In 2017 many people told me on trail that they wouldn't finish because they spent too much time trying to get through the Sierras, or waiting out the snow between Kennedy Meadows and Bishop. After hiking 2,000 miles in 2017 and thru-hiking the PCT in 2018, I've talked to a lot of people that missed a thru-hike by 150 to 500 miles, or 660 miles for me in 2017. For many people, their miss was predictable and avoidable.
2019 looks like another high snow year, so if a thru-hike is important to you, the schedule math below should be important to you as well. Everything is keyed to your average hiking pace. For a NOBO hiker that's often what you find comfortable when you hike the Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows section, or just a little above that pace. I've added a zero/resupply day every 8th day and set September 27th as your finish date in Manning Park, because weather usually gets dicey around then.
There are speed adjustments for each section since the Sierras are a lot slower than Oregon. More details on how I calculated trail days for each section, as well as a discussion of each trail section and flipping, are in this post: Calendar Math
|Average Pace in miles per day by Kennedy Meadows|
|Manning Park (finish)||27-Sep||27-Sep||27-Sep||27-Sep||27-Sep|
Here's a simple way to read this chart:
- Hiking pace of 20 miles per day or below: In a high snow year, you have to increase your pace, or plan on a flip to finish. It's unlikely that you will be able to go up into the Sierras safely and make good miles by early June. In 2018, which was a low to moderate snow year, many people did successfully go up into the Sierras by early June. Read this post for options: Calendar Math
- Hiking pace of 22.5 miles per day: if you can get up into the Sierras by mid-June, a straight-thru hike should be in the cards. But ... if you find the snow too slow or get tempted to "wait it out" you risk running out of time for a finish at the Northern Terminus. Key point: get back on trail rather than cool your heels for an extra week or two, even if it means a skip or flip.
- Hiking pace of 25 miles per day or longer: you probably don't need this post to make the miles. It might just be interesting context for you as you chat with slower hikers.
Putting all this math aside, just stay on trail and don't underestimate how long 2,661 miles takes to hike. In 2018 I did not set out to do a thru-hike, but I did stay on trail and a thru-hike just sort of happened. You can read about my 2018 hike here: My Accidental Thru-Hike
Good luck, and enjoy your hike. I'll be on the PCT in the Sierras in 2019.