Thursday, March 5, 2009

Scott Williamson, PCT Thru-Hiker Extraordinaire

Scott Williamson began hiking on the PCT over 15 years ago and has now thru-hiked over 10 times. He's done a couple yo-yos (there and back in one season) and in 2009 will be attempting to beat the current speed record of 66 days (41 miles/day) for a one-way journey. That means I will probably see him along the way. Here I will list some places where one can find out more about his experiences on the PCT and his approach to hiking it. I'll also make note of some of Scott's more important gear, food, and logistics practices.

Now you can read all about Scott Williamson at Wikipedia.

Scott's hiking style
  • no trekking poles
  • no-cook food; organic diet
  • mails food to himself; eats out in towns
This is also the style of well-known long-distance hikers Ray & Jenny Jardine and Francis Tapon (and probably some others), both also over 35 years old. Younger hikers such as Andrew Skurka and Matt Hazley (under 30) tend to eat less nutritiously, and each of these (I think) also uses trekking poles.


Gear lists
Note the following interesting gear choices:
- very thin pad (1/8'')
- unusually sized tarp (7 x 12')
- 3 pairs of thin nylon dress socks (wool socks for Sierra)

Articles, with selected quotes

On the importance of the "right pace":

I have found out that hiking someone else’s pace, which is significantly different from my normal pace, actually tires me out more than if I were doing my normal pace. Recently, when Michelle sat out for a few days to rest her feet, I opened up to 40-mile days and was shocked to find myself feeling much better than I did hiking 25 miles in the same 12-14 hour period. This makes me think that the amount of time spent on the feet plays almost as much of a role in fatigue as does the number of miles done.
On food:

He ate about 2.5 pounds of food per day and resupplied with caches every 3-4 days on average. During some stretches he carried up to eight days of food and water, and his pack totaled 35-40 pounds. He didn't bring a stove. Dinner consisted of dehydrated refried beans soaked for three hours while hiking along the trail, topped with tortilla chips and olive oil. For breakfast, he had a protein shake. And for lunch, he snacked on dried fruit, nuts and organic raspberry fig bars. After leaving towns, he'd supplement his diet with fresh fruit. "To me, a good diet on the trail is very important. I focus a lot on organic or more natural food. Other people are able to do the PCT on Top Ramen and Snickers bars. I avoid sugar on the trail because sugar highs and crashes affect my hiking rhythms. But in towns I pigged out on junk food and ate whatever I wanted: candy bars, pastries, burgers."
More on food:

He doesn't pack a stove, but instead eats a mostly organic diet of protein shakes, dried fruits, crackers and refried beans. He augmented his diet by foraging for tidbits like miner's lettuce, wild onions and various berries along the way. His typical dinner was to mix dehydrated refried beans with water in a plastic container and add crumbled organic corn chips and olive oil. He ate two to three pounds of food each day, stopping in towns occasionally to “pig out” on junk food and salad bars.

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