Sue and I have just returned from 2 months walking the Red Route of the Via Alpina, from Trieste to Oberstdorf, in Europe. That's a bit of a thru hike. It relies mainly on mountain Refuges, btw. That means you will be doing at least 1,000 m of climbing each day. The biggest day was up 3,000 m and down 1,500 m, with a lot of steep scree on the way.
> Wealth: I figured you probably need the financial wherewithal
We lived on less than 100 euros a day total, which is a fair bit of money. You could do it with less. What 'wealth' does do for you is to remove a serious worry about food and accomodation. For instance, if you suddenly develop a craving for yoghurt (we did), buy some. If the weather is really bad and you need shelter for the night, book in.
> Good Gear: Those who travel with shoddy equipment are surely at a disadvantage.
> Wrong: A man named Spider thru-hiked the AT with the same old, decrepit gear
> he'd had for 35 years.
I am going to disagree here. Good gear removes another worry. Gear failure at 2,000 m is not pretty. Gear failure at 2,000 m in a snow storm is worse. Perhaps the gear Spider had was good gear, even if old?
That does not mean you need lots of expensive gear. You don't. What you need is gear suited to you and to the conditions.
> Superior Nutrition:
Hum ... two aspects to this. If you are not getting enough energy, you WILL fail. A bit like running out of petrol in a car. You need carbos!
But how 'good' that fuel has to be ... well, debatable. You are not going to suffer malnutrition in that sort of time. We don't want any more knodels though.
> Excellent Cardiovascular Conditioning: Thru-hiking is the ultimate endurance sport,
It is that, but if you are not fit at the start you soon will be! Enough energy and enough will-power...
> Disease-Free: Your body should be healthy and free of debilitating diseases.
Now this is a funny one. While running our bodies flat out we stayed very healthy most of the time. I think the increased metabolic rate had something to do with this. Any cuts or scrapes healed incredibly fast. But anyone can catch a virus for a day or two (you may recover very fast though), and a broken ankle is a broken ankle. On the other hand, walking with a sprained back or knee is just not nice.
> Youth: I initially thought that being young and strong was a common denominator.
Ha. I'm 66. In fact, we have found it quite noticeable that the older hikers tend to be the ones who endured steadily. The young ones went fast but often burnt out.
> Sight: OK, at the very least, you should be able to see the darn trail! Right?
It would be nice ...
But having walked many of the days in a thick fog, we found that the views had to be treated as optional! For sure, they do add to the pleasure. And wondering what is over the next saddle is a good motivator.
Will power? Yep, no question at all. If one of us flagged a bit, the answer was always 'we are going to Oberstdorf". We had a goal.