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Choices and Completion Rates

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  • ned@mountaineducation.org
    This is a good discussion because it deals with realistic planning and preparation, something everyone has to consider before their thru hike. Let s clarify
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 2, 2010
      This is a good discussion because it deals with realistic planning and preparation, something everyone has to consider before their thru hike.
      Let's clarify what I was saying:
      To aid the success of any endeavor, before you do it, you should,
      Research the reality of what you're considering doing (what did others who did it go through and have to deal with).
      Decide if that is what you want to do (Benefits vs. Risks = informed decision).
      Realize that to do it you need good Knowledge (Understanding what it is going to require) and Ability (Experience, practice, training). Do you have what it takes within you? This speaks of applied skills, which really translates to, "I have done something similar before and I think I can do this."
      Planning is based upon what works for you regarding logistics, gear, food, clothing, etc. relative to what you expect regarding the realities of the trail. For examples, if you know that you can crank out 25 mile days under average conditions, then resupplies need not be as close together as for the guy who only wants to go 10 (logistics); If you don't mind dealing with a little wet and cold from the expected infrequent storm, then carry only what you need for that level of protection; If you know you have weak ankles, use footwear that will give you the assurances you need; If you know that you might get a snow storm, and you don't like getting cold and wet (possibly), you might want to utilize the design of a sturdier tent than some.
      Preparation speaks of "getting it together." This applies to what is carried (for example, your choice of shelter) and what you know and can do (learning how to pitch it in a storm). What is carried is based on what you expect and how prepared you want to be for it. This is where different styles, designs, fabric weights, multiple uses of things, or the exclusion of items entirely come in. This applies, also, to what is anticipated and trained for. Test-run hikes that may tell you that a 20-mile day from the start won't work for you, that a thin sleeping pad won't cut it on snow, or that you don't like having wet and cold feet all day. These are all choices you have to make in the process of planning and preparing for a multi-month expedition. 
      Whether you want to carry everything conceivable or as little as possible may directly affect the experience you have of your adventure. Whether you anticipate travelling in snow and choose not to learn about it on a practice hike beforehand may affect the success of your hike. Your choice. Are you able to anticipate the consequences of your choices? Has that happened to you before and it was no big deal? Can you live with that?
      If you know that you sleep cold, take a heavier bag. If you get cold easy, carry your choice of clothing that has proven itself to you out on the trail under cold conditions to protect you from getting cold (and not to anyone else who has a different metabolism). If you know that you may experience rain, carry the protection of your choice, just realize that some fabrics may be less durable than others, especially if you sit on or rub up against anything rough or sharp. This is where test-runs and practice trips before your thru hike come in. You'll learn about yourself and how much weight you want to carry based on your comfort and protection requirements.
      If you know already what the challenges will be (good research and experience) and how protected you want to be in dealing with those challenges (I'll take my trailrunners through all the creeks and snow because I know that my feet won't suffer for it and I won't fall), then your pack weight will usually reflect that. Your skill and experience level may also allow you to "get by" with less (both volume and weight). The more you know of your risks and yourself and the better prepared you are for them, the better your chances of success.
      Statistics and Probabilities paint a picture a man's understanding. Out in the mountains it may be different. Do I want to recognize this difference and prepare for it or not and hope for the best? Your choice. Just consider the realities through thorough research, plug in what you're willing to tolerate and your skill and experience levels and plan accordingly.
      With the completion rate of a PCT thru hike at about 30%, something must not be going as anticipated. Is it an issue of planning, preparation, skills, experience, a series of mistakes, hopeful ignorance, judgment, injury, illness, training, loneliness, fatigue...? How can we help future thrus avoid the pitfalls, get through the challenges, and succeed in having their "hike of a lifetime?" That is what this discussion is all about. Are we encouraging aspiring hikers in a successful course of planning, preparation, and action? With this completion rate, I question it.

      Ned Tibbits, Director
      Mountain Education
      1106A Ski Run Blvd
      South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150
          P: 888-996-8333
          F: 530-541-1456
          C: 530-721-1551
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