Atmospheric River Challenge

Atmospheric River Challenge

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    Hey all!

    Foxx here – as the title implies, just curious what others make of the current conditions out on the west coast of the US. It seems like for the past five or six years now someone is getting all giddy over a sudden onslaught of precipitation out in California. I was certainly watching it intensely last year. My 2022 PCT hike depended on some delay to the inevitable water depletion and scorching wildfires. I was sad to see the ‘faucet get turned off’ mid January and never turn back on. This year seems a little different, though it’s too early to say I have hope that some of the draught damage will be healed.

    Call me an odd duck, but I was really looking forward to a heavier snow season last year in the High Sierra. I even bumped my start date up a week in hopes of catching a bit more snow under my feet. Must be the daredevil side in me – I just feel it would be more satisfying to traverse the passes without being able to see the trail as much as I did. There was one day when a bunch of hikers got dumped on with 6-7″ of ice and snow. The following morning the drifts made it impossible to identify where the trail was. This had to have been one of my favorite memories. I was the first one to leave camp and I got to experience this feeling of ‘trail blazing.’ Maybe my views would be different had I experienced the high snow year of 2017. It could also have something to do with New York placing a priority in safety above all else. Out on the east coast (or at least NY) all park trails have fencing and other measures in place to prevent anyone from being at risk of injury. The notion seems sound, but I don’t take a hike out in the wilderness to be reminded of Uncle Sam watching out for me.  I carried snow pants, an ice ax, and crampons with me for a reason!

    Anyway, hopefully everyone is staying safe out in California. I would be interested in hearing from anyone that has hiked in a high-snow year on the PCT, and if they felt it was more rewarding to tackle because of the more extreme conditions.


    Yes it’s fun in California right now! Honestly, I think the media is making a bigger deal out of it than what it is…but we are getting a lot of rain in Southern California and snow in the high country. We will see if it keeps up as far as being a big snow year.

    I hiked the PCT in 2019 which was a bigger (and later) snow year. There was a large snowstorm in May! Hiking through those conditions was wild in the Sierra, but I entered at the worst time (early June as all of the snow was melting). This made for dangerous river crossings and very slow going. Started postholing at 9am! I would have been better off entering in May I think, as the nighttime temps would have made the snow more frozen and easier to traverse during the day. Not to mention easier river crossings with lower flow and snow bridges. For many reasons, I ended up skipping part of the Sierra to return later and finish.

    This being said, hiking in the snowy Sierra remains one of my favorite and wild memories. I look at the photos I took and am still in awe that I hiked through some of it! It is one of the most extreme things I have ever done, and part of my soul still lives there.


    I’ve had the good fortune to backpack in the Sierra every years since 1999 (high snow year). That was an interesting experience.. ha ha. I did not go in 2020 due to covid so I backpacked the Smokies that year.

    I’m planning the Tahoe Rim Trail in 2023 and I’m hoping to go earlier enough to be able to do some snow travel. Every year when I’ve planned hikes to the Sierra there is a ton of chatter about too much snow, no snow, rain, fire etc etc. Honesty, I don’t stress at all about it. It’s too speculative and will remain speculative for months… I just plan knowing I might have to call an audible along the way… but thats just me. I enjoy the unknown 🙂

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