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  1. #1

    Default Is a SoBo solo thru hike of the PCT too ambitious for first time hiker?

    I am a 26 year old male (will turn 27 on the trail).

    In good physical shape and plan to be in excellent shape. Three weeks of training already. Have two months to go.

    I love traveling solo as it seems to be in my nature to do so. I have one night of stealth camping under my belt in the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate bridge. I was cold. I was scared on and off. I went to sleep to a foggy ominous bay. I woke to nothing but blue skies and the glorious Pacific. I loved that experience and I do love nature.

    Financially I am in a place to do this thru hike.

    I plan to start most likely in mid-July. I still have so much to learn. Nutrition, water filtration, first-aid stuff, mapping and how to use a compass, how to set up my tent and work with all my gear. But I have time. I plan to start doing beach shakedowns (I am training in northeastern Florida).

    My question for White Blaze is... am I being slightly naive in attempting this. Is starting in the rogue Cascades in mid-July maybe even first week of August not reasonable for someone without extensive experience?

    Thank you.

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    You might be better off switching to an AT SOBO this year or if you can wait do a traditional PCT NOBO starting next year.
    Remote for detachment, narrow for chosen company, winding for leisure, lonely for contemplation, the Trail beckons not merely north and south, but upward to the body, mind, and soul of man.


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    Rybir, just go do it! You're 27, not 7, so man-up and hit the trail! You can accomplish your hiking goals with drive, determination, and mental toughness.

    By the time I was your age I had already served in combat (Vietnam), completed undergraduate and graduate school, was working on my Phd in Forensics, had 6 years experience as a law enforcement officer, and had been married for one year. Yeah, a lot to wade through, but it's a matter of girding your loins and toughing it out.

    Now go hike that darn trail!

    OkeefenokeeJoe

    PS .... this is the kinder, gentler me.

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    I really hate to say this because I believe it's great to push out ones comfort zone but yes, based on the other thread about maps I really believe you would be better served by doing a different route, possibly even a flip flop on the PCT starting in Tahoe. The hikers that have successful completely SoBo thrust are generally very strong and experienced hikers. WHat makes a SoBo tough is that you have to start off immediately with what would be the most challenging part of the hike, No Wa with snow. NOBoers have 700 miles and a couple of experiences with snow before they hit the Sierra. SOBoers hit it on day 1 and IMHO snow in No Wa is a much tougher proposition than Sierra snow which is pretty straight-forward.

    Others may say just do it but unlike the AT where you end up doing a section hike, many SoBoers discover in the first days that they can't make it, attempt to jump south only to discover there is no realistic option that doesn't involve slogging through miles of snow. This ends up being an epic weekend hike. Further, there will be incredible schedule pressure. With a 7/1 start you have about 3.5 months to make it through the Sierra. (OCtober in the Sierra will be a crap shoot with fresh snow.) That comes out to an average of about 20mpd which doesn't sound bad until you end up getting way behind of snow in the north.

    Go to trail journals or postholer and find a few journals from 2011 or older of SoBo trips. It will be enlightening for you because there is a very common theme. Again, I not trying to discourage you rather steer you toward a more realistic plan. Check out the photos in my 2011 journal and watch the date. Even in August we had major snow to deal with, not a big deal for us since we had hundreds of mile of experience with snow down south. On paper the snow up north matched 2011 pretty well but time will tell the rate of the melt out.

    http://www.postholer.com/journal/Pac...ter-Lake/25464

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    I really hate to say this because I believe it's great to push out ones comfort zone but yes, based on the other thread about maps I really believe you would be better served by doing a different route, possibly even a flip flop on the PCT starting in Tahoe. The hikers that have successful completely SoBo thrust are generally very strong and experienced hikers. WHat makes a SoBo tough is that you have to start off immediately with what would be the most challenging part of the hike, No Wa with snow. NOBoers have 700 miles and a couple of experiences with snow before they hit the Sierra. SOBoers hit it on day 1 and IMHO snow in No Wa is a much tougher proposition than Sierra snow which is pretty straight-forward.

    Others may say just do it but unlike the AT where you end up doing a section hike, many SoBoers discover in the first days that they can't make it, attempt to jump south only to discover there is no realistic option that doesn't involve slogging through miles of snow. This ends up being an epic weekend hike. Further, there will be incredible schedule pressure. With a 7/1 start you have about 3.5 months to make it through the Sierra. (OCtober in the Sierra will be a crap shoot with fresh snow.) That comes out to an average of about 20mpd which doesn't sound bad until you end up getting way behind of snow in the north.

    Go to trail journals or postholer and find a few journals from 2011 or older of SoBo trips. It will be enlightening for you because there is a very common theme. Again, I not trying to discourage you rather steer you toward a more realistic plan. Check out the photos in my 2011 journal and watch the date. Even in August we had major snow to deal with, not a big deal for us since we had hundreds of mile of experience with snow down south. On paper the snow up north matched 2011 pretty well but time will tell the rate of the melt out.

    http://www.postholer.com/journal/Pac...ter-Lake/25464
    ]

    I appreciate the sincere answer. And what if the snow melts out significantly come August 1st? Then north Washington and a SoBo hike will be more about just getting through the Sierras in October?

  6. #6

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    Maybe it is appropriate to skip Washington and start farther south in Oregon that way I can enjoy the hike more and not have to race. I really do not want to feel significant pressure. That is not why I am doing the hike. I know a SOBO AT will be better in regards to that, but I also really desire the remoteness of the PCT. From what I have been reading the AT, even SOBO may not feel that remote with roads, powerlines, and NOBO hikers.

  7. #7

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    Just a bump to gain other input.

  8. #8

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    It's not so much experience you need... although, that is helpful. But a steady head and a lot of nerve will get you far too. It's hard to tell always, who's going to make it or not, who's got what it takes.

    While a world of difference, I started by AT thru with only 3 weekend overnights under my belt. 2,500 miles later I started another thru, and partly due to the expectations I now had, it was unbelievably harder..... I've seen people with far less experience than I do just fine, whereas at times my own fear gets the best of me. Some of the worst weather I've been out in, I've bailed off the trail, only to realize that really, at no point had I actually been 'in danger' or cold.... I was just afraid I would be. Reading 'Southbound' by the Barefoot Sisters, with no more experience than I, they battled a cold winter, storms and conditions that would have pushed me off the trail easily.... perhaps. But they had guts, and common sense, and each other.

    Safety in numbers.

    I know it's unlikely you'll find someone ready to go hike with you, but starting with someone you 'meet' here, on the trail, or on the fb PCT SOBO 2016 page, can make a difference. It doesn't sound like you'd be dumb and put them in danger; err on the side of caution, listen to experience of others, be as prepared as you can be. But having someone nearby can help, in the beginning as you get your trail legs. I know of many others who are looking to see when other people are starting, for this same exact reason, to gain some of that safety in numbers. That doesn't mean they save you or you're counting on them, but having people around can help. I know I'd like to start near others, since I don't know the west coast well, and I'm talking to everyone I can about weather conditions!

    So short story long, no, it's not entirely irresponsible for you to attempt a SOBO thru. What it takes is guts, common sense, and the best preparation you can do. Nature is wild and dangerous even for the most experienced hiker, so listen to your own limits. It's ok to bail, but know that you might not be able to for a couple days, and don't expect emergency rescue....

    And best of luck!!

    Follow your dreams, believe in your Self and your Intuition, and if your intuition says this is a bit much, a flip flop or leap frog or any other kind of hike might be what fits your enjoyment and safety best. It's wild out there, but there's also a wealth of knowledge available nowadays, which I know is helping me a ton!

    Hope to see you out there! I'm 'Nuthatch'

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by sarah1021 View Post
    It's not so much experience you need... although, that is helpful. But a steady head and a lot of nerve will get you far too. It's hard to tell always, who's going to make it or not, who's got what it takes.

    While a world of difference, I started by AT thru with only 3 weekend overnights under my belt. 2,500 miles later I started another thru, and partly due to the expectations I now had, it was unbelievably harder..... I've seen people with far less experience than I do just fine, whereas at times my own fear gets the best of me. Some of the worst weather I've been out in, I've bailed off the trail, only to realize that really, at no point had I actually been 'in danger' or cold.... I was just afraid I would be. Reading 'Southbound' by the Barefoot Sisters, with no more experience than I, they battled a cold winter, storms and conditions that would have pushed me off the trail easily.... perhaps. But they had guts, and common sense, and each other.

    Safety in numbers.

    I know it's unlikely you'll find someone ready to go hike with you, but starting with someone you 'meet' here, on the trail, or on the fb PCT SOBO 2016 page, can make a difference. It doesn't sound like you'd be dumb and put them in danger; err on the side of caution, listen to experience of others, be as prepared as you can be. But having someone nearby can help, in the beginning as you get your trail legs. I know of many others who are looking to see when other people are starting, for this same exact reason, to gain some of that safety in numbers. That doesn't mean they save you or you're counting on them, but having people around can help. I know I'd like to start near others, since I don't know the west coast well, and I'm talking to everyone I can about weather conditions!

    So short story long, no, it's not entirely irresponsible for you to attempt a SOBO thru. What it takes is guts, common sense, and the best preparation you can do. Nature is wild and dangerous even for the most experienced hiker, so listen to your own limits. It's ok to bail, but know that you might not be able to for a couple days, and don't expect emergency rescue....

    And best of luck!!

    Follow your dreams, believe in your Self and your Intuition, and if your intuition says this is a bit much, a flip flop or leap frog or any other kind of hike might be what fits your enjoyment and safety best. It's wild out there, but there's also a wealth of knowledge available nowadays, which I know is helping me a ton!

    Hope to see you out there! I'm 'Nuthatch'
    Why thank you Nuthatch. Inspiring words grounded in reason too.

    I am considering a flip flop of sorts thanks to this very thread. Possibly starting at Lake Tahoe in late July and working my way towards the border. But I still actually do not know when I can even be free to leave (extenuating circumstances) so that is causing me some difficulty in planning. I think if I knew when I would be able to go this would all be a bit easier. Either Late June, or some time in July.

    The safety in numbers thing is hard for me because one of my primary purposes of this is to be solo. Truly. However, I am open to help and helping others always.

    So much to figure out. But I am committed to the PCT regardless of how I hike it, when I hike it, where I hike it. It still would be nice to just start in WA and methodically head SoBo. I've been researching SWE and it looks to be around 50% of the average snowpack in WA and OR which I hope translates to the snow melting faster.

    We will see.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rybir View Post
    Why thank you Nuthatch. Inspiring words grounded in reason too.

    I am considering a flip flop of sorts thanks to this very thread. Possibly starting at Lake Tahoe in late July and working my way towards the border. But I still actually do not know when I can even be free to leave (extenuating circumstances) so that is causing me some difficulty in planning. I think if I knew when I would be able to go this would all be a bit easier. Either Late June, or some time in July.

    The safety in numbers thing is hard for me because one of my primary purposes of this is to be solo. Truly. However, I am open to help and helping others always.

    So much to figure out. But I am committed to the PCT regardless of how I hike it, when I hike it, where I hike it. It still would be nice to just start in WA and methodically head SoBo. I've been researching SWE and it looks to be around 50% of the average snowpack in WA and OR which I hope translates to the snow melting faster.

    We will see.
    Start SOBO from Stevens Pass. A steady supply of money is the greatest predicator of success when considering a thru-hike.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sasquatch! View Post
    Start SOBO from Stevens Pass. A steady supply of money is the greatest predicator of success when considering a thru-hike.
    Why Stevens Pass? Less snow on the ground possibly? Easier access from Seattle? From Stevens Pass can I get through to the Sierras with a little less stress with a late July start?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rybir View Post
    I am a 26 year old male (will turn 27 on the trail).

    In good physical shape and plan to be in excellent shape. Three weeks of training already. Have two months to go.

    I love traveling solo as it seems to be in my nature to do so. I have one night of stealth camping under my belt in the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate bridge. I was cold. I was scared on and off. I went to sleep to a foggy ominous bay. I woke to nothing but blue skies and the glorious Pacific. I loved that experience and I do love nature.

    Financially I am in a place to do this thru hike.

    I plan to start most likely in mid-July. I still have so much to learn. Nutrition, water filtration, first-aid stuff, mapping and how to use a compass, how to set up my tent and work with all my gear. But I have time. I plan to start doing beach shakedowns (I am training in northeastern Florida).

    My question for White Blaze is... am I being slightly naive in attempting this. Is starting in the rogue Cascades in mid-July maybe even first week of August not reasonable for someone without extensive experience?

    Thank you.
    You have virtually ZERO time ascertaining whether you even like to walk and walk and walk and walk and walk. Yet you are going diagonally across the country more than 3000 miles going all in on a 2700 mile hike which from the get go will be a vast change from what you're accustomed in many ways. You'll be faced with many unknowns. You will certainly be challenged and challenged differently in perhaps significant aspects then say a NOBO PCTer. Despite the name Pacific Crest Trail you will not really see or profoundly experience the Pacific Ocean on the PCT which you seem to have enjoyed in the Marin County headlands. If you like experiencing the Pacific coast than maybe that is where you should be focusing your outings. The Marin County Headlands as awesome as they are are just the tip of a scenic worthy walk of much of the west coast.

    Olympic NP(especially the coastal segments!), Oregon Coast Tr, National Seashores, oodles of west coast SPs, the various Redwoods NP's/SPs, perhaps segments of the more forgiving Cali Coastal Tr(CCT), Lost Coast Tr(part of the CCT), etc all could be a better fit for you currently? You could make it into a backpacking slash sightseeing experience falling back to what it sounds like you enjoyed in the past if the LD backpacking doesn't fully pan out as you anticipate it will. Don't get hung up on exploring the most recognized routes and trails such as the TC trails or being recognized for hiking those trails. This country has an abundance of hikes that could be more in line with what will deeply satisfy your soul.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    You have virtually ZERO time ascertaining whether you even like to walk and walk and walk and walk and walk. Yet you are going diagonally across the country more than 3000 miles going all in on a 2700 mile hike which from the get go will be a vast change from what you're accustomed in many ways. You'll be faced with many unknowns. You will certainly be challenged and challenged differently in perhaps significant aspects then say a NOBO PCTer. Despite the name Pacific Crest Trail you will not really see or profoundly experience the Pacific Ocean on the PCT which you seem to have enjoyed in the Marin County headlands. If you like experiencing the Pacific coast than maybe that is where you should be focusing your outings. The Marin County Headlands as awesome as they are are just the tip of a scenic worthy walk of much of the west coast.

    Olympic NP(especially the coastal segments!), Oregon Coast Tr, National Seashores, oodles of west coast SPs, the various Redwoods NP's/SPs, perhaps segments of the more forgiving Cali Coastal Tr(CCT), Lost Coast Tr(part of the CCT), etc all could be a better fit for you currently? You could make it into a backpacking slash sightseeing experience falling back to what it sounds like you enjoyed in the past if the LD backpacking doesn't fully pan out as you anticipate it will. Don't get hung up on exploring the most recognized routes and trails such as the TC trails or being recognized for hiking those trails. This country has an abundance of hikes that could be more in line with what will deeply satisfy your soul.
    It's funny how this started as "I want to do something challenging and healing and hike for at least a month on my own" to... "well, I am investing all this energy into getting into shape and all this time into learning about long distance hiking that I am going to do the whole PCT".

    With the help of really informative, seemingly nice WB users such as yourself ya'll have helped me rebalance and get in touch with my actual purpose of doing this: to be alone in the wilderness, be challenged in new ways, and be present and immersed with my surroundings.

    Out of the options you have mentioned which would you consider to be more remote? And I mean remote in just less human traffic. It doesn't necessarily mean in the heart of the Cascades during winter kind of remote. I already know this will all be challenging. If the trail I choose happens to be easier in logistical ways that is great. But originally was going to do the AT and then realized the trail culture of the AT may not be what I am currently needing. Thank you.

  14. #14

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    Oh, and actually one thing I am sure about is I love walking forever. So that's good

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    As said on one of your other ongoing threads, having a remote hiking experience can and often does include considerations beyond having to choose the remotest trails/routes.

    Sometimes, it's welcoming particularly as a Newbie LD hiker to have a variety of experiences on the same hike. For example, on a coastal hike as suggested you could be walking on a narrow beach front in a city for a day walking around elephant seals and sea lions followed by forest camping on a wooded knoll overlooking the Pacific at undesignated sites for a few days followed by climbing up ropes over headlands at high tide followed by beachcombing tidal flats for anemones at low tide followed by hiking with no one for a wk followed by walking a short section of dirt/paved forest service road followed by camping with a bunch of hikers/ bikers at a SP followed by hitching a ride from a passing boat to get across the mouth of a river or bay or taking an arranged ferry. Food, navigation, maps, deep gear expenditures, and more/less social/solitude experiences are in keeping with how you design the hike NOT necessarilv the trail you hike in itself. Grasp this: a LD hike includes so much more than hiking. Let it happen. Don't let it pass you by. Embrace it. You'll be embracing more than hiking. You'll be embracing LIFE which sounds like is really what's pulling at your heart strings.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    As said on one of your other ongoing threads, having a remote hiking experience can and often does include considerations beyond having to choose the remotest trails/routes.

    Sometimes, it's welcoming particularly as a Newbie LD hiker to have a variety of experiences on the same hike. For example, on a coastal hike as suggested you could be walking on a narrow beach front in a city for a day walking around elephant seals and sea lions followed by forest camping on a wooded knoll overlooking the Pacific at undesignated sites for a few days followed by climbing up ropes over headlands at high tide followed by beachcombing tidal flats for anemones at low tide followed by hiking with no one for a wk followed by walking a short section of dirt/paved forest service road followed by camping with a bunch of hikers/ bikers at a SP followed by hitching a ride from a passing boat to get across the mouth of a river or bay or taking an arranged ferry. Food, navigation, maps, deep gear expenditures, and more/less social/solitude experiences are in keeping with how you design the hike NOT necessarilv the trail you hike in itself. Grasp this: a LD hike includes so much more than hiking. Let it happen. Don't let it pass you by. Embrace it. You'll be embracing more than hiking. You'll be embracing LIFE which sounds like is really what's pulling at your heart strings.
    Beautifully put. I choose to share this: http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Wild-Count...olo+wilderness

    I practiced with this person. She was great. This book is cultivating my motivation for more of an almost monastic hike. But of course while staying open and present to whatever arises.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rybir View Post
    Beautifully put. I choose to share this: http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Wild-Count...olo+wilderness

    I practiced with this person. She was great. This book is cultivating my motivation for more of an almost monastic hike. But of course while staying open and present to whatever arises.
    Must have been a great experience. I've meditated the book on one backpacking trip. You might also like:

    http://www.amazon.com/Contemplative-.../dp/0578068338 Enjoyed this as my read on the CT.

    The Way of Zen books by Alan Watts. http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&key...l_2053dzeopj_e As I told Sgt Jones on his thread copies of this have been floating around AT hostels, lean dos, hiker boxes for yrs. Very in tune with a contemplative monastic walk.

    http://www.shinrin-yoku.org Japanese Forest Bathing. Practice it in Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest but also back east in remote areas of GSMNP and South Carolina basically hiking in water/swimming/wading/climbing waterfalls upstream to the source.

    http://www.amazon.com/Last-Child-Woo.../dp/156512605X Have enjoyed reading Richard Louv's thoughts.

    Wherever you go, whatever you decide walk your own walk.

  18. #18

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    Awesome. Thank you!

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    Figure I should chime in since I did something similar to this on the AT. I was 25 at the time (2009), and did a 75-day SOBO thru, with almost zero backpacking experience.

    I totally agree on the walk your own walk, hike your own hike, run your own run: I think this is good life advice in addition to hiking advice.

    If you're comfortable being alone for long days and nights, I highly recommend doing it that way -- I can't imagine hiking that long at that pace with anybody else. There will be days you feel great and want to hike until after dark, and days you want to pack it in late afternoon, but those days won't be the same for different people. I think doing a thru hike with somebody else at a leisurely pace is much more doable than doing it fast.

    You want to be light without being insane. Be smart but not obsessive with gear -- an extra pound won't be there difference between a successful and unsuccessful hike. The key to doing a fast-ish thru is putting in consistent miles day after day, which becomes easier with time.

    I can totally understand and completely support the epic adventure that is a thru hike, rather than doing something shorter. This is the reason I did a thru hike with very little experience, and why people do things like run marathons and 100-mile races and sail solo around the world. It's much more exciting to dream big, even if we sometimes bite off more than we can chew. As long as you go into it with the right attitude and preparation, you'll get a lot out of it and learn something important about yourself regardless of whether you triumphantly get to Mexico or end up limping off the trail somewhere in Oregon. It's all about the journey, not the destination.

    (I didn't intend to get all philosophical. Oops.)

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Walking Thunderbird View Post
    Figure I should chime in since I did something similar to this on the AT. I was 25 at the time (2009), and did a 75-day SOBO thru, with almost zero backpacking experience.

    I totally agree on the walk your own walk, hike your own hike, run your own run: I think this is good life advice in addition to hiking advice.

    If you're comfortable being alone for long days and nights, I highly recommend doing it that way -- I can't imagine hiking that long at that pace with anybody else. There will be days you feel great and want to hike until after dark, and days you want to pack it in late afternoon, but those days won't be the same for different people. I think doing a thru hike with somebody else at a leisurely pace is much more doable than doing it fast.

    You want to be light without being insane. Be smart but not obsessive with gear -- an extra pound won't be there difference between a successful and unsuccessful hike. The key to doing a fast-ish thru is putting in consistent miles day after day, which becomes easier with time.

    I can totally understand and completely support the epic adventure that is a thru hike, rather than doing something shorter. This is the reason I did a thru hike with very little experience, and why people do things like run marathons and 100-mile races and sail solo around the world. It's much more exciting to dream big, even if we sometimes bite off more than we can chew. As long as you go into it with the right attitude and preparation, you'll get a lot out of it and learn something important about yourself regardless of whether you triumphantly get to Mexico or end up limping off the trail somewhere in Oregon. It's all about the journey, not the destination.

    (I didn't intend to get all philosophical. Oops.)
    I am happy you veered from your intentions. As of now it looks like I am going from Sonora Pass to the Klamath Mnts and just see what happens along the way. That really aligns with thw hike your own hike thing for me. Thank you for sharing. I love WB

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