Heather Anderson

The current through hike record for the PCT is held by Heather Anderson who completed the trail in 2013 in 60 days covering all of the 2,660 odd miles unsupported. 

I believe it unlikely that a man would be able to match or beat this record given their gender’s metabolic and endurance sensitivities. 

So often as we walk we’re passed by much faster moving women of all ages. The male macho hiking stereotype is turned on its head by their speed and endurance. The trail continues to have much to teach us. 

Trail Types

We meet so many wonderful interesting people on the trail. In Oregon we met a Swiss couple heading northbound who’d been on the trail for several months who neatly summarised the types of hikers they’d come across on the the trail. There were four types, they recounted, which are as follows:

  • The Athlete – trying to hike the trail as an extreme sport and as fast as possible
  • The Seeker – looking to find themselves 
  • The Nature Lover – discovering the Wilderness through which the trail travels
  • The Socialite – enjoying the companionship of the other hikers on the trail 

I guess all hikers are a differing blend of these types and we too are another cocktail mix of them. 

Hiking and Weight Loss

I’ve been researching why I keep losing weight on the trail. 

Long distance hiking affects the body differently than with other sports or physical activity. When running say a marathon, the body burns glycogen to power itself along with higher oxygen levels and faster heart rates. Walking along the trail is different. Progress is steady and means the body can burn both glycogen and fat with lower oxygen and heart rate levels. It means over prolonged periods of walking time people can lose a lot of body weight. 

But why does this weight loss on the trail be come so gender specific? Many times we’ve passed other hiking couples to see that the male partner is noticeably emaciated and thinner than his female counterpart. The answer is that men produce testosterone which in competitive sports gives them an unfair advantage over women but on the trail means men burn off more muscle mass including both skeletal and heart muscle along with more body fat. 

Women, partly because of oestrogen, burn off fat and protein more evenly hiking, meaning they retain more body mass. This unique evolutionary ability helps to insure they’re able to carry and feed a foetus for nine months. 

Yasmin too has lost weight on the trail but nothing like the amount I have. Since leaving Cascade Locks on the Washington Oregon border on the 02 August I’ve lost 21lbs (9.5kg). I simply just can’t stop losing the pounds as we continue to walk. We carry lots of food and more recently more snack bars to power us in the late afternoons. We each eat around 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day but probably burn around 8,000 and more when it’s cold. We can’t carry more food as it becomes prohibitively heavy in our packs. As a result, as soon as we reach any small town all we do is eat. It takes priority over everything, even washing after 8 day sections on the trail. 

We should finish hiking in around 10 to 11 days but are now heading up high into the start of the Sierras proper. There’s still snow up high but nothing like we’ve recently been experiencing. It’s good to feel light but hopefully with our recent rest days of eating we’ll be fully energised for the last few miles of this beautiful trail. 

Keeping Warm

We’ve no proper winter gear for hiking in this kind of weather. Not even gloves. It’s been heatwaves more recently and this early winter cold front has taken us and everybody else by surprise. 

We take a ‘zero day’ today in South Tahoe, as they say on the trail, checking the forecasts, snow conditions on the higher elevations and getting some cold weather gear to see us through to Yosemite and onto Mammoth Lake and our ‘finish’ in early October. 

Walking through the swirling snow was like being inside a Turner painting, all movement and change as we carefully tracked the trail through the woods. This should very soon turn to much warmer weather, more typical for this time of year, as we continue south. 

Selfie 170920

High up and very cold and windy as we look down onto the north of Lake Tahoe.

I almost forgot to post this with the recent heavy snow falls distracting our attention. It’s snowed again, and heavily, during the night and at much lower elevations than those of the trail. We’re pondering what to do but may sit tight in South Tahoe for a day or so as the weather is meant to turn warm again.