Snow Advanced Courses, 2017
So, you want to:
- Thru-Hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but you’re not too good with snow?
- Snow-Hike something a little more challenging than the SIC course?
- Start your hiking season as soon as the snow stops flying?
- Get into the High Country early and start exploring?
- Start your NoBo PCT thru-hike and learn your steep snow skills as you enter the Sierra and go up Mt. Whitney!
- Start your SoBo PCT thru-hike and learn your steep snow skills your first 3 days from Harts Pass to Monument 78!
This Course is for you!
What is a Snow Advanced Course (SAC)?
This is an opportunity to learn how to safely snow-hike on steep and slippery terrain, on conditions that would be closed and unsafe to the average summer backpacker.
It is designed to show you what the Sierra and North Cascades high country looks like when buried under consolidated, spring snow and teach you the requisite snow skills that will enable you to get around with savvy and confidence!
California’s High Sierra:
6-day, PCT Thru-hikers-Only (PTO), Chicken Spring Lake to Kearsarge Pass TH:
If you will be north-bound on the PCT after Kennedy Meadows and do not yet know your snow skills, we will come to you, again this year, and teach you what you need to know to stay safe and wise right where you’ll first hit snow and high creek crossings! We hike with you from Chicken Spring Lake, near Cottonwood Pass, through 5 creek crossings, up Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the Continental United States, and over the wall called Forester Pass! Bring boots, hiking-crampons, tall gaiters, a Whippet self-arrest pole, cold weather clothing, and an extra day of food! Only current-year NoBo PCT thru hikers. Read the Full Course Description for more info!
SAC-7: For Early-Season JMT or Future PCT thrus
7-day, Horseshoe Meadows to Kearsarge Pass TH:
These SAC courses inject themselves into the 6 or 12-day courses and start at the Horseshoe Meadows Trailhead. This version is for…
- future long-distance thru hikers (PCT, CDT, JMT, etc.) who want to learn and practice their requisite steep snow skills on the high PCT/JMT and who are already “trail-strong” from lots of hiking or training.
- current year PCT, CDT, or JMT thru hikers
- this is the same course as the Early Season Mountain Advanced Course – JMT
Bring boots, hiking-crampons, tall gaiters, a Whippet self-arrest pole, cold weather clothing, and an extra day of food because we will also be going up Mt. Whitney! Read the Full Course Description (below) for more info!
SAC-12: Kennedy Meadows to Kearsarge Pass TH
This is our classic, “First-In,” PCT-prep course starting at Kennedy Meadows, resupplying (via Horseshoe Meadows) in Lone Pine, going up Mt. Whitney, switchbacking over Forester Pass, then out via Kearsarge Pass to the Onion Valley trailhead! This SAC course is for…
- Those planning on thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail North-bound next year and want to see this year what to plan for. See what your biggest challenge, the snow-covered, high altitude trail, is really like! Learn the skills needed to hike efficiently and confidently over steep snow at 11,000 feet, climb 14,500 foot Mt. Whitney, cruise up and down 13,000-foot Forester Pass, then, go home and complete your thru hike planning based on what you know, not what you fear!
- Those who are not in “trail shape” and want to learn their steep snow skills so they can start exploring the Sierra high country early!
(If you are trying to decide between this and the 6-day version of this course, this one is for you if you are not “trail-strong.” We use the first four days to Horseshoe Meadows to get in shape so our legs are strong enough to safely negotiate the snow slopes past Cottonwood Pass).
Due to early season snow and weather conditions, bring boots, hiking-crampons, tall gaiters, a Whippet self-arrest pole, cold weather clothing, and an extra day of food! Read the Full Course Description for more info!
Washington’s North Cascades: Cancelled for 2017!
For SoBo PCT thru hikers:
3-day, PCT Thru-hikers-Only (PTO), Harts Pass to Monument 78 (SAC-PTO-W.3): Steep snow can be dangerous to the summer, dry-trail hiker who doesn’t already know how to stay balanced, maintain traction, navigate through dense trees, keep from getting wet, live on snow, and self-arrest. So, we meet you at the start of your thru-hike, at Harts Pass in Washington, and teach you all you need to know to be safe on steep snow as you head north to the Canadian Border and Monument 78 for your first three days of your adventure! Bring medium-weight boots, hiking-crampons, tall gaiters, a Whippet self-arrest pole, cold weather clothing, and an extra day of food! Read the Full Course Description for more info!
What You’ll Learn:
- How to find and follow a trail buried in the snow above and below timberline,
- How to find “trail sign” in the woods to know where the trail is located,
- Personal Safety & Enjoyment = Wilderness Awareness,
- How to walk on snow without slipping, falling, postholing, or even getting wet,
- Ascent, Descent, and Traverse skills on steep snow,
- Self-Arrest, Glissading, Boot-Skiing, and Heel-Plunge techniques,
- How to find and get water from a lake or creek without falling in,
- Where and how to hike and camp on snow and still stay warm and dry,
- Topographical Navigation on volcanic, magnetic surfaces without a compass,
- Hypothermia, Frostbite, Exposure, Dehydration, Altitude Sickness, Trail Trauma/Illness, etc
- How to use Hiking-Crampons and a Whippet Self-Arrest Pole,
- Avalanche Awareness and Avoidance,
- How to make safe whitewater creek crossings,
- How to make wise wilderness travel decisions in the middle of nowhere, and
- Emergency Communications, Search & Rescue, and Wilderness Medicine.
Format & Constraints:
We snow-hike with you and teach you how to recognize, avoid, and stay safe while walking on the snowy Pacific Crest Trail. We show you what the snow hazards look like right when you first see them, teach you how to make safe crossings of swollen creeks, show you the skills needed to climb Mt. Whitney and the famously steep, Forester Pass, then route you out Kearsarge Pass. We stop and talk often as we go about our day, so you learn your skills right the first time, then practice on your own, asking questions and getting help as you need it.
Depending on the daily, ever-changing condition of the snow, how soft or hard it is, and the weather, how hot, cold, or windy it is, the amount of time we get to spend on snow constrains how long we can stay, learn, and practice. Although the intent of your course is to teach snow and other wise, wilderness skills, your safety and trip logistics at any given moment is paramount. So, keep in mind that early in the season there will be many miles of snow on which to practice, while later on we may only find snow on Whitney and Forester. Thus, on some trips we may have limited practice time and locations and can make no guarantee that you will have enough of both to develop a sufficient command of a particular skill.
Anticipate lots of email and social media communications about the course’s details, organization, and itinerary. We start training and preparing you before you leave home!
- “Mountain Intermediate” or summer hiking skills,
- “Snow Basics,” equivalent training, or instructor consent,
- Sufficient experience to plan, prepare for, and begin a PCT Thru Hike,
- Clear medical history and strong physical fitness.
- Required equipment and safety gear.