My initial plan was thru-hiking the PCT, starting in Campo, Southern California and ending in Manning Park, British Colombia (Canada). Going NOBO (northbound), like the majority of thru-hikers do. This year, a stunning total of 700 hikers started their trail blazing at the southern terminus in Campo, CA around the end of April. The trail got a lot more (media) attention the last few years, not in the least because a woman named Cheryl Strayed has written a beautiful memoir (a must read) about her own journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. This book has been made into a movie which will be released later this year. Bigger crowds are to be expected on the trail in the next years to come.
The US consulate in Amsterdam thwarted my master plan of going NOBO, by refraining me a visa two times. They invited me back for a 3rd interview, and it was scheduled May 2nd. Way too late to start a northbound thru-hike. Hiking the PCT, you always have to keep in mind that you have a small time window weather wise. So when you’re a NOBO, you would want to opt for a late April start (arriving in Canada before the end of September/beginning of October, before the snow starts raging down on you). Leaving for a SOBO thru-hike, your best bet would be starting mid-June, beginning of July.
Typically, 90% of the thru-hikers head northbound. Why? According to the many blogs and literature I read, going north is easier than going south. SOBO’s (southbounders) facing many challenges:
SOBO’s start in Washington at the end of June, which is still covered in deep snow for the first few hundred miles or so. At the moment of writing, the snow is melting and there’s a high risk of avalanches in the North Cascades. When the snow melts the water in the rivers, fords and crossings will rise so it’s more challenging (or sometimes even impossible) to cross them. Hiking in soft snow during the day makes slows you down and is physically hard. You will find yourself postholing (sinking in the snow, sometimes even knee-hight) all day.
SOBO’s have to climb up snowy north faces and climb down dry south faces. NOBO’s do the opposite, which is easier.
SOBO’s need good navigation skills since the trail is not visible under the snow.
SOBO’s are facing isolation, since there are 700+ NOBO’s this year, but only 50 or so SOBO’s. We WILL meet all of them, at some point.
SOBO’s will reach the Californian desert in late fall, where there will be NO water at all.
So why did I become a SOBO instead of a NOBO?
I wanted to do it this year. I wanted to escape the crowds that are to be expected when the movie ‘Wild’ comes out the end of this year.
Thank you US consulate for refraining me a visa two times, and issuing the visa only one month ago, there was no other choice for me left but going SOBO.
From NoBody to SomeBody. Sounds awesome actually.