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Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Re: Re: Unsupported/Thru-Hikes on 11/22/2006 17:05:48 MST Print View

Richard,

I really should be working but hey it's almost Thanksgiving so what the heck.

I want to know, have you actually hiked any of the AT? I occasionally love to dwell in the land of the theoretical, metaphysical or the “way the hell out there”, but you’re numbers extend well beyond my rational limits. While I admit I don’t know the difference between a VO2 max and well most other scientific terms, I do know a thing or two about thru-hiking and the AT.

Case in point: Primary Surface – Hard pack dirt and rock.

I thru-hike the AT in ’77 at the age of 24 and did another 700 miles in ’97 and I don’t remember much “hard pack dirt” trail. The PCT yes, the CDT yes again, the AT seemed to have a lot of moss covered rocks, roots, boulders, steep sharp climbs and descents and the occasional flat but probably muddy section of trail. In ’77 I got so frustrated with the rock in Pennsylvania that my wife had a tee shirt make of my favorite saying while traversing that state, “Pave the AT in PA”.

As to the idea that your average 30 year old can carry a 76 pound pack for a distance of 36 miles over 12 hours over terrain like that seems to really stretch the imagination. My guess is your average hiker carrying those weights at that distance would be looking at knee replacement surgery by the time they were leaving Georgia after 2 days of hiking.

Having known and talked to hundreds of AT hikers over the years, my guess is that your average AT hiker currently carries an average 35+ pound pack and covers 8 to 10 miles a day, slowly gaining more distance as they get into shape. On the other hand your average PCT hiker has a slightly lighter pack and probably averages 15 to 18 miles a day at the start. The primary difference between the two is that the PCT hiker generally has a bit more experience and the trail is easier to maintain a consistence pace on all grades.

Brian Robinson trained daily for over a year to get into shape before he started on the AT. His pack probably never more than 25 pounds (due to frequent re-supply) and he found maintaining 30 miles a day difficult. Also while Brian ate a constant 3 pounds of food per day, he supplemented his diet by eating additional calories in town while doing re-supply. As a result his starting weight and ending weight after 7200 miles was the same.

What would be interesting is what kind of advanced training regime it would require to get into good enough shape to even contemplate such an endeavor. Physical conditioning is far more important factor in the success or failure during the early stages of a long distance than pack weight. Yet it’s rarely discussed, even in thru-hiker gatherings. Most thru-hiker are so busy doing all the things necessary to take off the 5 months to hike that conditioning generally gets ignored. The beauty of a long hike is that if you take it slow you can get into condition while on the hike.

Well back to work.
Ron

Edited by rmoak on 11/22/2006 17:14:08 MST.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/24/2006 08:01:30 MST Print View

I tested the average female, as defined by ISO 8996 (2004), in my AT simulator. It shows 758 miles as the limit for unsupported travel.

Female

Edited by richard295 on 11/24/2006 08:05:57 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Theoretical Unsupported Hiking on 11/24/2006 08:16:19 MST Print View

Ron wrote:

>> I occasionally love to dwell in the land of the theoretical, metaphysical or the “way the hell out there”, but you’re numbers extend well beyond my rational limits.

Six months ago, I might have agreed. However, after watching Roman walk unsupported for 620+ miles over the terrain of the Alaskan Arctic, I think someone with similar fitness could walk on a trail without support for 700-1000 miles.

Extrapolating from 600 miles in the Arctic, which requires navigation that is difficult on the microscale with high consequences for bad decisions (tussocks! brush! water!) and sopping wet ground cover, to 700+ miles on trails that don't require navigation...shouldn't be a stretch.

On the flip side, I'd argue that the AT's hardpack is a liability on a trek like this. I have zero desire to carry a heavy pack on a paveway, knowing full well that each step is going to destroy my feet just a little bit more because the ground isn't giving way at all and providing shock absorption.

This is why the AT or PCT will be "easy" hikes for speedy thru-hikes with light weight but very difficult walks to do any meaningful distance without support with a heavy pack.

600 miles in the tundra with no trails or 600 miles on the PCT/AT? I'll take the softer ground of the tundra, thank you!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Theoretical Unsupported Hiking on 11/24/2006 08:30:53 MST Print View

Just curious, what were the cumulative elevation changes per linear mile traveled on your Artic Trek? *IF* not much, how will the dist. covered over that Artic Terrain cp. to the AT's frequent elevation changes in some places. Also, correct me if i'm wrong, but i think, in BF's case, he is planning his hike when the trails might be very soft and muddy at times and in places?

Edited by pj on 11/24/2006 10:41:01 MST.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Re: Theoretical Unsupported Hiking on 11/24/2006 10:49:21 MST Print View

Ryan,

I don't disagree that a committed hiker can do amazing things. Both Brian and Matt's single year Triple Crowns proved that point well beyond any words I can come up with. A year before Brian’s hike he told me his plans and I told him he’s crazy. So when we talked after his hike I consumed lots of crow.

Richards charts refer to the average 30 year old male and female (thanks to the recent addition). From my reading, this leaves the impression that if you fall into one of these categories you can load up with the recommended gear, food and head out for a 700 plus mile hike without re-supply. It may be true from the point of view of calorie consumption. I don’t know I’m not a physiologist. Though from practical experience, I’d say more calories are probably required than listed.

I do think it represents a starting point for discussion. But there’s a significant difference between walking 700 miles around a track and doing so on mountain trails over a wide range of conditions.

As to comparisons between the Artic hike and an AT or PCT hike, I lack the suitable knowledge. Having never hiked across Artic tundra I don’t know its effects on one’s hike. However, I do know the AT, PCT and CDT quite well and can pretty well predict how well the average hiker will fair on those trails. While it is relatively easy for a conditioned hiker to be able to sustain a 3 mile and hour pace going up or down hill on the PCT or CDT, the same can not be said about the AT. Both the PCT and CDT are reasonably well graded trails with the CDT being composed of miles of old jeep tracks and forest roads.

The last thing I’d like to point out is that your Artic trio were anything but average hikers. I thoroughly read through your posted training regimes. Assuming you maintained anything close to your stated regime, you’d fall well outside of the norms. The same could be said for Brian Robinson, I’m afraid I don’t know Matts pre hiking conditioning.

I would like to see more discussion on training or conditioning techniques in the pages of BPL, though I understand that it is quite difficult to do. The fact is that there has been little scientific study of long distance hikers either in terms of physiology or nutrition. I’ve known of a number of people who have attempted this only to abandon the effort. Long distance hiking isn’t a competitive sport and doesn’t attract the level of scrutiny of distance runners. Plus it’s extremely difficult to track a wide range of people over 1000’s of miles and for up 6 months.

Ron

Edited by rmoak on 11/24/2006 10:51:58 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Theoretical Unsupported Hiking on 11/24/2006 11:34:37 MST Print View

Ron -

Richard pointed out early on in this thread that he didn't have any solid information regarding the elevation profile or trail quality of the Appalachian Trail and was hoping that information would be provided by someone such as yourself who has hiked it (preferably more than once).

Also when he refers to the "average hiker" I believe he is referring to only a handful of the statistics on the chart, age, V02 max, weight. The distance traveled per day could only be achieved through a lengthy training process such as Robinson's.

Your opinion about the legitimacy of theoretical vs. actual hiking statistics is lauded but do take into account that for barriers to be broken down the theoretical must be contemplated and attempts at actualizing them undertaken.

What's the saying?, "No pain no gain!"

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Theoretical Unsupported Hiking on 11/24/2006 15:27:28 MST Print View

Ron-Thank you for your valuable contribution of characterizing the relative trail surfaces for the AT, CDT, and PCT. I will factor in your AT trail surface characterization and rerun the model.

As Sam mentioned, I was aware that this information was needed to achieve better accuracy. I started to look at this theorectical problem on 11/17/06 after Ron Bell's post in which he said in part, "I'd love to see someone do all the calorie and gear math to break it down to see what's theoretically possible."

Before beginning the task, I posted three times to this forum thread on 11/17/06 asking what the AT trail surface, etc. was like. I didn't receive any response within the ensuing 5 days, I worked on the AT model part time. I posted the preliminary model results, sans the trail specific surface information, on 11/22/06.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Theoretical Unsupported Hiking on 11/24/2006 17:49:27 MST Print View

Ron, we agree regarding differences between the AT and the PCT/CDT. I think the AT tends to get slammed because it's the low elevation hike that everyone does. But my experience on those three trails indicates that the elevation changes alone give the AT some of its challenge.

Ridgewalks are hard. There are lots of ups and downs on the AT that really beat you up, even down south, that you really don't have on the PCT. You have quite a lot on the CDT if you actually stay off the official route and enjoy the ridge!

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
why not break new ground? on 11/25/2006 17:12:28 MST Print View

The discussion of how far it's possible to go without resupply is interesting. But I'm curious - why such a focus on preexisting trails (like the PCT and AT)?

If you're going to be crossing roads and passing through towns anyway, why not resupply?

It seems like the real strength of this kind of thinking is for all those places in the world where resupply is difficult or impossible (like the Arctic trip). Being able to go 700 miles without resupply opens up all sorts of new possible routes in Alaska, Canada, probably Russia, maybe in the Amazon, etc...

Otherwise, aren't you just carrying a heavier pack than neccessary?

-Erin
www.groundtruthtrekking.org/WildCoast.html

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: why not break new ground? on 11/25/2006 17:31:58 MST Print View

Erin - I wholeheartedly agree. But the existince of the long trails are very helpful as a training ground for longer, riskier walks.

I "practiced" a few of these before I was comfortable doing a true roadless long walk.

And, I've had some long walks w/o resupply that have crossed 2-3 roads in 300+ miles, but the road crossings provided very inconvenient resupply options. This is common throughout my long treks in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Updated Theoretical AT Unsupported Hiking Limit on 11/25/2006 20:42:34 MST Print View

Ron Moak provided an analysis of the AT surface as compared to the PCT and CDT which was collaborated by Ryan... thanks Ron and Ryan. This valuable input resulted in me updating the version .2 AT Simulation Model surface characterization. The Version 1 results, previously posted, should still be valid for the PCT or CDT.

Ignore the first name field following the simulation time. I forgot to update this information between runs. The correct name is found in the last field for each simulation summary.

The .2 model shows that only the Artic 1000 participants or a hiker with comparable conditioning or better, could hike the AT in three segments (2 re-supplies).

Ron posed a question about whether the average hiker description in the model actually matched the average hiker who would attempt an AT hike. The ISO 8996 specs for the average female and male is an International standard. Based on antidotal evidence from the US trade press, I assume that the average US hiker would both be heavier and have a lower VO2max.

If this were an Olympic event the record would be 891.6 miles. The Artic 1000 team would achieve 790.7 miles. The International average male would achieve 642 miles. The International average female would achieve 651.2. A female partner on this hike would not be a record liability. Bill Fornshell, an elite cardiovascular conditioning example of the retired age category, would achieve 685.9 miles.

Olympic2

Artic2

Female2

Male2

BF2

Edited by richard295 on 11/25/2006 20:47:28 MST.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/26/2006 09:45:07 MST Print View

I introduced this thread and the idea of 3 to 5 resupplies to do a AT Thru-Hike to WhiteBlaze.net.

AT Thru-Hike with only 3 to 5 resupplies?

In less than 24 hours the thread got 31 replies. Some were, well, I will not go into a any detail about them. There were some good comments and a couple of good questions or thoughts.

There was one interesting thought. I have put it in the form of a question.

Question: "if you get 3 to 5 resupplies does the stuff you start off with count as one of them"?

If we use the term "resupply" that does seem to imply that you would start your hike with a full pack and then resupply 3 times - or 5 times??

If we do it that way then the food necessary etc would divide by 6, not 5. I start off at Springer with a load and then resupply 5 times or 3 times - what ever??

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/26/2006 11:45:05 MST Print View

Two thoughts:

1) "resupply" is NOT the initial supply. this is how i would normally interpret the English word "resupply" (note the "re-" prefix).

2) IIRC, Richard broke the AT into three ~700 mile "legs". Hence, your initial starting supply (70lb pack) and then only two resupplies returning the pack to its starting weight.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/26/2006 12:22:35 MST Print View

PJ,
I think Richard was responding to Ryan's thought about a 700 mile unsuported hike x 3.

Ron mentioned 4 or 5 "resupplies" in his early post.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/26/2006 19:45:56 MST Print View

Bill,

Right you are. Thanks for the link over at WhiteBlaze. Interesting Thread you started over there. I saw there that you were considering a five section/[re-]supply hike and not three.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/26/2006 21:47:52 MST Print View

Some theoretical subtleties of long distance hiking efficiency

On 11/16/06 Roman Dial said in part, "…It needs somebody small with big feet and a low metabolism…"

The Version .2 AT model now seems, to me, to be in the general realm of real world probable results. I decided to use it to test Roman's hypothesis about optimal body size and feet size. Regarding Roman's point about body size, the simulation model agrees with him. I had the model test every combination of weight, height, age, and VO2max to determine the characteristics of an Olympian which would yield the longest hiking distance. Much to my surprise, the optimum body weight was 163.7 lbs which is indeed a small person compared to the professional football player like proportions I expected to see as a result.

On Roman's second point the model disagrees. The model shows that someone with small feet will be able to travel further than someone with larger feet. For example, the model showed that the Artic 1000 team should be able to travel 790.2 miles without a re-supply if they had size 9 feet and wore Montrail Vitesse shoes at 26 oz. When I changed the Montrail Vitesse shoe size to 12, at 29.4 oz, the maximum distance dropped to 781.1 miles.

Taking the feet issue one step further, I tested a range of shoe options that an Artic 1000 participant with a nominal size 12 foot might select. If they wore Montrail Torre GTX boots, for example, their max distance would drop from 781.1 to 712 miles. For every oz added to the size 12 feet, the maximum AT distance dropped ~1.97 miles.

Different studies have reported foot versus torso weight ratios as high as 6 to 1. The existing .2 model uses the most conservative foot weight ratio in determining total Calories burned.

I then tested the model to see what impact on distance, different base weights would have. For every oz added to the base weight the maximum AT distance dropped ~.70 miles.

Efficiency

Edited by richard295 on 11/26/2006 22:16:26 MST.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/26/2006 23:39:25 MST Print View

PJ,

My comments on WB were more in the line of "how to" not "I will be". I will be on the AT someplace NOBO or SOBO in 2007 to try and do it all.

I have two plans, one that would put me in Maine the first of January 2007 and one that would put me in Georgia the first of January. For now I am watching the weather around the NH / ME area close.

This AT hike will not be a 5 resupply hike though. I want this hike to be with a pack weight never more than about 20 pounds worth of food till after I am into the hike by 300 to 400 miles or so.

If there was a good reason I believe that once I got near Virginia I could do a 700 mile section Unsupported/Unresupplied.

I think of all the AT the State of Virginia and enough north or south of VA is an area where a 700 mile section could be done. VA is about 550 miles and then just add 150 more miles north or south and you would have it.

======

Richard,

You just keep on amazing me.

For years I wore a size 9 shoe. Then with different sock combinations I went to a size 10 then a 10.5 and the last few pair have been a size 11. I use a The North Face Ultra 102 (28.3 oz) - 103 XCR (36.3 oz) and I just got a new pair - TNF Hedgehog XRC's ( 36.4 oz). My feet like these shoes and for me that says it all. The XCR adds 4 ounces per shoe that I hope in cold weather is worth the weight.

My base pack weight should be lower than the planning weight you use for me. I will carry no fuel as I do not cook my food. My pack alone - weight will be at or less than 2 pounds with my new external frame pack. I would guess my total would be more like 8 or 9 ounces where it is now 14.9. I think my food weight would be 45 pounds not 60.1. My calories while hiking may be as low as 2825 with a daily total of 3800 calories. I can not see any way I could eat 5564 calories a day. In theory the math may show I need that much but I don't think I could get that many calories down. I figure my food weight per day at 22.9 ounces.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 02:55:12 MST Print View

Richard,

First off, that's a great modeling tool you've got there. It must have taken some time to put it together. Good job and many thanks for sharing with us.


I would have thought Roman might been thinking of a smaller person than ~163lb or female - lower food requirements due to body weight (and basal metabolic level in the case of many females).

Though at some point the trade-off b/t physical strenghth to carry a heavy pack and food reaches a limit and it goes the other way (i.e., counterproductive). I guess your model predicts this point to be ~163lb.


Second, we should ask Roman Dial "Why did you say large feet?"

When i read his words, i very tentatively thought (since his words provided no clue to what he was thinking when he "penned" those words):


a) balance (helps with a heavy pack, though trekking poles work even better by providing a wider base with more "legs"/supports - nearly always two or three in contact with the ground at any point in time).

b) larger surface/contact area needed for a heavy pack (65-70lb) in order to reduce pressure on very soft and muddy trail surfaces to avoid sinking in as deeply.

c) perhaps he noticed tussock spacing in the Artic and was thinking of a larger foot spanning the gaps b/t tussocks, thus making walking easier???

d) was it solely the sum cumulative effect of the linear distance covered by each stride and the energy expended to take a step (not merely leg length, but the distance from heel plant to ball-of-the-foot lift-off with - a couple of inches with every step could really add up over ~2160miles or so)? [i would guess that the problem is more than just the energy expended lifting the weight of a larger foot and larger shoe/boot - again, even simplifying and considering foot size/weight alone, apart from other related criteria, it's a min/max problem.]


I really have no idea if he meant any of these possible reasons, but there has to be [a] reason[s] and he knows what it is.

Does your model take into account these phenonmenon? I'd be surprised if it did (other than perhaps one [or both] aspect[s] of 'D' - foot/shoe length or weight, maybe you've considered both - i think both need to be considered).


So, Mr. Dial, would you care to educate us, please?

Many thanks,
pj

Edited by pj on 11/27/2006 03:01:59 MST.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 03:13:02 MST Print View

Bill,

Thanks for correcting my misunderstanding.

I'll be cheering for you all the way.

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 09:42:26 MST Print View

Bill,

I popped over to Whiteblaze and read your thread over there. While I frequently disagree with people like Jack Tarlin or Lone Wolf I do respect that they each have in excess of 10 thru-hikes on the AT so are still quite knowledgeable and whose opinions shouldn’t be summarily dismissed.

>> I have two plans, one that would put me in Maine the first of January 2007 and one that would put me in Georgia the first of January. For now I am watching the weather around the NH / ME area close.

This AT hike will not be a 5 resupply hike though. I want this hike to be with a pack weight never more than about 20 pounds worth of food till after I am into the hike by 300 to 400 miles or so. <<

If I’m reading the above statement correctly, then I have extreme doubts about your level of understanding about the hike you’re planning on undertaking. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly respect the level of work you’ve done over the last few years in getting your gear pared down to the absolute minimum. I’m also well aware that there is frequently a gap between our expectations and reality. Which is why that of the thousands of people who attempt the AT each year, as much as a third drop out in the first 100 miles.

One of the downsides of dwelling on theory is that it frequently draws us further away from reality. This is primarily because when dealing with theories, it’s extremely difficult to include all of the additional factors that need to be included in forming a realistic projection.

Hiking the AT in New England in January, if not impossible, would be extremely difficult. It’s certainly not something to be done with an SUL pack. Even hiking the southern AT at that time of the year is not something to be toyed with. You should expect to carry and use snow shoes for at least some of the hiking. If you want to know what you’re getting into, I’d read Brian Robinsons journals (http://royrobinson.homestead.com/TrailLogs_Jan.html). On his hike even Brian had to abandon hiking on the AT due to 10 deep snows in Vermont and that was in March.

I realize this post will come across as just another negative naysayer. But I am concerned that you approach the AT with as much of a realistic view as possible. I will also admit that while I know much about your skills at making gear, my knowledge of your hiking skills is severely lacking. Have you done a 2000 mile trail before? Have you hiked hundreds of miles in deep snow and cold? What is the temperature range of your insulation gear? Will it support daytime temps in the 20’s and nighttime temps of 0 degrees? Will your diet support the additional calories needed to combat the additional cold and hiking difficulty?

Perhaps a separate thread should be created. Their you can outline your plans and expectations and request feedback.

Ron