Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Final thoughts

I arrived at High Bridge ranger station about 2:00 on Friday, 11/9.  The station was all closed up for the season and I was preparing to road hike into Stehekin when a truck drove up the road.  Wrong direction for me but I decided that if I start hiking, the truck would be returning.  Sure enough, I had a ride after a few minutes of road walking.
I had a warm welcome when I got into town.  Even though everything was shut down, I received some needed food from a NPS worker - thank you!  I was permitted to make a phone call and left a message with my parents that I would be coming out at Chelan.  Then I was invited to join Ranger Kate and her partner for dinner.  We mostly talked about I'm Fine and his account of being lost for 2 weeks.  Last she knew, he had caught a ferry out to Chelan and ended his hike.  (little did she know he came back the day before and continued on to the border)
Spent 2 days waiting for the ferry since it was on a limited schedule for winter.  The boat arrived and my parents were on it, along with Flatlander.  He had gotten off trail during the Oct 18th snowstorm, gone back home to the Midwest and then drove back out for another attempt at finishing.  We decided to combine forces for the last 70 miles and headed to Chelan.  We would come back for the 20 miles from Stehekin to Rainy Pass at another time.
It started to snow that night.  We woke up to 8" of powder the next morning.  That did not deter us as we made our drive around to Rainy Pass.  In Winthrop, I resupplied, rested and readied myself for the last push.    We devised our plan, exit strategy if needed, and such.
At 5:30 am on 11/13, Flatlander and I headed up to the pass.  It was snowing pretty hard and it was difficult to get motivated with the uncertain weather.  The forecast had called for clearing skies.  We started up the trail after seeing a small break in the clouds.  Trail conditions were fine but it was slow going once we climbed above treeline.  I accelerated once I saw the pass and found myself in the lead - breaking trail - from that point on.  Cutthroat Pass at 6800' had deep snow cover and locating the trail was a little difficult.  What complicated the situation was the prior snow that had iced over but was hidden under the new snow cover.  The cleats from my snowshoes had trouble gaining traction and the side slope that we were on became difficult.  Wished I had crampons at that point.
I waited for Flatlander to catch up and asked him to go first since I was getting a little tired from breaking trail all day.  After he went about 20 yards on the steep sidehill, we decided we had enough.  Clearly it was going to take longer than 6-7 days at the pace we were going.  Our speed at this point was about a mile an hour.  We agreed to turn around at that point.
I regret the decision but I would not have gone on alone.  The trail was passable but more snow was expected in 4 days which could have complicated the situation.  I'm not an avalanche expert and I didn't want to learn any lessons the hard way.  
Its been hard trying to readjust to city life.  Nice to see my friends again.  Trail life is started to fade into memory.  Gear is put away, beard is gone, hair is cut, and weight is being put back on.  I'm glad there still is some of the PCT that I haven't hiked.  It gives me something to look forward to next year.      


  1. Way to give it a go Paul. Major respect.

  2. Sounds like the right decision. What have accomplished is very impressive. November is a suck ass time to be high up in the North Cascades. I've really enjoyed reading about your progress. Hope to give it a shot someday myself.