Trip Planning

Categories

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…

Snowpocalypse 2019: Expected “summer” conditions in the High Sierra & southern Rockies

By Andrew Skurka / March 28, 2019 / 71 Comments

California, Oregon, Nevada, and the Four Corners states have been drenched this winter, with snowpacks now about 150 percent of their normals. If you have scheduled backpacking trips in the High Sierra or southern Rockies in June or July, and to a lesser degree August, here is some reading for you: 1. Today on my…

Backpacking Gear List Template + 3-season Checklist

By Andrew Skurka / March 13, 2019 / 49 Comments

Completing a gear list is one of the most important and most beneficial steps in preparing for a backpacking trip. A fully featured gear list can be used to: Pack virtually (and avoid a gear explosion in the guest room), Organize systems (e.g. clothing, shelter, kitchen), Calculate pack weight, Budget and track new purchases, Prepare…

Just released: CalTopo app for Android

By Andrew Skurka / December 22, 2018 / 13 Comments

The website CalTopo has been my go-to mapping platform for four over years. I primarily use it to make and print topographic maps, including for all of my guided trips and high route guides. It has come a long way since I began to use it, with regular improvements to the user-interface and imagery database.…

Tutorial || Wildfire & smoke management: Strategies & resources

By Andrew Skurka / August 15, 2018 / 7 Comments

For the past month I have been watching the Ferguson Fire, a 100,000-acre blaze on the western outskirts of Yosemite National Park, to assess and predict its effects on my planned backpacking trip there next week. I had to change my destination airport (to Reno instead of Fresno) and I’m expecting some smoke, but fortunately…

Tutorial: How to predict backcountry weather conditions || Methods & sources for short & long trips

By Andrew Skurka / June 3, 2018 / 20 Comments

I have said this before, and continue stand by it: there is a right way to backpack: equip yourself with the gear, supplies, and skills that are appropriate for the conditions and your trip objective. Among the conditions that I consider (there are about 10; view the full list), the weather — specifically temperatures, precipitation,…

PSA: Secure your permit now for Pfiffner Traverse

By Andrew Skurka / March 14, 2018 / 0 Comments

Public Service Announcement If you have not already, you should apply for your backcountry permit for Rocky Mountain National Park if you plan to attempt the Pfiffner Traverse this summer. The permit system in Rocky Mountain is similar to Glacier and Yellowstone: camping is permitted only in specific backcountry sites and a few at-large zones.…

It’s the vertical, stupid: How many days should I budget for a high route?

By Andrew Skurka / March 12, 2018 / 22 Comments

Last week on r/Ultralight, member u/TeddyBallgame1999 asked multiple questions about the Wind River High Route, including: The essence of this question — “How long will it take me?” — has been posed before, in the context of the WRHR and similar routes like the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, Pfiffner Traverse, Glacier Divide Route, and…

No longer #snowpocalypse: Just an “average big winter” for the High Sierra

By Andrew Skurka / April 9, 2017 / 15 Comments

Through the beginning of March, California was having an extraordinary winter. Snowpack in the High Sierra was keeping pace with the wettest winter on record, 1982-83. If the trend had continued, conditions would have been very challenging for aspiring Pacific Crest and John Muir Trail hikers, due to extensive lingering snowpack and high run-off, probably…

Reader question: Should I change my High Sierra itinerary due the heavy snowfall?

By Andrew Skurka / February 21, 2017 / 133 Comments

A reader question from Gabino: I’m sure that every backpacker planning to undertake the PCT, JMT, Sierra High Route, Kings Canyon High Basin Route, or any other high-elevation route in California’s High Sierra is wondering the same thing right now. Here are some thoughts: California’s snowpack: The Facts There are many ways to record and analyze…