Planning a Trip & Logistics

Mark Verber

Helpimg new people list from David Chenault

-take it slow with low miles, I've been absolutely floored at how slow some people are
-go somewhere cool (this can be tricky to coordinate with the above)
-have really good campsites (presume you'll be spending lots of time there, make it the trip highlight)
-limit their space, this summer I have a friend a daypack and said she had to fit all her personal gear in it, then vet the selections without being too snotty
-carry the heavy stuff yourself (on that trip I carried all the shelter and cooking stuff and almost all the food myself)
-try to pick good weather, if at all possible
-assume they can do it, people respond to a challenge, usually


Know what you are looking for:

Very incomplete, but I have a collection of destinations worth considering.

Anticipating Conditions

Make use of weather service

Know that temp drops 6F for every 1k ft, 3.6F every 1k ft if below dewpoint.

Sierras conditions are more predictable that some locations. Learn how quickly your location can vary

Risk Management

Different people have different approaches to anticipating trip conditions and managing that risk.  I think people fall into three buckets.  Below are the categories and how these different stances would effect a person's plans when planning a trip to the Sierras in the fall.

1) Expect the worst. This approach is especially needed for people who are committed to their hike no matter what. This commitment might be due to personal convictions, a sense of obligation... like money spent to take the trip, or the inability to exit. For these sorts of trips, you have to be prepared to survive the worst that could happen given the location you are in. I think this is why folks like Andrew Skurka don't have lists that ounce counters love. This is the approach I grew up with. It's not what I do most of the time because I am prepared to take an early exit if a storm I am not prepared for is on the way... and I have a warning that one of the really nasty storms is coming in the sierras. [There are other parts of the country that I would most likely continue to take this approach. There are also times I wait for the storm (worst = expected) because I want to test myself or my gear in worse case situations]

If I was going to take this approach fall time in the sierra I would most likely take insulation that would keep me safe to -10F, full on rain gear, and a shelter I could manage a 1ft snow drop in. There is at least one early storm in the fall. Typically no earlier than mid-Oct I think, but I am pretty sure I remember one as early as Sept.

2) Expect the best. We have all met people who did this. Sometimes they are ok. Sometimes they get into trouble. Rarely, they die. I don't recommend this, though I have done this on trips where I had early exits that would only take a few hours to execute.

An example of this are people who just bring just windshirts in the early fall, or maybe just a DWR bivy or a ground sheet + emergency blanket. The thinking goes "it almost never rains, and when it does, it tends to be short lived. The humidity is low enough that if you get wet, you will be able to dry out pretty quickly."

3) Expect local "normal", be prepared for local bad. This is the approach I take now. My experience in the sierras is that you can have "local" issues. The rain / hail storms which sometimes hit, typically in late afternoon, the semi-common 40F day/night temp difference, plus the occasional 20F difference between what was expected in a given hour/location (assuming 6F per 1k ft). I plan for these. Unique local change can exceed these by a bit, but typically not a huge amount. We also can have storm fronts which can change the weather much more than this. I don't recall less than 1 day warning that one of these storms is coming to the central sierras, and often we have many days warning. So I plan for the local "normal". If it looks like a storm might develop / arrive during my trip, I either plan for the storms conditions rather than the current (lots of weather sensors we can access) / "normal", postpone the trip, or start the trip but make a commitment to take an early exit if the storm is imminent. On these trips I will carry a radio and I pay attention to my barometer.

This approach means that I don't actually finalize my gear until I am at the trailhead assuming I had what I think are reasonable exits. No early exit, I switch to prepared for the worst.