PCT Southbound

Go your own way

Rainbow Trout

Backpacking Experience
None

Training
In decent shape, running a lot, and hiking around Paris. Training didn't prepare for elevation, terrain

Start
Hart's Pass headed south in a group of 4 French friends - July 9th

Reached So. Kennedy Mead
N/A, flip-flopped Sierras 

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border, but missed a couple big sections of the trail. 

LIFE NARRATIVE

All four members of the Frenchtastic Four had professional jobs and were living in Paris together in the same apartment. One rainy day in January 2016, Rainbow Trout shared the idea of doing the PCT. One friend challenged another saying, “you’ll never do it,” daring each other to back down. They spent 2-3 hours that day planning logistics and finances and then decided to wait three days to see if everyone was still interested. If so, they’d buy plane tickets. That momentum lasted, and they booked flights that week. Six months later they were in Northern Washington starting the PCT southbound.

They made it south from Hart's Pass to Ashland, OR, and then decided to flip flop down to the Sierras and hike from Walker Pass north to the Oregon border. They started the flip on the 6th of September, made it through the Sierras, and then hit bad snow storms near South Lake Tahoe. Rainbow Trout and Refill got off there and hitched back to Walker Pass headed south. Top Ramen and Dirt Arrow continued north, making it as far as Mt. Shasta before going back to Walker Pass and heading south. 

 From right - Refill, Top Ramen, Dirt Arrow, and Rainbow Trout

From right - Refill, Top Ramen, Dirt Arrow, and Rainbow Trout

HIKING AS A GROUP

“Make sure your goals are clear before you go. We had no idea what it would be like, everything we thought and we were discussing about was made of dreams and impressions and videos we’ve seen here and there. So we made our goals while we were walking, but we could have talked about it before. Some of us wanted to take it more chill and enjoy the trail, and some of us wanted it to be a sports challenge where you do the best and go as far as you can in a limited amount of time. Now I know the trail and that seems obvious to me (to make clear goals about expectations), but back then I’m not sure if I would have been able to clearly voice what I expected from it.”

“Generally speaking, everything went really fine for the four of us together, expect for when we were hungry or thirsty or had a bad nights sleep. When you are hungry, you don’t see the trail in the same way. You look at your shoes and think 'I want food' instead of looking around and seeing the beauty. So that’s the same way, when we discussed where to rest, or resupply, there was less patience when one person wasn’t in sync with the three others. When three are in good shape but someone is sick or having a bad day, the group should be thoughtful and try to ease the tension. It’s hard to understand and have empathy for the person that is suffering, but it pays to put yourself in his or her shoes. 

"If someone had to stop their hike the rest of us would’ve kept going for sure. We also said if someone is sick for more than three days and we have to stop, we should leave on the fourth day and the other person can catch up via car. It (deciding to go ahead or stay when a friend is sick) really really depends on the situation."

PLANNING FROM ABROAD

"We took six months to research everything and buy the gear. When you talk about long distance hiking at a gear store in Europe, they don’t really understand. They think either you are doing The Camino in Spain, which is pretty easy in terms of terrain, or you are doing some actual climbing or mountaineering. So we bought the packs from Hyperlite in Maine (and other gear in the US). The only piece of equipment from Europe we used was a French sleeping bag, and it was the only piece that compared with US gear in terms of warmth/price/weight."

“It takes a lot of time (planning from Europe), nothing sounds familiar, and you have no idea which town is big, which name is a trail angel name or a city or a town, what Oregon is, etc. It’s hard with the names because they are so unfamiliar and don’t stick in your head. We didn’t really understand the notion of a desert, and it took time to grasp the environment from the maps. You need patience. Wrap your head around the measurement systems, like the mileage, beforehand. And the weights - ounces and pounds, because if you go on a gear list and everything is listed, for us it doesn’t mean anything. 

"It took us six months to plan and we were living in the same apartment, so we could talk everyday. It would be way more complicated if you were 3, 4 people having different life schedules and trying to meet once a week or something. We didn't know where to start. The visa, the permits, the flights. What shall we do first? I think you should get your start date that works best for you, then register for the visa, and in the meantime get your PCT permit. The US Embassy mostly wanted to know you had enough money to sustain yourself."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Get two pairs of socks for real. Wet feet is the worst for me. I don’t even care if you take one pair of underwear. But take two pairs of socks."  

"Heavy protein bars make me throw up, they are awful."

"Talk to anyone you meet on the trail, because they could have a beer or candy for you or something. Everyone you meet that isn’t a hiker has food and might give it to you. Always give it a try."