Musings on IT, data management, whitewater rafting, and backpacking

Thursday, January 26, 2012

500 miles on the PCT – Training Trips

In August 2003, I tried to hike 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail through the High Sierra in California – in 30 days.

The best way to get into shape for backpacking is ... to go backpacking. I wanted to backpack 500 miles in several shorter training trips before the big trip.

Here's what I did ...

I needed to take those trips in the fall, winter, and spring. That ruled out the High Sierra, and left me with few long-distance trips in central California.

I started with one weekend trip using 20 year old equipment lying around.  Too heavy, but I'll cover gear later.

After a flurry of buying the wrong stuff, I did a couple more weekend trips.

Then I mapped out a 100 mile backpack loop through the Santa Cruz mountains, and long loops through Henry W. Coe State Park east of San Jose. So I planned five 100 mile trips using those loops.

On my first long trip I had serious equipment problems, including a fuel cartridge leak.  I ended that trip several days early. And I rethought my equipment needs from the ground up.

My second long trip went well. Everything worked OK hiking 9-15 miles per day. I did have one scary off-trail adventure, and learned to always stay on well-traveled trails.

My third trip, in March, brought hail and sub-freezing temperatures on the second day – unusual for coastal California.  My gear couldn't keep me warm enough. After one very cold, sleepless night, I ended that trip several days early.

For my fourth trip, in April, I planned to hike 16-20 mile days. After two days, I got a staph-infected tick bite because my tent entrance didn't seal. I had to end that trip early to get major antibiotics.

For my last training trip in May, again I planned to hike 16-20 mile days. I caught a cold just before the trip started – and after two days, I hiked out before I collapsed.

I had finished only one out of five training trips, and backpacked less than 200 miles. I was way behind schedule, but I had no more time available before August.

Not good.

Next – Lightening up!

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