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Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 10:45:20 MST Print View

> I realize this post will come across
> as just another negative naysayer.

Ron -

Postive as well as negative feedback is what makes decisions. You're a respected member of the backpacking community and the points you make are all valid.

We can certainly make remark after remark about gear and weights and other physical attributes of this hike but we certainly need to consider the individual who would attempt this. They would need an iron will and physical and mental preparedness of the highest dedication.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 11:09:48 MST Print View

To chime in on what Ron said, a winter hike of the southern AT can be brutal. So many hikers assume that because it's the south, the trail will be reasonably mild in January.

You can get lucky and find it to be that way on a short trip. I once hiked the AT in the Smokies in January and enjoyed 60 degree days in the afternoon.

Or you can get unlucky as folks found out last week. An ice storm hit the higher portions of the park. There are lots of downed trees at this point, and little likelihood they'll be cleared before spring. The main road through Newfound Gap was closed to all except emergency vehicles for a while, and there were folks who needed to be rescued.

I've walked the "glass" trail myself, the condition when feet pack down the trail, it melts, then freezes hard again. I was glad to have lightweight CMI instep crampons.

Because of the elevation, the AT in the Smokies is more akin climatewise to Vermont at sea level. Even the Georgia gets considerably colder snowier weather than the Georgia lowlands.

On my 99 through-hike, I started on March 24. I was lucky to only have gotten about 4 inches of snow in north Georgia. But that same snow dropped over a foot in the Smokies. It never got reported in the papers, because the towns in the low-lying areas only got rain.

A through-hike starting in January IS doable. It has been done successfully by a number of NOBO's, including two I work with. Just be aware that it is still not the mellow walk through the south many think it will be.

P. S. Just realized "Bill Fornshell" meant "Gardenville". Haven't heard from you in a while over on the other site. But good luck. It helps knowing your background a bit better. Just be careful. The shelter system on the AT really allows you an extra margin of safety, but better you than me to head out with a SUL pack in winter.

Edited by Bearpaw on 11/27/2006 11:20:36 MST.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 11:10:53 MST Print View

BF is a cancer survivor and ex-Army lifer. I believe that he has the iron will and resolve to push himself until he can physically go no further. I don't think that he will "give up" mentally, though he may make a wise decision and bail if safety warrants such a decision. One thing he appears to be from his Posts, besides being very creative, is that he is NO fool.

Even the most amazing genetic specimen of an Olympic athelete has physical limitations.

However, i too, in some of my prev. posts, have questioned the wisdom of even a slightly later start, particularly a SOBO attempt. I would be very happy to have Bill provde me wrong.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 13:04:44 MST Print View

To Ron and Others:
I want to reply to some of Ron's concerns. I do appreciate Ron's concern and the fact that he took the time to outline them.


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.

Reply: [I would want to do a "regular resupply" AT Thru-Hike first and then see if I thought "I" could do it with 5 loads of food.]


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. <<

Reply: [20 pounds of food would give me up to 13 days worth of food or less days and more food per day.] [This does not include my gear - the weight of which is more or less dependent on the weather at the time.] [After 300 to 400 miles or for the Virginia area I might try a really long section or at least all of VA in one resupply.]


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.

Reply: [I appreciate your concern. I have been planning and revising a winter SOBO AT hike for about 12 years. I even tried it once and ran into very heavy early snow and stopped. I have been to Maine and NH several times during the winter months, hiking, snowshoeing, dog sledding, cross-country skiing and in general playing in the snow and cold to very cold weather. I have both old school cold winter gear - that means on the heavy side - and some newer lighter weight winter gear. One way or another I am good to well below "0" F. The coldest I have been was about -10 F around Mt Washington. Blinding snow and very high winds. That was "get below tree line" weather and we did. That is part of the reason I have been able to grow old. To para phrase PJ - I may be old but I am not foolish. I have had a lot of experience doing "risk" analysis. ]


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.

Reply; [I have hiked in the White Mountains of NH (I used a guide service for the Mt Washington part) and parts of Maine in the winter and understand first hand how dangerous and unforgiving it can be.] [When you climb Mt Katahdin in the winter Baxter State Park requires you to use an approved Guide Service. I have investagated the use of a guide services through the White Mt's as well but it is all dependent on the snow level and if the trail is packed down enough to tell where it goes.]


It’s certainly not something to be done with an SUL pack.

Reply: [My weight definition of SUL changes with the seasons but call it what you want.]


Even hiking the southern AT at that time of the year is not something to be toyed with.

Reply: [I lived in Dahlonega, GA for 11 years and went hiking on the AT or BMT every month of the year. I understand how the weather can be in North GA, TN, NC and the Smokies.]


You should expect to carry and use snow shoes for at least some of the hiking.

Reply: [I own NorthernLite Snowshoes and Kahtoola Crampons and know how to use them.] [I have also used sheet metal screws in my trail runners for traction on ice.]


If you want to know what you’re getting into, I’d read Brian Robinsons journals (

Reply: [I have read Brian's journal several times along with at least 10 or 12 other good books about or with good sections on Winter Hiking.


On his hike even Brian had to abandon hiking on the AT due to 10 deep snows in Vermont and that was in March.

Reply: [This is why I am watching the weather close. I would start earlier than Brian did (1 January) and only with very little snow on the trail. I have a bail out plan for each section of the AT in Maine. I would "bail out" if the snow got to deep or masked the trail.]


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.

Reply: [Good idea.]

Edited by bfornshell on 11/27/2006 13:35:44 MST.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/27/2006 13:22:28 MST Print View

Ah, Bill, you never cease to amaze!

All that Army training going to good use with the planning of "Operation SOBO7" and the Recons (or "Reckies" [sp???] as the Brits would say).

Glad you understood my convoluted negative logical wording properly (i.e. "is NOT a fool.").

I have great hopes that you will prove my fears wrong and that you will succeed.

Best wishes for much success,

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/28/2006 10:47:39 MST Print View


I'm glad you've got a firm grasp on challenges facing you. I hope you'll be able to find time to update us as your trip progresses.

Since I gather you'll still be attempting to push the envelope on UL techniques in winter, it’ll be interesting to see how well things translate between your expectations and trail reality.

Good Luck,


Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 11/30/2006 00:18:30 MST Print View

Richard and PJ,
I have been busy with some other projects and haven't been reading here until tonight -- But you guys just don't know how excited I am about this thread -- I have been waiting literally 20 years to hear other people's thougths about this topic.

Richard, thanks for running the simulations! Very cool and fun to think about and look at. It's neat how many important variables you take into consideration and how close your numbers are to what could actually be done.

However, Richard, I hesitate to say this and spoil the mystique I have so carefully cultured but I am not an elite athelete (can't hardly spell the word even).

I am a middle aged, thinning haired, mouth breathing, sway-back -- but I am persistent and I have been pushing my body for a long time to see what it can do -- and pushing other people and watching them push themselves -- to the point that I have an idea of what works and doesn't work, for me.

While big feet do indeed require heavier shoes and every ounce on your foot has to vertically travel about five times the distance of an ounce on your back, the big feet do spread weight over a larger area -- it does seem that light weight people with big feet have fewer foot problems than heavier people with small feet (I have smallish feet and weigh about 167).

My experience tends to corroborate with Ryan's: hard packed trails are hard on the feet and legs. While wilderness walking requires more attention, it may actually be a bit easier on the old feet.

When I reached the gravel pipeline Haul Road at the end of the Arctic 1000, I didn't walk much more than a mile, because the road started hurting my feet! Can you imagine that....also, back in my old adventure racing days, I loathed any fast paced travel on dirt roads or even hard packed trails because it just blew out my feet.

When I say blow out my feet I mean blisters on the balls of my feet generally.


Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
minimal resupply thru hike on 11/30/2006 08:39:23 MST Print View

I've been following this thread, and the one started by Bill at, and wanted to say how much I've learned by the exchange of ideas. The tables and calculations are fasinating. Sort of to recap my initial thoughts, it seems based on the info, personal reports and Roman's last post on being a non super human athlete (but super focused and determined!) that a fairly quick AT thru hike of around 60-65 days with a base pack weight of around 7lbs and only five "full" resupplies (gathering any easy to get (super close to trail) extra food in between and never carring more than about 30 lbs is doable physically by a good number of people with good pre hike training. In our demanding time crunched world, I could see this style speedier model of thru hiking increasing. Certainly better equipment, food types, information, etc. is avialble vs even 5 years ago that would help this a lot. Students could more easily commit to the challenge as well as many folks that could swing 8-10 weeks off work vs 20. In a time compressed hike, maybe the same sleeping bag, clothes set, etc. could be used to save initial investment. Section hikers could do the entire trail in two or three blocks in two years using regular work vacation. Of course, there is no best way and each person has to "hike thier own hike." In my mind, thats what SUL is all about, creating options for folks to choose from to fit them and getting more peole out there: Hopefully creating a more determined enviormental mind set that would translate to protectionist action.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: minimal resupply thru hike on 12/01/2006 22:48:17 MST Print View

What's up with the cranky folk at whiteblaze?

If those are the type of people hiking the AT, I wouldn't want to test my limits there!

But then, that's the reason many of us left the east coast a lifetime ago anyway.....

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/02/2006 02:44:59 MST Print View

> hard packed trails are hard on the feet and legs. While wilderness walking requires more attention, it may actually be a bit easier on the old feet.

I certainly agree with you Roman. I can go for days on end off-trail with comfortable feet and no problems. I get tired feet on hard roads.

But I would point out that one does travel a fair bit faster on those hard surfaces, so there may be a bit more to it.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/03/2006 09:40:39 MST Print View

Roman, amen to that; the guys at whiteblaze don't seem to get the reasons for going light and fast. Im no expert at UL yet, but I see the logic.
As I like to say on other subjects. "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand". Some of those posters make the AT sound like the dirt strips between convenience stores- I mean why woudn't you stop at each?? oh brother..

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/03/2006 11:36:25 MST Print View

I'm one of those who can't do a 100 day through hike even if I can swing the time off work/between jobs etc. My wife is tolerant of trips but I fear 60 days is probably the limit of what I would ask for in the near future. That would be 2 months of a 3 month summer already but at least it's not the whole thing.

While she and I may someday do through hikes together on shorter trails (not AT/CDT/PCT) I still have somewhat of a desire to hike the long trails myself.

Anyway I love to push my limits and while right now that focuses a lot on cycling that may change in the future. This thread is really interesting in that regard.

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
PCT Thoughts and Thanks on 12/03/2006 18:46:39 MST Print View

I've really enjoyed this thread. I'm excited by the thought that UL/SUL techniques could let someone such as myself, i.e. good but non-superhuman shape but determined, hike a long trail (my current dream is the PCT) fairly quickly while staying on the trail as much as possible. Currently, I'm not interested in resupplying as little as possible as a way to push my limits (although I completely respect and understand why someone would want to do that and can see myself wanting to do it in the not-too-distant future). Rather, I want the focus of my thru-hike to be on the trail without ignoring small outposts located directly on or very near the trail: no hitchhiking, no hiking more than around .5 miles off the trail, but utilizing small shops and restaurants that are within sight and a few minutes' walk away. In particular, Ron Bell's comments have really opened up a whole new way of thinking about my plans for a thru-hike of the PCT. An average of 3mph for 12 hours/day, never carrying more than about 30lbs (the exception for me being desert sections that would require carrying up to 2 gallons of water), base weight of 7lbs (though I'd prefer under 5), six "full" resupplies (one more for an extra 500 miles seems fair enough) with extra food and calories being gathered on and very close to the trail, with an overall trip length of less than 90 days = great for a graduate student/Fulbright scholar who wants to hike long trails in the summers and stay within .5 miles of the trail at all times.

Cudos to the BPL community for the great discussion and an open interest in exploring new ways of appreciating the beautiful world we find ourselves in.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/03/2006 22:03:32 MST Print View

This thread got me all worked up again to do a long hike.

I even looked on the Arctic 1000 mileage to see how it increased with pack-lightening, then worked on figuring out how much farther it might be possible to go...and my wife said, "Enough!

"You're going to the Arctic with me next summer and we are going to watch animals and birds, and then do a hike *I* want to do -- and it's not not gonna be a 783 mile trip in 33 days carrying 1.9 pounds of food per day with a 10 pound base weight!! Period"

Luckily, she is into lightweight and beside our spartan and lightweight fabric/materials approach, it's awfully good to share with her;)

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/03/2006 22:15:40 MST Print View

Roman-You have a good woman and you are a wise man to consider her wants.

Please post your trip experiences as a couple, documenting both perspectives. The rest of us want to learn from you about this type of journey also.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Re: re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/03/2006 22:56:51 MST Print View


she is a wise woman, as well as a good woman, and I just try to be a good man....

She was the one who told me I had to finish the trip -- not fly out of Anaktuvuk. She told me, it was just two more days and if I had the food and the feet to finish what I'd started.

We talked about doing long, difficult trips today and agreed that the two most important things about maxing distance on a really long walk -- apart from having emotional support before and after the trip -- are:

(1) that you take care of your body so as to make the really big mileage at the end of the trip (40% of the arctic 1000 mileage was covered during the last quarter of the trip -- the last six days. The first six days covered only 20% of the Arctic 1000 mileage).

(2) that challenges like Arctic 1000 are a psychological feat; that is, it was a personal head-game win, more than a physical victory, to make the really big disatnces. Persistence pays. And if you do not persist, if you give in, you may regret that moment of mental rather than physical weakness.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: Re: Re: Re: re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/03/2006 23:08:22 MST Print View

Dittos to what Richard said.

Roman, travelling with your partner is more than a gear issue and they are the real brains of the outfit ... or act like it or need to sometimes.

It should be a separate topic even. You are so lucky, and so am I, to have partners who care and are so bossy and intelligent as to actually make good choices sometimes ... and enforce them.

Share more of your adventures and misadventures in this vein ... I am all ears. (How do you get them to live in a tarptent?)

Edited by bdavis on 12/03/2006 23:11:00 MST.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 12/08/2006 17:38:56 MST Print View


She'll only sleep in a megamid if the ground bug density is low.

Australia and tropics and warm temperate are out -- however, arctic, boreal, cool temperate, and alpine are fine.

Much of the evolution of my experince with UL was with her -- we made a synthetic quilt back in 1986 and shared it, a megamid, a toothbrush, and a single Sherpa packraft on a 300 mile traverse of the Gates of the Arctic.

With her I can go light and spoon for warmth!

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
unsupported on 12/09/2006 02:16:59 MST Print View

All is possible with the right size pack.


Kenneth Knight
(kenknight) - MLife

Locale: SE Michigan
AT resupply-less hike on 04/27/2007 01:26:13 MDT Print View

I'm coming to this very late. I missed this when it was a hot topic and am reading about it now in the latest print magazine. It's intriguing and probably somewhat masochistic.

If nothing else light shoes aren't going to make it all the way or probably even halfway on any of the major long distance trails (AT, PCT, CDT, NCT - I will focus on the AT though).

I agree with Ryan walking the softer tundra is going to be easier on the body than the constant upss and downs and rocks and roots of the AT or PCT. I'm not sure what the elevation change for the Arctic 1000 was but the AT has a stunning amount over its entire length. Last I checked it was about 450,000 feet of change (versus 300,000 for the PCT which is quite a bit longer). The max. elevation isn't that high, but you rarely see a level stretch on the AT.

I can imagine a 3-resuplly trip being quite possible for someone in superb shape both mentally and physically but 2 seems very unlikely to me even if the AT somehow smoothed itself out (it's gotten hillier over the years with re-routes though at least in recent years they have kept the grade consistently lower, more in line with what you would find out west).

I would argue for a southbound attempt starting in late summer or early fall. While the days will be getting shorter you can travel at night with a light and the temperatures won't sap our strength as badly. Water should not be a problem anywhere that time of year and nor will their be any issues with trail mud. Attempting to go northbound startin in the spring will put you smack in some really awful mud in New England come late spring and that will definitely affect your speed.

Some people have suggested some days off to gorge. I'm not sure that's a good idea. Granted your body is going to be starved for good food but gorging yourself on what you can find in a town probably isn't going to really fill that void, just make you ill.

Having good food is going to be important. You can't wimp out here on the quality of what you eat. Low quality foods full of simple sugars and the like aren't going to work for this. This means whole grains, brow rice, beans, things that take longer to cook and require more fuel to do so (unless you hydrate them as you walk). Since fires are not permitted everywhere you're definitely going to need a wood stove like the Bushbuddy which should be acceptable everywhere as long as you stick with small dead wood.

I suspect that somoene else (if not several) has already said all this, but I thoght I'd toss my thoughts in. It's not going to be me that tries something like this - I'm nowhere near in shape for something like this and kinda doubt I ever will be (though people would love it if I were since I'd be much thinner).

Good luck to whoever tries something like this....