One of the major worries and pleasures of the PCT is the Sierra Section. It starts at Kennedy Meadows and ends somewhere between Sonora Pass and Donner Summit (actual "end point" is debatable). This section joins the John Muir Trail, a 200+ mile section that is very beautiful and a popular hike. Several high altitude lakes and rivers dominate the area, making for some of the best views of clear water and snowy mountains.
The Sierras is also a major technical challenge that confines the window of opportunity to hike the PCT. Snow pack and dangerous conditions restricts hikers from entering the Sierras before enough snow melts and storms subside for the year. Several passes at elevations of 10,000' to 12,000' with shear snowy slopes poses several risks of avalanches (earlier in the year) and slipping down the icy mountain faces. On an average year of snow pack, most hikers begin to enter into the Sierras around June 15.
Near the start, the trail passes Mount Whitney approximately eight miles west of it. Although Mount Whitney is not part of the PCT, it is often summited by thru-hikers. Known for being the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney reaches an elevation of 14,505' and offers spectacular views. Although thru-hikers must hike an extra 16 miles away from the trail to reach the peak and back, the mileage is often received with gratitude.
Of the entire PCT, the Sierra Section is one of my top most anticipated areas to hike. I've had a small taste of the Sierras in the past, having hiked only a few trails near the PCT. I've spent several months hiking/working along HWY 395 and only looked at the eastern mountains right before me. I've heard great things of the John Muir Trail and am looking forward to seeing the beauty of the mountains.
A trip a while ago with a couple good friends in the Sierras near Bishop, CA.
I will return...and with my beard.