SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – The snowpack in the Sierra this year is nothing short of legendary, making hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer quite an undertaking.
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The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the spine of California, from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington.
KCBS Radio Reporter Kris Ankarlo is keeping up with a group of five hikers over the next few months as they attempt to make the 2,650 mile journey.
Among the hikers is Sue Damgaard, whose trail name is "The Darkness." She's a nurse in Bishop, California and is three weeks into her journey after starting on May 1. This will be the second time Damgaard has hiked the PCT.
Laila Cohen started her hike April 11. She had a big scare on a ridge top in Southern California when she slipped and had to use her ice ax to stop from sliding off.
"Up until then I was like yeah, I'm going to go straight through, I'm going to see what the Sierra looks like when I get there and assess and probably give it a good college try, and now I'm a bit more cautious," she said.
Maggie Schoemann, a Truckee resident, started her Northbound trip on May 1. "Have I ever thought about canceling my hike because of the snowpack?" Maggie considered. "No."
Jonathan Riordan, an EMT and whitewater raft guide, lives in Western Massachusetts. He began his journey along the Pacific Crest Trail on May 8. Riordan has already hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Arizona Trail and is hiking the PCT to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
At mile 209.5, hiker Kyle Pierce had to leave the trail for an emergency dental visit, but is now ready to hop back on. He began on April 8.
"My permit is to go to Canada," he told KCBS Radio. "My goal is to do it in a continuous footpath." Pierce said he's one of the few people who want to approach the PCT in this way.
According to the UC Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab, snowfall has surpassed 62 feet this winter and spring, making it the second snowiest season since the CSSL was built in 1946.
Scott Wilkinson with the Pacific Crest Trail Association said the keyword for hikers this year is "flexibility."
"Definitely are seeing many hikers postpone their plans, look for places they can go which are, frankly, very far and few between, where there's not so much snow or at least not any snow," Wilkinson told KCBS Radio.
Drowning is a big deal on the trail, as is falling. The snowpack has already caused failure of at least two critical bridges which cross rushing creeks in remote mountains. This means people will have to reroute.
"Once this thaw happens, if you cross a river during a thaw it can just break through and then you die," Pierce warned. "If I'm not past Yosemite by the thaw, I'm going to have to really change up the hike because at that point, if I continue, I'm just being very risky with my life."
The Pacific Crest Trail Association encouraged hikers to be prepared, understand the risks and be willing to do whatever you need to do to minimize those risks, if not avoid them altogether.