Winter Thru-Hiking Record of the Pacific Crest Trail
Backcountry skiing across frozen Duck Lake near Mammoth Lakes, Calif. Source: pct.org

As if thru-hiking the mountainous Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada wasn’t enough in the best of weather conditions, Justin “Trauma” Lichter and Shawn “Pepper” Forry decided to be the first thru-hikers to complete the trek in the dead of winter.

The two finished the 2,650-mile long journey last Monday, reaching the California/Mexico border in just 132 days, making them the first hikers to complete the entire trail in hostile winter conditions. Lichter, 34, and Forry, 33, endured wet weather and freezing temperatures for most of their journey. Lichter said he was surprised by the back-to-back storms they encountered during most of the trek. The wet cold weather caused foot problems for the two from blisters to trench foot to frostbite.

Winter Thru-Hiking Record of the Pacific Crest Trail
Lichter crosses a mountain pass during a storm. Source: pct.org

One of the unexpected challenges came early as Lichter and Forry made their way through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon. The two got frostbite from post-holing through two feet of snow for hours. Forry affirmed that there were few miles that didn’t include some kind of foot pain, “It’s amazing what you are capable of when you are in the moment and the options are limited.”

Lichter and Forry are experienced hikers, skiers and climbers with multiple endurance treks under their belts. According to Forry, the two needed all that experience and a little bit of stubbornness to get through the hard days on the PCT. They also said they couldn’t have made it without the outpouring of support from the PCT community that encouraged and helped them along the way.

Winter Thru-Hiking Record of the Pacific Crest Trail
Lonely trail – Lichter and Forry saw few other hikers on the trail. Source: pct.org

The two started their trip in Washington on October 21, 2014. They used hiking boots and snow shoes to get through Washington and Oregon before transitioning to backcountry skis for the 450 miles of California’s High Sierra. According to Lichter and Forry, the only other known attempt of a winter thru-hike was in 1983 and ended tragically when a husband and wife couple veered off of the trail and fell to their deaths near Wrightwood, California.

Winter Thru-Hiking Record of the Pacific Crest Trail
Winter conditions make route finding difficult on the PCT. Source: pct.org

The two highlighted the need for winter map and compass navigation skills since the trail was mostly covered by snow, and trail markers were difficult to find. Snowpack awareness was also critical in the remote alpine regions to avoid dangerous avalanche areas.

Winter Thru-Hiking Record of the Pacific Crest Trail
Forry takes in the view while snowshoeing on the PCT. Source: pct.org

Lichter and Forry walked away from their record setting endeavor with an appreciation of the unique qualities of the PCT and the self-discovery that happens on the trail. Forry told the Northwest News Network, “I think it will be something I continually reflect back on and pull nuggets of wisdom from,” Lichter concluded, “You learn a lot about yourself – what you can tolerate and overcome.”

Winter Thru-Hiking Record of the Pacific Crest Trail
Lichter and Forry reach the Mexican border on March 1, 2015 after 132 days on the trail. Source: Pea Hicks pct.org

 

What to Checkout
See more amazing pictures of the record setting expedition and interviews with Lichter and Forry at pct.org.

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