Fast Times (and Aesthetic Lines) - Page 5
Over 43 miles per day for over 60 days straight! Enough said. Photo by Heather Anderson
She walks far and fast: Heather Anderson and the Pacific Crest Trail
Sixty days 17 hours 12 minutes. That’s the time it took Heather Anderson last summer to walk from Mexico to Canada on the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in self-supported style, carrying a backpack containing food and camping equipment and resupplying at grocery stores and with boxes of food she’d mailed to post offices near the trail.
In doing so, Anderson, who goes by the trail name “Anish,” set the PCT’s self-supported FKT—for both women and men. Scott Williamson set the previous self-supported record in 2011 at 64 days 11 hours 19 minutes. (Williamson still holds the men’s self-supported record.)
We know, we know. This is Trail Runner magazine, not Trail Hiker magazine. But if you let the enormity of Anderson’s effort sink in and acknowledge that hiking is an integral part of our sport, you’ll understand why we’re writing about her. Sleep on the ground, in a tent, with ultralight gear. Get up and start walking until you’ve traveled more than 43 miles, then lapse to sleep again. Repeat for 59 more days. This FKT is as extreme as it gets.
“This might be the greatest feat of lightweight backpacking ever,” says Peter Bakwin. “First, the logistics are intimidating. Then there’s the difficulty of keeping up a hard effort for two months. Finally, Anish committed to a very pure thru-hiker style, eschewing planned external support and even walking to off-route resupply points instead of thumbing rides.”
Even Anderson had a hard time coping with the scope of her effort. “Thinking about the big picture would sometimes make me cry,” says the 32-year-old race director and health-food-store cashier who lives near Bellingham, Washington. “I broke it into days and the days into segments of trail connecting road crossings or resupply spots, like in a 100-miler where you run from aid station to aid station.”
Prior to this record, Anderson had become a Triple Crown hiker, which means she’d backpacked the entirety of the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails, America’s premier long-distance trails. Anderson thinks she’s made for long-distance pedestrian travel, “I never feel that bad when I’m on a long-distance hiking trip. I usually finish less beat up than my male counterparts.”
Why did Anderson make her FKT attempt? “I did this to become a stronger woman.”
Let’s face it. Adventure runs and FKTs are damn sexy and a lot of us are enjoying them.
For example, one day in the spring of 2013, Grand Canyon National Park officials counted 900 hikers, runners and backpackers in the canyon bottom. That’s per Bill Wright, 52, the park’s Chief Ranger, “The sense from rangers who have worked the inner canyon for 15-plus years is that we are experiencing huge visitation increases. That’s what prompted the head count. We needed to get a feel for how many people were actually using the infrastructure.
“Not everyone has the park’s best interest in mind. Littered gel wrappers, organized running groups operating illegally and complaints from hikers about rude runners—I deal with these problems. I believe that the people who care about the Grand Canyon don’t cause problems, but the people who see the canyon as another tick for their checklist can. In the future, we will likely have to manage for day-use visitors in the canyon’s bottom.”
Kurt Achtenhagen, 42, Director of Finance and Operations for Boulder, Colorado’s Leave No Trace Center For Outdoor Ethics (LNT), says, “Leave No Trace is very pro recreation. We want people outdoors.” LNT simultaneously advocates for the responsible use of the outdoors. “Even just one person has an impact, so we believe everyone should minimize their impact,” says Achtenhagen. “There are times of the day you should never try for an FKT here in Boulder because there are too many other users on the trails.” Achtenhagen, who likes to move fast and light on his own backcountry outings, adds, “Put up a record in a responsible manner—to the resources, wildlife, and other people. Make it a record you’ll want to stand behind.”
Impact-reducing guidelines for your FKT attempt or adventure run:
- Stay off muddy trails. If you encounter mud, run through it, not around it off trail.
- Pack out trash and practice Leave No Trace principles for camping and bathroom stops.
- Respect trail closures.
- Follow dog leash laws and pick up after your animal.
- Respect other trail users and adhere to local trail-user right-of-way regulations/recommendations. Choose the quietest time of day for a fast attempt on a popular trail.
Meghan M. Hicks, based in Moab, Utah, holds the FKT between her front door and refrigerator for an after-run beer.