Gear List: Yosemite High Route + PCT/JMT in July

By Andrew Skurka / July 8, 2019 / 12 Comments

For several years my High Sierra guided trips have been in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park in September, when conditions are predictably comfortable (mild days, crisp nights, little precipitation, and no bugs or wildfire smoke) and when there is less backcountry traffic. But for a change in scenery, this year I scheduled them in Yosemite in…

Quickstart guide: Gates of the Arctic National Park

By Andrew Skurka / July 5, 2019 / 3 Comments

Even within Alaska, the Brooks Range — which extends 700 miles across the state, from the Canadian border to the Chuckchi Sea — is considered to be the ultimate wilderness. It’s crossed by just one gravel road, has just one tiny Native village within its mountainous core, and has no man-made hiking trails. Gates of…

New snowpack tool: Satellite imagery for CalTopo + GaiaGPS

By Andrew Skurka / July 3, 2019 / 4 Comments

The peak backpacking season is almost here, and many backpackers with planned trips in the Mountain West are asking the same question: “What is the current state of the snowpack?” This is especially the case in areas that had wet winters and springs, notably the High Sierra, Colorado, and Wyoming. Historically, I’ve relied on SNOTEL…

Long-term review: Western Mountaineering AstraLite || Very warm & light

By Andrew Skurka / June 13, 2019 / 16 Comments

In a one-week period in April I fielded three inquiries about the Western Mountaineering AstraLite, which was released in spring 2018 and which I’ve used for about 30 nights while scouting the Yosemite High Route in August, guiding trips in Sequoia-Kings in September, and enduring cold-and-wet conditions in West Virginia in May. I will use…

PSA | Hazardous High Sierra creeks: List, map & alternates

By Andrew Skurka / June 10, 2019 / 29 Comments

Every spring, creeks in the High Sierra rage with snowmelt. For one to two months, they are a grave danger, especially after wet winters like 2018-19. Backpackers can still hike, camp, and explore safely, but they should be aware of and respect this hazard. Swift and deep creek crossings will be found throughout the range,…

Gear List: Gates of the Arctic National Park, Brooks Range, Alaska in early-summer

By Andrew Skurka / June 7, 2019 / 19 Comments

In the second half of June I’m running four 7-day guided trips in Gates of the Arctic National Park, split between two guide teams. Gates encompass the western half of the famed Brooks Range, which spans 1,000 miles across Alaska and which arguably offers the greatest wilderness trekking in North America. The terrain and conditions…

Drop 4.4 oz from the ULA Catalyst in 5 minutes

By Andrew Skurka / June 6, 2019 / 37 Comments

For 5- and 7-day guided trips this summer in the Brooks Range and Yosemite National Park, I plan to carry (and review afterwards) the ULA Catalyst. Its key specs: 48 oz (3 lbs 0 oz, 1360 grams) 4,600 cubic inches (75L) Twin aluminum stays Durable fabrics throughout Generous hipbelt pockets and front stash pocket Made…

The Trail Show: Episode 82 is live

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2019 / 1 Comment

Last month I hosted The Trail Show crew for a multi-hour recording of Episode 82, which is now live. They’re a great group and it was a fun evening.

Why are thru-hikers already in the High Sierra?

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2019 / 77 Comments

Last week an alumnus, Rod, sent me photos of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers in the High Sierra, climbing over Forester Pass. The photos were taken May 26, but he didn’t know the party. (Update, June 7. In a recent Instagram post, these photos were credited to Justin McCormick, and are of Jonathan Frankson and Abby.…

Wilderness medicine training: When have I actually applied it?

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2019 / 13 Comments

This past weekend I took my biannual wilderness first responder (WFR) and CPR re-certification courses. Between refreshes on the patient assessment system, prerequisites for a FSA, and rescue breaths, I thought about the instances over the past eight years when I’ve had to apply my training. As a new WFR in 2011, I remember being…