I know it has been a low snow year for California, yet as I recently discovered, that lack of snow is all relative. And as far as travel by horseback in the Sierras is concerned, it is proven to be too much for us to navigate.
I set out from Kennedy Meadows on Monday, May 5th--actually the third person to start into the Sierras on the PCT this year, behind two of my fellow hikers. But I had the bad fortune to be riding into a snowstorm, and by 10:00pm that night the snow began falling. It continued to snow as I was packing up the horses on Tuesday morning; in fact, it was coming down so fast that I could hardly get things loaded into the panniers without it all getting covered in snow, and the horses had little white hats on their foreheads where it piled up between their ears. I was freezing and my fingers were numb as I tied everything down and finally set off that morning. But I didn't get very far. As I approached Cottonwood Pass there deep snow built up and covering the ground as far as I could see (which admittedly wasn't very far most of the time, due to the clouds and snow). I decided that the best thing to do was to admit defeat and head back to Horseshoe Meadows where I knew there was a pack station and take shelter there to wait out the storm. I also was convinced that attempting to push through into the rest of the Sierras was going to be futile, if this was what I was experiencing at this elevation, with 13,000 foot Forrester Pass still to come, and it would be wisest to get out at Horseshoe Meadow and try to detour around to lower elevations, coming back to do this section later, once the snow was gone.