, but these disappeared on hard packed slopes.   Our first several miles were a mile an hour, kicking toe holds in snow.  We used microspikes and ice axes to traverse 45+ degree slopes.

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By 3 pm, we doubted we could make 10 miles, until the snow finally gave way.  We were slowed by blow-downs–massive evergreens blocking the way.  Some lay length-wise in the trail with no way around but to climb up and over through branches.

Sandy River

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Late afternoon, we made quick miles as we cruised down mountain for the Sandy River.  We could see where the Sandy dropped off the glacier with falls.  3,000 foot below, there was a  dangerous raging crossing.  A make-shift log crossing was all but washed out.  A couple skinny logs were there but not secure.  Sasha followed me across one and it gave way on her. She kept balance and backed to shore. I dropped my pack and crossed back for her.  We finally found a wider, slightly slower spot for a wet crossing.

Ramona Falls20170630_185318

After the Sandy River, we took the Ramona Falls alternate route, crossed Zig Zag river on a great log, and climbed a thousand feet to a dry camp on Bald Mountain.  We made camp at 9 pm with headlamps to set up tent and cold dinner.

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Saturday was a 20 mile day for us as we exited the Mt. Hood zone and headed north.   Clouds slipped through Lalo Pass at 35 mph and chilled the air.   There was several thousand feet of elevation gain and loss all day.

Twelve miles into the day, Sasha twisted an ankle, and I was not sure she would get up.   We were 10 miles from nowhere.  I gave her three ibuprofen and wrapped her ankle with duct tape over her sock.  She rested 45 minutes then moved on slowly, limping.  Hiking poles helped.

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Luckily, we had good ground and easy grades.  We traveled Indian Mountain and thought about camping at Indian Springs.  But, we pushed on another three miles to finish the day on the shore of Wahtum Lake.   Wahtum Lake is the source of East Fork Eagle Creek.

Zpacks Duplex tent at Wahtum Lake

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Sunday 7/2/2017, we broke camp and decided to take the Eagle Creek alternate route to Cascade Locks.

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It was an 18 mile day following above Eagle Creek through dense rain forest, water  crossings, and spectacular Eagle Creek gorge.  Tunnel Falls is astonishing.  Much of the day was spent on narrow paths carved into the cliff following numerous falls.  This is Eagle Creek on 7/2/2017 just before the devastating fire set by a couple teenage idiots with fireworks:

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We later heard that on July 4th a fire closed the PCT  behind us at Indian Creek above the Eagle Creek gorge.   Eagle Creek was then lit on fire by a couple teens throwing fire works into the gorge.  The Indian Creek and Eagle Creek fires merged and burned over 33,000 acres all the way to the Columbia River.  The fire jumped the Columbia River into Washington State.  It destroyed verdant forests among Oregon’s crown jewels.  When the rains hit, fire will be replaced by mudslides over previously pristine natural wonders.  If ever there was the case for public flogging of arsonists, it the loss of Eagle Creek.

We arrived in Cascade Locks mid-afternoon, happy for the comfort of town stop.   July 3rd, we pick up our resupply and cross the Bridge of the Gods into Washington State.

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7/03/2017 – 7/06/2017 – Cascade Locks, OR to Indian Heaven, WA

Total Miles Hiked: 107.6

Total Elevation Gain:  21,374 ft.

Total Elevation Descended:  22,823 ft.

We made Indian Heaven Wilderness on Thursday 7/6/2017, 104 miles into our hike and another 4 to the forest road.

The Monday before, we walked across Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River to enter Washington State. 20170703_104446.jpg

We gradually regained elevation over 14 miles.  Lots of timber harvested close to the trail.  Mountains steepened.  Sasha had nine blisters and aching arches.  I had knee pain. It was hot.  We ended the day in a dry camp with a cold meal.

Tuesday, was July 4th.  We climbed and descended steep grades all day, mostly in a green tunnel of rain forest.  We camped at the Wind River.

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Wednesday, we climbed 3,500 feet very steep miles out of Panther Creek. There was a 10 mile dry section.  We badly underestimated our water carry and ran short with over 5 miles to the next source.  We ate all of our fruit cups before we could get to a spring and spend an hour rehydrating.  The day ended with 16 total miles, slowed by the steep terrain.

Thursday, we set out for Indian Heaven Wilderness, hoping to make up lost miles.  Sasha remarked that she wished to meet a trail angel.

Trail angels volunteer their time, home, car, or resources to help hikers.  Some store caches of water on dry sections of trail.  Others give a ride to town, provide a meal, or even open their home.

At Indian Heaven Wilderness, we climbed through spotty snow then increasing snow pack starting at 3,800 feet–picking our way up steep drifts, breaking through ice bridges, losing and regaining the trail, ankle-deep streams coursing the trail, slowing our pace to a crawl.  We decided the conditions were too extreme to justify the risk in remote wilderness.  So, we turned back.

We hiked back down to Crest Camp and found a Forest Service crew supervisor.  He confirmed similar conditions north, expected to last late into July.

In 7 days on trail, we never saw a PCT southbounder.  We met one woman who was hiking from Seattle to Portland and had stayed mostly below the PCT due to snow.    We heard that some northbounders had skipped Sierra snow and were making their way north to the same area as us, but we never saw them.

This might be the end of our attempt this year.

From Crest Camp, we set out for Trout Lake, a small hiker-friendly town east of the PCT.  But, a Washington State goverment truck stopped and offered a ride to Carson. I won’t name the agency since the truck was “For Official Use Only.”

Road walking out of Carson, a truck stopped ahead of us.  Two women got out and waved us over.  They offered a ride to Cascade Locks.  We jumped in.  Turned out one was Jules, a trail angel who is a manager at Cascade Locks Ale House.  The driver was its owner, Shelly.  Jules maintains a well-stocked hiker box at the back of CLAH and a jounal with hiker entries going back to 2016.  The food and service at CLAH are awesome.  And, we got to meet a couple of true trail angels.

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From 7/7/2017 to 7/10/2017, we made our way back to Portland then departed by rental car for Washington State.  We drove up the coast, toured the Olympic peninsula, and took a ferry to Seattle.  There, we made plans for our return to the trail.

 


7/11/2017 – Stevens Pass

We are heading back out where the PCT crosses through Stevens Pass Ski Area. We sent resupply boxes to that location, and they never made it.  So, we restocked at Safeway in Everett on Monday.  I also bought a new fuel canister at the REI mothership in Seattle.  It takes up a city block and has its own its own trail within an urban forest and stream.

We have given time for more snow melt and see that some southbounders are now flowing through the area we are headed to.


7/11/2017 – 7/18/2017 – Stevens Pass Ski Area to Stehekin

 

We hiked to the Stehekin Ranger Station on Tuesday 7/18/2017, finishing our section hike with 217.4 miles.

On 7/11/2017, we left Stevens Pass Ski Area and hiked in six miles to camp at Lake Valhalla.   There was patchy snow at this 4,906′ elevation.   Lots of water and biting insects.

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We had three huge snow basins in successive days.  The first was a six mile stretch between Cady Pass and Wards Pass.   We found ourselves in micro-spikes and ice axe late in the day with heavy snow cover and no place to camp.   Getting desperate, we were close to pitching tent on a flat slab in an exposed boulder field but there was no nearby water source.  Plenty of now but no melt.    Miraculously, we passed to the west slope and found a high camp with bare spots in the snow.  We woke up in a cloud bank and put on all our layers to start the day.

20170714_153526

20170713_144237

The next snow hazard started on White Mountain, above White Pass.  The trail traverses a 70 degree slope high on White Mountain as it climbs to Red Pass.  There were a few short snow fields on the traverse.  We took two with no problem.  The third was dangerously steep.   We started the traverse with spikes and ice-axe.  Shortly into the pitch, I kicked in a foot hold that collapsed under my left foot.  I dropped about a foot before catching again.  The ice axe kept me balanced.   Very close to a deadly fall.   From there, we backed out and reassessed.   We decided to climb down the cliff, bypass the snow field, and climb back up to the trail.     In the middle of it, a southbound thru-hiker started the same traverse from the north, backed out and by-passed below as we did.

Well down the cliff, Sasha spotted a very old but still live Winchester .338 magnum cartridge.   It is a powerful stopping caliber carried for bear or large game.  She shoved it in my pack for keepsake.

20170714_125003

We rounded White Mountain for Red Pass, and a snow bowl opened up beneath.  Far below, we saw the specks of two thru-hikers climbing up the bowl.  We put on snow pants, picked our way down the steepest pitches then started glissading (sitting and sliding with an ice-axe to arrest our speed).   It was thrilling.  We slid down to the two thru-hikers in minutes–pretty sure they hated us by then.

After exiting the snow field, we had a long descent along White Chuck River, making huge mileage.  The river had several foot bridges across it but one crossing was either ford or log walk.  We took the green and wet log and both fell off simultaneously.  We were banged up and wet.  I busted my chin and knee. Four hiking poles went into the water and one of mine was washed away.

The final major snow field was at Fire Creek Pass.  At lunch, we met Sneaky Elf.  She is a section hiker who started the PCT in 2014 and now has only a few hundred miles to complete it.   On this trip, she was going from Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass in our direction.  Turns out she started at Stevens Pass the day after we did, and caught up with us after hearing from south bounders that we were there.   We enjoyed the next several days walking and camping with her, hearing about her trail adventures and life in the Pacific Northwest.

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When we reached the top of Fire Creek Pass, we looked over the edge and found a steep drop covered in snow.  Looking down the bowl, we could see the trail pop out of snow occasionally.   The first steps down from the top were hair-raising.   Sneaky Elf had spikes but no ice-axe.   A slip could not end well.    I led slowly, kicking foot holds.   We worked out way down the steepest grades with no mishap.  Unfortunately, there were no good slopes for glissade.  They were either too steep, rocky, or flowed away from the trail.   We picked our way down watching for ice bridges and meeting several thru-hikers on their way up.

Near the bottom, snow melt raged under an ice bridge.  There was no good way around it.   There was a set of tracks across, but the bridge looked hollowed out.   It could collapse at any moment.  A couple thru-hikers on the other wide were debating the route.  I stepped forward, poking with hiking pole and stabbing with ice-axe to test the bridge.  It felt solid.  It held.  We crossed.   This was a sketchy call.  If the bridge collapsed, one or more of us would fall into the rushing snow melt and be carried under the glacier.

20170717_18441720170712_151329

By this time, we were running into about a dozen southbound thru-hikers a day.   They were great sources of information about trail conditions ahead.  We figured we had seen that last of the difficult snow.   But, they warned about miles of shoulder high raspberry bushes and ferns covering the trail at the river gorges.    The morning after Fire Creek Pass, we had over four miles of bushwhacking up-mountain in a cloud bank.

20170717_185511After clearing the major snow fields, we averaged 18-20 miles per day.   This is about what we needed to complete Timberline to Northern Terminus in 30 days.  With the snow, we averaged 14-16 miles per day.   So, our trip itinerary  was too optimistic for this year’s snow conditions.   We could not make the mileage.

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The climbs and descents in Washington are steep and relentless.   Over the course of our section hike, we climbed close to 50,000 feet and descended even more.  Unlike the High Sierras, Washington State portions of the PCT lack long, wide valleys.  As soon as you reach the bottom and cross the river, you typically climb steeply up the next mountain.   Sasha had numerous blisters, arch and ankle pain every day.  I had right knee pain every day.   Even with lot of vitamin I, Washington State is very physically demanding.

We decided to call it a trip at Stehekin.  We exited with a 4 hour ferry across Lake Chelan and took the Amtrak from Wenatchee to Seattle.

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Pacific Crest Trail Cascades Section Hike Planning

Gear List

ITEM

OUNCES

PACK

Gorilla 40

Gossamer Gear – Gorilla 40

35.7

Phone case

Gossamer Gear shoulder pouch

1.5

Pack liner

Gossamer Gear

1.2

Food Sack

Zpacks + line

1.4

Dry Sack

Sea to Summit

1.2

Ditty bag

Gossamer Gear

0.4

SHELTER

Tent

Zpacks Duplex + 8  stakes

21.0

Quilt

Enlightened Eqmt Enigma 20°

15.4

Pad

Therm-a-Rest Foam

10.0

PACKED CLOTHING

Hard shell

Montbell rain jacket

8.6

Midlayer

Voormi hoodie

7.0

Pants

Kuhl Airstream Rain Pant

9.5

Belt

Slide belt

6.5

Socks

Stance performance crew

2.1

Underwear

Icebreaker boxer

3.2

Knit cap

Pistil

1.8

Gloves

Black Diamond polartech

1.7

HYDRATION

Filter

Katadyn Befree + Hydrapak 1 lt

4.0

2 lt bladder

Platypus

1.3

750 ml flask

Hydrapak SF750 + carbiner

2.5

COOK

Burner

Optimus crux light

2.5

Fuel

Isopro gas canister

7.4

Kettle

GSI

6.0

Cup

Snowpeak titanium 450 mug

2.0

Spork

Snowpeak titanium spork

0.5

Lighter

Bik

0.6

HEALTH

First aid kit

Wound care, pins

3.3

Meds

Ibu, allergy, stomach

2.5

Toilet paper

Biodegradable

1.0

Trowel

Tentlab Deuce UL + bag

0.8

Soap

Campsuds, glasses cleaner

0.9

Towel

MSR ultralight pack towel

0.9

Tooth brush

Tooth brush + paste

1.5

Lip balm

Lip balm

0.4

Sun screen

50 SPF

2.4

Insect repellant

100 DEET

1.6

Insect net

Sea-to-Summit

0.7

Trash bag

Disposal bag

0.3

TOOLS

Headlamp

Black Diamond Ion

1.6

LED

Inova microlight keychain LED

0.5

Duct tape

50″ roll

0.5

Charger

Gumm ++ charging pack + cords

5.5

Pen

Sharpie

0.4

Papers

Passport + permits

1.5

Card holder

Flowfold Minimalist

0.6

Trail Data

Yogi’s

3.7

WEARABLES

Poles

Black Diamond Distance Z Carbon

10.0

Rx glasses

Oakley polarized

1.2

Base top

Patagonia Capilene base shirt

3.6

Shorts

Nike Dri-Fit running shorts

4.3

Knife

Benchmade Saddle Mtn Skinner

6.1

Watch

Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar

2.7

Phone

Samsung Active S7

6.9

Socks

Stance crew socks

2.1

Shoes

Saucony Peregrine 7

20.4

Hat

Cap

3.0

CONSUMABLES

Water

750 ml

25.0

Food

6 – day supply (28 oz / day)

168.0

Pop tarts, carnation, dry milk

Oatmeal, granola bars, crackers

ProBars, nut bars, nuts

Peanut M&M’s, snickers, cookies

Jerky, tuna

Peanut & almond butter

Fruit cups & gummies

Olive oil

Dehydrated meals, tortillas, chips

Tea, coffee

Electrolytes

BASE WEIGHT (OZ)

185.06

BASE WEIGHT (LBS)

11.57

CONSUMABLES (OZ)

193.00

CONSUMABLES (LBS)

12.06

TOTAL PACK WEIGHT (OZ)

378.06

TOTAL PACK WEIGHT (LBS)

23.63

 

Itinerary

Scheduled 2017 – Mt. Hood, OR to PCT Northern Terminus, exit Manning Park, BC.

Day

PCT Mile

Mileage

Location

1

2094.5

0

Timberline Lodge, OR

Departure

3

2144.4

50

Cascade Locks, WA

Resupply

7

2226.4

82

Trout Lake, WA

11

2292.4

66

White Pass, WA

Resupply

16

2390.6

98.2

Snoqualmie Pass, WA

19

2461.6

71

Stevens Pass Ski Area, WA

Resupply

25

2569.4

107.8

Stehekin, WA

Resupply

30

2659.9

89.5

Manning Park, BC

Exit

Tot. Miles

564.4

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