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View Full Version : Thru hikers who don't make it (What are some of the major reasons?)



Spirit Bear
11-01-2012, 09:48
I am planning my thru hike and have yet to set an actual date, I have section hiked much of the trail in Georgia up to this point and parts in NC below the smokeys. I have read that on average 2,000 or more thru hikers attempt every year and only 200-250 actually make it.

What are some of the biggest reasons for this and I would really like to hear from any of you who have attempted but failed to finish in the season.

hikerboy57
11-01-2012, 09:52
reason #1 they ran out of money
reason#2 they found out they dont like walking 15 miles a day with 30 lbs on their back for 5 months.
reason#3 injury
reason#4 personal crisis at home

snifur
11-01-2012, 09:55
reason #5 boredom
reason #6 they miss mommy or daddy
reason #7 their relationships are faulting
reason #8 they don't like cold and wet

Many Moons
11-01-2012, 10:01
I am planning my thru hike and have yet to set an actual date, I have section hiked much of the trail in Georgia up to this point and parts in NC below the smokeys. I have read that on average 2,000 or more thru hikers attempt every year and only 200-250 actually make it.

What are some of the biggest reasons for this and I would really like to hear from any of you who have attempted but failed to finish in the season.

Last year was my first 108 miles for the section hike. Look like the thru's in the first 108 leaving out of Springer was injuries and being out of shape. You would not believe how many quit once they got to Neel's Gap. Blown knees!!! Heavy packs!!! Too big of belly's!!! Hike On!


Miller

Lone Wolf
11-01-2012, 10:10
I have read that on average 2,000 or more thru hikers attempt every year and only 200-250 actually make it.

What are some of the biggest reasons for this and I would really like to hear from any of you who have attempted but failed to finish in the season.

i just got tired of walkin'. so i went home. kinda like forrest gump when he stopped runnin'

Carl Calson
11-01-2012, 11:11
My wife and I made it to Vermont this year. The reasons we didn't finish:

1. we planned on hiking the trail in 4 months. while not unheard of at all, this is not an easy feat by any means.
2. we were hiking with another couple and only really friends with the guy. his girlfriend was a complete headcase and was very difficult to get along with.
3. the vortex. after duncannon it seemed like all anyone wanted to do was get drunk. the group mentality was difficult to get away from because we made such good friends along the way.
4. the main reason we got of trail is because of time constraints. we had jobs waiting for us and knew that we wouldn't make it to katahdin in time. like i said, 4 months isn't unheard, but it gives you less time to enjoy yourself along the way.

some words of advice. don't get sucked into the vortex. make short term goals and stick to them. don't hike in a large group to start out unless you're absolutely positive that you get along with everyone in that group. group dynamics are of the utmost importance. being stuck with someone you can't stand makes the trip less enjoyable. above all, hike your own hike!

evansprater
11-01-2012, 11:17
I have almost quit twice now, only in the middle of the day when I get extremely bored and see a huge up that's obviously gonna take thirty minutes or more and slow me down to 2 mph average for the course of the day. Then I think, if I quit now a) I will be stuck in the middle of the wilderness and b) I will have to set up camp on this ****ty incline. Then I continue for another hour and that fades, I get an enormous rush of endorphins, I become stunned by the beauty of the sun shining through the trees and the sheer silence and aloneness and beauty of that combination. Then I finally get to camp and it feels SO GOOD to sit down and cook and read a book and sleep that I forget I even considered quitting earlier in the day. Then I wake up an am so motivated and the mornings are so freaking pretty anyways that I keep on truckin. I don think it happens this way for most people but: the more I kept going, the more progress I made, the better shape I got in, the more unconditional kindness and love I have experienced from complete strangers, only fuel my desire to continue the **** out of this experience. I am only waiting or the effing snow to subside a little bit so I can get back on the trail. I would recommend forcing yourself at least a month. That first month just keep reminding yourself you can quit after 30 days, no pressure whatsoever. For me at least, that kept me goin until I really, really started to enjoy it. Also, check out a book called "Appalachian Trials", it's on iBooks an (I believe) kindle.

burger
11-01-2012, 11:50
Here's the biggest reason, in my opinion, that most people quits: the AT, as a hiking trail, mostly sucks. It's excessively steep in many places. Most of the time you're walking through woods with no views. The routing is poor, going over many pointless climbs with no views or other payoff. A lot of the trail up north is badly eroded, fills with water when it rains, and can be slippery or even dangerous when wet.

This is the underlying reason explaining why so many people quit. It's why people get bored (no views) and get injured (too steep).

My advice: if you want to finish a thru-hike (50%+ completion rate vs 20ish% on the AT) and enjoy yourself throughout, go hike the PCT.

Malto
11-01-2012, 12:38
People discover that they don't like walking. And as the romance of the hike wears out they fold.

Violent Green
11-01-2012, 13:04
Bingo. It sounds much more fun in a book or on the internet. That's one reason why a lot of folks try to make it a social experience on top of an outdoor experience. Just wallking sometimes isn't enough to satisfy someone for 5 mos.

Ryan

Moose2001
11-01-2012, 13:10
People discover that they don't like walking. And as the romance of the hike wears out they fold.

Most accurate assessment I've read lately!

Bati
11-01-2012, 13:23
1. we planned on hiking the trail in 4 months. while not unheard of at all, this is not an easy feat by any means.


I have to agree with running out of time. It's quite common to hear about how fast people can hike, but often these times are from hikers who either slackpack, have extremely good weather, take performance-enhancing drugs, or are in incredibly good shape. If you have a deadline due to a job or school and feel that it's important to finish in one season (rather than taking two years to finish), then allow yourself plenty of time. The amount of time needed will vary with how much backpacking versus dayhiking you plan to do, your fitness level, and uncontrollable factors such as fires and weather.

I thought I had enough time when I started, but quickly encountered severe weather which slowed me down significantly (though it was never bad enough to make me take a day off). Months later, I sustained an injury (not on the trail though- wedding related). Add them together, and when my deadline arrived, I wasn't done hiking. I never had money or boredom issues, which are often written about.

Karma13
11-01-2012, 13:26
Wait, really? Really?

Steroids on the AT?

I don't know why, but that made me laugh.

Moose2001
11-01-2012, 13:35
, take performance-enhancing drugs Ok...I've heard marijuana called a lot of things but never "performance enhancing"!!!

hikerboy57
11-01-2012, 13:38
Ok...I've heard marijuana called a lot of things but never "performance enhancing"!!!

Youd be surprised

Creek Dancer
11-01-2012, 13:42
I have almost quit twice now, only in the middle of the day when I get extremely bored and see a huge up that's obviously gonna take thirty minutes or more and slow me down to 2 mph average for the course of the day. Then I think, if I quit now a) I will be stuck in the middle of the wilderness and b) I will have to set up camp on this ****ty incline. Then I continue for another hour and that fades, I get an enormous rush of endorphins, I become stunned by the beauty of the sun shining through the trees and the sheer silence and aloneness and beauty of that combination. Then I finally get to camp and it feels SO GOOD to sit down and cook and read a book and sleep that I forget I even considered quitting earlier in the day. Then I wake up an am so motivated and the mornings are so freaking pretty anyways that I keep on truckin. I don think it happens this way for most people but: the more I kept going, the more progress I made, the better shape I got in, the more unconditional kindness and love I have experienced from complete strangers, only fuel my desire to continue the **** out of this experience. I am only waiting or the effing snow to subside a little bit so I can get back on the trail. I would recommend forcing yourself at least a month. That first month just keep reminding yourself you can quit after 30 days, no pressure whatsoever. For me at least, that kept me goin until I really, really started to enjoy it. Also, check out a book called "Appalachian Trials", it's on iBooks an (I believe) kindle.

That's called - Mind Over Mountain.:sun

bigcranky
11-01-2012, 13:44
Re: performance enhancing drugs. For me, it's Scotch whisky.

Re: completion rate of the PCT. I strongly suspect that the completion rate is higher because many (most?) PCT thru-hikers have already completed the A.T. and thus the sample is self-selecting for stronger or more motivated hikers. Certainly more experienced.

Creek Dancer
11-01-2012, 13:44
People discover that they don't like walking. And as the romance of the hike wears out they fold.

I think this is true. I have friend who said he loved thru-hiking; he just grew to hate the hiking part.

RED-DOG
11-01-2012, 14:20
The Emotional Torment of Thru-Hiking is Phennomenal it will rip you apart if you let it that and money issues, Injuries those are the biggest reason's, and a lot of people get on the trail and figure out that Thru-Hiking isn't for them, and i can't even begin tell you how many people i have witnessed drop out at Nell's Gap that's A LOT.

Old Hiker
11-01-2012, 14:59
Soft tissue injuries stopped me for 3-4 weeks at first until I could walk without pain again. Severely sprained ankle + cracked fibula kinda stopped me totally at mile 497.

Never got tired of walking. Never got tired of camping. Never got tired of much, except watching people walk faster than me.

prain4u
11-01-2012, 15:22
Allow me to go down a slightly different pathway for a moment. Some (perhaps even "many") first timers begin a thru hike because...

1) They have a romantic (and unrealistic) notion of what life is like on the trail.
2) They hope to experience some sort of emotional or spiritual awakening while hiking.
3) They have had a significant life-changing event (retirement, illness, divorce, death in the family, been fired from their job etc.). They either consciously (or sub-consciously) hope that the hike will help them to cope with (or adjust to) these life-changes and address their feelings of change or loss.

They get out on the trail--and reality sets in.

1) Hiking (and life on the trail) is not anywhere near as fun, grand and "romantic" as they had envisioned. So, they go home.

2) They either DON'T experience the emotional and spiritual awakening that they were hoping for. (So, they get disillusioned and go home) OR they actually DO have the spiritual and emotional experience they were hoping for--and once that spiritual or emotional need is met--they choose to go home. Their goal is accomplished--so they feel no further need to keep walking 20 miles per day in the rain.

3) They discover that hiking actually hasn't "fixed" the complex emotional feelings that they are experiencing following their divorce, death in the family, retirement, etc. (In some instances, the hiking actually makes the emotions more intense and makes the situation worse--i.e. hiking for several months increases their debt level, increases their loneliness, increases their grief etc). So, they go home.

burger
11-01-2012, 16:44
I'm sorry, but all of the above posters are missing the point. Nearly every suggested reason has been something about the hiker--injury, lack of commitment, lack of funds, boredom, etc. When someone quits the trail, unless money or off-trail issues are involved, the decision has to be partly due to the qualities of the trail itself. If you got hurt, the steepness of the trail probably contributed. If you were bored, the lack of views probably contributed. If you were exhausted, the pointless ups and downs and heat and humidity probably contributed.

Face it: it's a sucky trail in a lot of places. That's ultimately why a lot of people quit.

Creek Dancer
11-01-2012, 16:49
So is that why you quit? Because the trail is "sucky".

yellowsirocco
11-01-2012, 16:55
burger: I agree that the AT is a sucky trail. That is why I choose to make the section hikes I take into my trail, which happens to follow the AT for the most part.

On the other hand any journey that you take will not be a "mountain top experience" everyday. There is going to be ups and downs whether they be in elevation or just in life in general.

hikerboy57
11-01-2012, 17:00
I'm sorry, but all of the above posters are missing the point. Nearly every suggested reason has been something about the hiker--injury, lack of commitment, lack of funds, boredom, etc. When someone quits the trail, unless money or off-trail issues are involved, the decision has to be partly due to the qualities of the trail itself. If you got hurt, the steepness of the trail probably contributed. If you were bored, the lack of views probably contributed. If you were exhausted, the pointless ups and downs and heat and humidity probably contributed.

Face it: it's a sucky trail in a lot of places. That's ultimately why a lot of people quit.no one ever suggested it was easy. if it was, we wouldnt have so many "discussions" about how to "define" a thru hike.its a challenge. you rise to the challenge or you quit.a large percentage of people who start out at springer have little or no backpacking experience. if all of these people were able to finsih, what would make it so special?
most have no idea what theyre in for.

evansprater
11-01-2012, 17:34
I agree the romantic side of the trail fades very, very quickly. For me, it was in about the first hour. In that sense, I think I'm lucky I'm an endurance athlete and have dealt with that feeling before, because I was definitely one of those romanticizers when I got out of the car. I also agree that the trail sucks hard most days. It's not about the views, though, is it? If it was then I feel absolutely no one would pick the AT, or someone would've made a new, better trail on the eastern side of the country. It's about (like life in general) finding your own purpose for the hike - in my case, that is to open myself to new experiences and social situations that broaden my uderstanding of existence and the human capacity for unconditional love. From what I've read, giving your hike a purpose and writing down that purpose, as well as constantly revisiting and reevaluating that purpose, is a key to success. That trail is much tougher than you can imagine before you go, especially if you've never hiked before, and simply being around people talking about it (as you are doing on the forum), talking about it yourself, telling people you're going to do it, giving yourself a purpose, and mentally preparing as best you can in the time before you begin have all helped me immensely.

ChinMusic
11-01-2012, 17:42
When someone quits the trail, unless money or off-trail issues are involved, the decision has to be partly due to the qualities of the trail itself.

I've hiked all over the country. I know the AT has the least views. The AT is my CHOICE of a first thru.

I could not disagree with you more, but I'm sure for a tiny minority, you are right.

MuddyWaters
11-01-2012, 18:45
There are tangible limitations like time, money, physical injury that cause people to quit.

Then there are the intangibles. Mental aspects. These reasons may depend on why someone wanted to hike in the first place.
The bottom line is , they didnt get enough out of it anymore for them to continue.

burger
11-01-2012, 18:46
So is that why you quit? Because the trail is "sucky".
I didn't quit--I've always been a section hiker on the AT. I can only take it in short doses :)

4shot
11-01-2012, 20:16
people quit because the of the difficulty. of hiking the damn thing. or for planning for a 5-6 month hike (which is an equal combination of lazinesss and difficult. Or they get hurt, which ties back into how diificult the thing is.

SassyWindsor
11-01-2012, 20:56
Some let their mouths overload their a$$, then they almost have to start a thru hike , they quit because of a lot of reasons or excuses, real or imaginary. I've not yet had the desire to abandon a trip but I have been sidelined due to injury/illness. When out on a hike/trip I wake each morning looking forward for the adventure and experiences ahead. This may play out, but I hope not. I've hiked thousands of miles over the years and still plan the next trip to somewhere new and different and hope to continue to do so.

Mfrenchy
11-01-2012, 21:57
I read an entry in a shelter register-

"Views to a thru hiker are like sex to a hooker"

Violent Green
11-01-2012, 22:09
I read an entry in a shelter register-

"Views to a thru hiker are like sex to a hooker"

LOL. That's a pretty true statement.

Ryan

Mountain Mike
11-01-2012, 23:52
I think the completion rate of PCT vs AT is due to a variety of factors. The PCT is not a trail to contemplate if you have no wilderness skills or experience. Although in recent years there are some more hostels on PCT there are still very few, and shelters non existent. You have to deal with desert from get go, then high sierras & snow with river fords & navigation. I hiked with several people on it that were first time thru hikers but they all had backpacking experience. Many people on AT start out with no experience even camping a night yet make it. I think the AT is rougher with it's puds where PCT is graded for equestrians so more gradual, Then when AT get boring PCT is more vista filled. In short it is more experienced hikers to attempt PCT for a first thru than AT thus higher completion rate.

SassyWindsor
11-02-2012, 01:21
I think the completion rate of PCT vs AT is due to a variety of factors. The PCT is not a trail to contemplate if you have no wilderness skills or experience. Although in recent years there are some more hostels on PCT there are still very few, and shelters non existent. You have to deal with desert from get go, then high sierras & snow with river fords & navigation. I hiked with several people on it that were first time thru hikers but they all had backpacking experience. Many people on AT start out with no experience even camping a night yet make it. I think the AT is rougher with it's puds where PCT is graded for equestrians so more gradual, Then when AT get boring PCT is more vista filled. In short it is more experienced hikers to attempt PCT for a first thru than AT thus higher completion rate.

I agree. The PCT is deceiving in that it has more dangers, even for experienced hikers, than on the AT. Water and heat is a much bigger problem, and it's right off the bat (between Campo and the Sierra's). The Sierra's, especially if your approach timing is off, can be big trouble if a big snow hits. Big rains in the northern section of the trail (Oregon, Washington) can be trouble too. Then you have wildfires and earthquakes tossed in for good measure. This is not to dis the AT, but I'd much rather be in some sort of trouble on the AT than the PCT, the AT is a better trail for novice hikers, It's simply safer and much more populated on and in the surrounding areas of the trail should you need help. What pluses the PCT has in scenic beauty the AT makes up for it with its fun and friendships made.

burger
11-02-2012, 07:27
I think the completion rate of PCT vs AT is due to a variety of factors. The PCT is not a trail to contemplate if you have no wilderness skills or experience.
That's not true. The year I thru-hiked, I knew several other thru-hikers with zero or very minimal backpacking experience. Most of those folks finished their hikes. With a bit of planning and reading, anyone can deal with the desert or the mountains--it's mostly common sense.

I would suggest that just about any aspiring thru-hiker should consider doing the PCT instead of the AT if they want to actually finish a thru-hike.

Old Hiker
11-02-2012, 08:08
I read an entry in a shelter register-

"Views to a thru hiker are like sex to a hooker"

I'd say differently: views to a thru-hiker are like a $100 TIP to a hooker. They were so far and few between for the most part, at least for my hike, they were greatly appreciated in the daily grind (no pun intended) of the walking.

HermesUL
11-02-2012, 12:17
I'd like to make an argument that counters the "sucky trail" concept.

When a hiker who intended to hike the trail does not complete it, that's because something changed. If nothing changed, then the thru-hike would have been completed. Except from severe weather, the trail isn't going to change significantly at any point during the hike. Therefore, it is entirely on the hiker's shoulders; they found out their body isn't capable of such a hike, they spent all their money, they didn't understand the trail conditions, etc.

The impetus to start a thru-hike basically precludes the notion that a cancelled hike can be due to trail conditions; in most years, the trail will remain constant while the hiker's expectations and experiences change. Yes, the trail is steep in places, difficult in places, and there are very few views in places. However, that should be known by the hiker who makes that decision in the first place; and if it's not, that's the hiker's responsibility for

So, I'd say that cancelled thru-hikes are almost always due to the hiker's own condition, except in the (increasingly common) case of weather conditions changing the course of the trail. You can't blame the trail for being "sucky", because the realities of the trail should be making the difference between whether or not a thru-hike is attempted, rather than whether a thru-hike is cancelled.

That being said, the AT is a challenge, and it's a fabulous one. Just because you might not make it through doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try, and pretty much any successful thru-hiker will agree that the trail was worth the sacrifices they made to complete it. Not everyone will complete the trail, and I'm not saying it's the hiker's 'fault', but more that any cancelled thru-hike will relate much more to the hiker's own body, conditions, and financial/emotional situation than any particular aspect of the trail itself.

Mags
11-02-2012, 12:36
Sucky views? All a matter of perspective. "The long green tunnel" can be very beautiful in its own right. The thick woods, the shrouding fog, the moss along the trees. Simply awesome. Something I rarely get out West and love when I am back East.

What I don't like about East coast hiking is not so much about the lack of views is the amount of people. I loved my time on the BMT and looking forward to a hike on the Allegheny Trail at some point. The beauty of the AT without AT-like crowds.


http://www.pmags.com/gallery2/d/19574-2/aaz.jpg?g2_GALLERYSID=2e959effbc7e82e5bea597ee0591 7ccc

Donde
11-02-2012, 13:05
I would suggest that just about any aspiring thru-hiker should consider doing the PCT instead of the AT if they want to actually finish a thru-hike.

If one wants to finish a hike of any distance I would suggest you keep walking. Picking a trail solely cause of the higher completion rate seems to miss the point ( " We do these things not because they are easy..."). I mean do whatever trail you want, or that has what you want to see.

But if you are hating it ending it is the right decision. IMO the thing is don't quit on a bad day. When it's raining on something broke or whatever of course your unhappy. Bad days happen on trail or off. On a day when it all goes right, and it just does nothing for you, it's time to quit.

RED-DOG
11-02-2012, 13:22
Most first timers think the AT is some kind of Mystical place and its not its real damn hard, it takes a lot of HEART and Determination to be a sussessfull Thru-Hiker.

burger
11-02-2012, 13:34
If one wants to finish a hike of any distance I would suggest you keep walking. Picking a trail solely cause of the higher completion rate seems to miss the point ( " We do these things not because they are easy..."). I mean do whatever trail you want, or that has what you want to see.
Roughly half of PCT thru-hikers finish. Four out of five AT thru-hikers fail. If completing your hike is important, do the math--it's an easy choice. If you have other reasons pulling you towards one trail or the other, then go with your heart.

Creek Dancer
11-02-2012, 13:36
I didn't quit--I've always been a section hiker on the AT. I can only take it in short doses :)

If the trail is so "sucky", why even bother with section hikes? I mean, there are a lot of trails out there. Why bother with the AT? If I thought something was "sucky", I would chose to do something else. But that's just me.

Creek Dancer
11-02-2012, 13:39
I'd say differently: views to a thru-hiker are like a $100 TIP to a hooker. They were so far and few between for the most part, at least for my hike, they were greatly appreciated in the daily grind (no pun intended) of the walking.

The funniest thing I've ever read in a shelter register was at The Priest shelter where some hikers make certain confessions. It read "I confess that I wear condoms inside out for my pleasure". Cracked me up.:D

patman25
11-02-2012, 14:57
I failed on my thru hike this year for three reasons:

1. Poor Food planning
2. Pushed my feet too hard
3. Met a girl right before I started.

Number 3 being the main reason. 1 and 2 I could have corrected.

Other than those items, I LOVED getting up everyday and walking all day. I finished all of Georgia and got a day and a half into NC when I quit. The only part of the trail I think I didn't like was the climb from Georgia to NC...that was pretty rough. I think the reason I didn't like it is because for some reason I just didn't expect it that day. For some silly reason, I thought I was just going to breeze into NC and be done with Georgia. lol

Anyway, I'm going to section hike it for a few years then I will probably give another go at a thru hike.

People are complaining about the lack of views and things to see...just stop for a second and look around where you're standing. I almost always found something to look at that I wouldn't see in my everyday life. Stop and listen to the birds. Stop and pay attention to the way a stream is flowing over rocks. I found all kinds of beauty and amazing "views" on my attempt.

HermesUL
11-02-2012, 19:53
Roughly half of PCT thru-hikers finish. Four out of five AT thru-hikers fail. If completing your hike is important, do the math--it's an easy choice. If you have other reasons pulling you towards one trail or the other, then go with your heart.

Correlation does not prove causation.

Just because there's a higher finishing rate among PCT thru hikers does NOT mean that any given person is more likely to finish. The PCT has a very different crowd than the AT. Not to say the views aren't relevant, but...

burger
11-02-2012, 20:17
Correlation does not prove causation.

Just because there's a higher finishing rate among PCT thru hikers does NOT mean that any given person is more likely to finish. The PCT has a very different crowd than the AT. Not to say the views aren't relevant, but...
It's not that different. It's just a smaller crowd on the PCT.

prain4u
11-02-2012, 21:13
Regarding the AT vs. PCT completion rates--and "why" a greater percentage complete the PCT. I think there are MANY reasons. Let me inquire about another possibility....

I have never been to the PCT--but it would appear (on paper) that it MIGHT be a bit more difficult to quit the PCT than the AT. From what I can see, it seems that towns, crossroads and other potential "exit points" are much more common on the AT than the PCT. And, many of the PCT potential exit points seem to be much more remote than similar points on the AT. (What do you think--you people who have hiked both trails?).

If someone is having a "bad day" or a "bad week" on the trail--the presence of a greater number of potential "exit points" would seem to make it more likely than someone will actually quit the trail a bit more hastily. Conversely, if you have to keep hiking for another day or two on the trail before you can reach an exit point--perhaps the "mood to quit" will pass and you will keep hiking).

Would this theory have any potential validity?

Prime Time
11-02-2012, 21:33
Long distance hiking is a real state of mind. Almost anyone can hike, that is beat feet for 18 miles a day on average once they are conditioned to do it and assuming you're not trying to carry all of your wordly possessions and you are not clinically obese. Liking it is another matter. I'm not sure anyone always likes it. I'm sure almost everyone sometimes likes it. I think it helps if you are someone who can block out the bad times, or somehow blend it in with the good times, so that the entire body of work nets out positive. You can choose how to do the rest of it. Hike in a group, hike alone, party, don't party. The hiking, though, you just gotta do it and learn to mostly love it even if you don't always love it.

SassyWindsor
11-02-2012, 21:50
Some hikers have to ship their dogs home, due it's health/condition, and continue on. A lot, probably most, will pack it in and go home with their worn out dog. The trail is puts a toll on dogs pads, ticks are bad, etc.

BrianLe
11-03-2012, 00:20
"... it would appear (on paper) that it MIGHT be a bit more difficult to quit the PCT than the AT ...Would this theory have any potential validity? "
I suspect that's not it, or at least that it's a minor factor if so. You can get out to crossroads and such a bit more often on the AT, but if a person has decided to quit, they're going to get out the most efficient way regardless.
My personal feeling is that conventional wisdom is right --- the average experience level among folks starting the PCT is higher than on the AT. I suspect that even the less experienced that start on the PCT in general have done a bit more prep and/or study of what they're getting into.

And if you start with the herd on the PCT, you have a lot of AT veterans around you to ask questions of; on the AT it strikes me that it's a lot more folks that are not only less experienced themselves, but they're meeting up with and walking with others who are learning as they go along too.

prain4u
11-03-2012, 01:01
I suspect that's not it, or at least that it's a minor factor if so. You can get out to crossroads and such a bit more often on the AT, but if a person has decided to quit, they're going to get out the most efficient way regardless.
My personal feeling is that conventional wisdom is right --- the average experience level among folks starting the PCT is higher than on the AT. I suspect that even the less experienced that start on the PCT in general have done a bit more prep and/or study of what they're getting into.

And if you start with the herd on the PCT, you have a lot of AT veterans around you to ask questions of; on the AT it strikes me that it's a lot more folks that are not only less experienced themselves, but they're meeting up with and walking with others who are learning as they go along too.

I totally agree with you. I think that your idea is probably pretty close to being one of the key reasons for the higher completion rate on the PCT. You have a greater percentage of experienced hikers on the PCT--surrounded by other experienced hikers.

My previous post was merely me speculating as to one more POSSIBLE reason (among many possible reasons) why some AT thru hikers are more likely to drop out than their PCT counterparts.

burger
11-03-2012, 07:26
Do any of you folks really think that the difficulty of the AT has nothing to do with the inordinately high failure rate? Sure, some of the people who quit are inexperienced, but so are a lot of the finishers! From my personal experience, I had all sorts of physical problems on my first 3-month AT hike--knee pain, ITBS. On the PCT, I had zero leg or knee pain. The steep grades on the AT are murder on your body. The PCT is far more forgiving to your legs.

You people who say that inexperience is the only reason for the difference in completion rates between the AT and PCT are missing the elephant in the room--the trails themselves.

MuddyWaters
11-03-2012, 08:09
Do any of you folks really think that the difficulty of the AT has nothing to do with the inordinately high failure rate? Sure, some of the people who quit are inexperienced, but so are a lot of the finishers! From my personal experience, I had all sorts of physical problems on my first 3-month AT hike--knee pain, ITBS. On the PCT, I had zero leg or knee pain. The steep grades on the AT are murder on your body. The PCT is far more forgiving to your legs.

You people who say that inexperience is the only reason for the difference in completion rates between the AT and PCT are missing the elephant in the room--the trails themselves.


The part that most people have done before they drop out (southern AT), isnt particularly that difficult.

Many people are just is extremely poor shape, not having done any siginificant physical activity in years, overweight, and also are in denial about their condition. Everyone tells themselves they are in OK shape, because they compare themselves to other sedentary folks around them. Bad choice to compare to.

Physical problems can be minimized by starting slow, and increasing mileage slowly giving body time to adapt. I have had a stress fracture before from too many miles in too short a time, something I never thought could happen to me. You really do need to start slow, and add mileage slowly at first for joints and bones to adapt, regardless of your cardiovascular shape. Like the runners say, 10% increase per week.

OzJacko
11-03-2012, 08:12
I suspect that international hikers would have a higher success rate for similar reasons to those put forward for the PCT. Chiefly they would mostly be experienced in some longish hikes, albeit in a different environment.

As to why hike the AT instead of the PCT or another trail?
The AT is the grand daddy of long distance trails.
I don't want people to swamp me with indignant responses like the Long Trail is older etc.
I know the AT isn't the oldest trail around but it is the oldest really long trail with a thru hike "tradition".
Trails around the world like my local often say they are modelled on the AT.
It has this "mobile village" of people as the "bubble" moves , mostly NOBO, each year.
It is a long distance hiking trail with a very defined culture all it's own.

I am not coming to hike the AT in 2013 because it is the best 6 months of hiking I can do in the world.
I am coming because it has a mystique and a social element I am not likely to find anywhere else.
(Personally it also helps that it travels through or near what are some of the most historically interesting parts of your country.)

Cheers

BrianLe
11-03-2012, 09:05
"From my personal experience, I had all sorts of physical problems on my first 3-month AT hike--knee pain, ITBS. On the PCT, I had zero leg or knee pain. The steep grades on the AT are murder on your body. The PCT is far more forgiving to your legs."

In addition to MuddyWater's point above, I would add that for those that do the AT as their first long trip, on average pack weights are going to be higher, often a lot higher. Since I hiked the PCT first, perhaps my sense of this differs from the average.
Starting the PCT it seemed like everyone around me (and me) had some blister issues in the first few hundred miles, some so severe as to be trip-ending. Not nearly to the degree of drop-outs that happen on the AT, but it was still "a thing". It's not as if there's nothing else in the first few hundred miles to stress a person on the PCT. For example, on the AT you don't feel pushed to either carry a whole lot of water or do 20 miles your very first day.

To be clear, I don't dispute that the trail quality and pitch is in general harder on the AT, no argument there, but for NOBOs I think that MuddyWater's point about early dropouts is the key one. Perhaps someone has put together some drop-out statistics for SOBOs ? Ideal for such would be not just an overall drop-out rate, but percentage of those SOBOs that did it as their first long distance hike.

WingedMonkey
11-03-2012, 09:09
Seems when ever this question is asked, there is always a shortage of the wanna be thru hikers that quit giving answers. Would be informative to hear from those that gave up this year and last.

OzJacko
11-03-2012, 09:17
Seems when ever this question is asked, there is always a shortage of the wanna be thru hikers that quit giving answers. Would be informative to hear from those that gave up this year and last.
I suspect the ones that quit for the reasons you would like to see have also quit reading WhiteBlaze...;)

evansprater
11-03-2012, 09:19
The part that most people have done before they drop out (southern AT), isnt particularly that difficult.

Many people are just is extremely poor shape, not having done any siginificant physical activity in years, overweight, and also are in denial about their condition. Everyone tells themselves they are in OK shape, because they compare themselves to other sedentary folks around them. Bad choice to compare to.

Physical problems can be minimized by starting slow, and increasing mileage slowly giving body time to adapt. I have had a stress fracture before from too many miles in too short a time, something I never thought could happen to me. You really do need to start slow, and add mileage slowly at first for joints and bones to adapt, regardless of your cardiovascular shape. Like the runners say, 10% increase per week.

I'm sorry, what? The southern AT isn't that difficult? It's ****ing hard. And I am in extremely good shape. I ran 14 miles the week before I started my hike and I was like sweet, 14 miles running: I can definitely do 10 miles with 40 lbs on my back. Which I did. But it was ****ing hard. And so was the southern AT (which I am still on). Fact is, coming from a highly experienced distance runner, hiking is a completely different kind of shape. Completely. And the southern AT is that hard.

BrianLe
11-03-2012, 09:28
"As to why hike the AT instead of the PCT or another trail?"
Some good reasons there indeed. I would add that with overall good and frequent water sources and closer resupply points, a person on average carries less food and water --- thus a lighter pack is required. Assuming a typical start date, no special snow skills are required. You get moose on the AT. No moose on the PCT. (Moose are cool) For a NOBO you get the great option of the shakedown at Mountain Crossings early on to help you get your gear straight. Lots of hostels along the way on the AT, and in general more people know what you're doing, that you're not a homeless hobo --- though I think the PCT has come a long way on this point too.

All that said ...


"The AT is the grand daddy of long distance trails." As in established earlier? Not IMO any reason to prefer it, but each to their own.

"Trails around the world like my local often say they are modelled on the AT." Again, so what? At least I don't see that as a reason to hike the AT first, or instead.

"It has this "mobile village" of people as the "bubble" moves , mostly NOBO, each year." Ditto the PCT, this isn't unique to the AT. I had a better social life on the PCT, as I started the AT in February, so skewed for me, but my overall sense is that for folks hiking the AT with a more traditional start date that you can sometimes have "too much of a good thing" on this point.

"It is a long distance hiking trail with a very defined culture all it's own." And so is the PCT. They're pretty darned similar cultures, for that matter. I don't see a reason to prefer one over the other there. I was in fact surprised that the whole "trail angel" thing is so much stronger on the PCT; sort of offsets the sparcity of hostels I guess but adds a unique flavor that the AT doesn't have so much.

"... it has a mystique and a social element I am not likely to find anywhere else." And so does the PCT. I do grant the historically interesting parts on the AT. Though I recall walking by mining tunnel entrances on the PCT. Everyone gets to make cannibalism jokes around Donner Pass. The Sierra Nevadas have the whole John Muir historical and sort of "spiritual" aspect. The Bridge of the Gods at the OR/WA border has an interesting story behind it. In CA you walk through areas where Hollywood filmed a whole lot of Western movies. Etc Etc.

To all of that I would add that the PCT has so very much more in the way of open vistas, more beautiful settings, more wildlife, much more diversity in terms of ecosystems that you walk through. More chances to be alone if you want to (for days, weeks, or months) while still offering plenty of social times too if/when you want those. I also sort of like the fact that you're walking from one national border to another. The start/stop points on the AT felt a bit more random to me (okay, Katahdin is cool beans, I grant that). I certainly like the fact that the trail is better graded and on balance the trail quality is better --- just a lot more pleasure in walking such a trail in general.

I'm convinced that the AT is as popular as it is primarily through the old real estate adage of "location, location, location". For those not already sold on the AT as "the" trail to hike, I'd suggest that the PCT is the best trail to thru-hike first. Because you just can't know if you'll do both, and so many people don't even do all of one. In case you only get to know one long trail, why not pick the best one?

Of course such points can be argued ad nauseum, I'm not seriously suggesting a debate over which trail is "better" (!). I just think it's helpful in such a discussion to get a full list of points, from different perspectives. Perhaps someone from New Zealand will jump in and tell us we're both completely wrong! :-)

BrianLe
11-03-2012, 09:35
"I'm sorry, what? The southern AT isn't that difficult? It's ****ing hard. And I am in extremely good shape."

I think that the point isn't about difficulty in absolute terms, but as compared to the early part of the PCT. In response to prain4u's comparison of the drop-out rates of the AT vs. on the PCT. If you think that the first hundred or two hundred miles of the AT are a lot harder than the equivalent distance (or perhaps we should say time) on the PCT, there's certainly a case to be made there (points on both sides). It's a bit of an apples vs. oranges comparison, however, given that some of the key challenges are different.

Lone Wolf
11-03-2012, 11:08
I'm sorry, what? The southern AT isn't that difficult? It's ****ing hard. And I am in extremely good shape. I ran 14 miles the week before I started my hike and I was like sweet, 14 miles running: I can definitely do 10 miles with 40 lbs on my back. Which I did. But it was ****ing hard. And so was the southern AT (which I am still on). Fact is, coming from a highly experienced distance runner, hiking is a completely different kind of shape. Completely. And the southern AT is that hard.

hmmmm. differing opinions. i find the southern AT to be fairly easy walking

Malto
11-03-2012, 11:54
I always find the AT vs PCT difficulty to be extremely silly. Yes they are both hard in their own ways but the bigger problem is that no two years are the same on either trail. Compare the last two years on the PCT. '11 had massive snow that either knocked hikers off the trail or sent them on a flip flopping goose chase looking for snow free trail. In '12 there was very little snow in the Sierra and was a pretty easy year unless you shot through the Sierra and hit the snow in Oregon that was still around for the folks in the front of the pack. Then there are years with drought conditions, fire closures, poodle dog bushes etc. So which year should we compare to the AT?

Further it makes a huge difference when you start and the speed you do either trail. My hiking window put me ahead of all the fire closures in '11 but those hikers behind me had to skip around several fires. My late start gave me snow and rain free cruising through SoCal avoiding a couple of storms that likely contributed to hikers deciding to leave. Bottom line you can't compare the difficulties of the two trails in such general terms.

Finally, if you want to see why so many hikers quit the AT, spend some time in GA during the spring start. It's not much of a mystery. There are hoards of out of shape, overloaded inexperienced hikers getting in way over their heads. The lack of preparation that many display surprises me. I would think that someone embarking on a dream of a lifetime would stack the deck in their favor and get physically and mentally prepared. The same is try to a lesser extent on the PCT. there are plenty of opportunities to quit the PCT between the border and Warner Springs, mile 110. Lake Moreno, Laguna, Sissors Crossing plus many other places not so convenient.

HermesUL
11-04-2012, 00:17
I'm sorry, what? The southern AT isn't that difficult? It's ****ing hard. And I am in extremely good shape. I ran 14 miles the week before I started my hike and I was like sweet, 14 miles running: I can definitely do 10 miles with 40 lbs on my back. Which I did. But it was ****ing hard. And so was the southern AT (which I am still on). Fact is, coming from a highly experienced distance runner, hiking is a completely different kind of shape. Completely. And the southern AT is that hard.

40 pounds? I found your problem, right there.

OzJacko
11-04-2012, 01:34
40 pounds? I found your problem, right there.
Given that he is doing a winter hike - 40lbs is not bad.
For the record BrianLe my comments weren't intended to say the AT is better than the PCT.
Quite the contrary. As a hike I think from my reading the PCT would be superior.
If possible the PCT is also on my wishlist but the AT has "other" reasons for why people hike it.
I gave some for overseas hikers, accessibility and reputation (e.g "A Walk in the Woods") are probably the main ones for US hikers.

evansprater
11-04-2012, 05:43
40 pounds? I found your problem, right there.

People started doing the trail with 70 pounds on their backs, back in the day. Don't give me that. And I will gladly carry extra weight if it means eating and sleeping better, and having a better chance of survival (extra fuel, for example). Plus, it's a better workout. And I do have a lot of winter gear so I'd say I'm doing well on weight.

Datto
11-04-2012, 08:31
Speaking of the steepness of the trail and terrain difficulties, I wrote this on the 107th day and milepoint 1251 of my northbound AT thru-hike -- I hadn't even seen The White Mountains of New Hampshire yet. You could say that I still had not yet figured out (accepted??) that the AT always goes over the steepest incline one can see on the horizon:

After a visit to the library, I finally left Palmerton and climbed out of Lehigh Gap -- up one of the steepest mountainsides I've yet encountered on the Appalachian Trail. I remembered the day before looking up and viewing what seemed like a vertical climb and 'assumed' the Trail would never go there. Wrong -- always look for the steepest mountainside on the horizon and it's guaranteed that's exactly where the Trail is routed. And whooeee I got vertigo again. In some places the climb up the rocks and boulders was so steep I had to throw my hiking poles onto the rock overhead and use both hands to lift myself up. Now I'm 6'-1" tall -- I don't know what someone 5'-2" tall would do. Maybe a Kareem skyhook heave of hiking poles of some sort I imagine, followed by waiting for another hiker to arrive to give them a boost.

Now, imagine doing this all the time -- and you're carrying that 30 lb backpack everywhere you go. And you're always wet. And you're always sore.

That's the part people leave out of the romanticism when they're planning their thru-hike from the warmth and comfort of an easy chair in their living room during the winter previous to starting their thru-hike.

And so people just before the beginning of their AT thru-hike way underestimate the amount of physical exertion required on an hour-to-hour basis. It deflates their romanticism pretty quickly once they start north from Springer Mountain in Georgia. Well, that and the rain. Ha.

Of course, there are many, many elements that make up for the task of having to exert oneself on an AT thru-hike and the cost/benefit ratio is way on the side of the benefits ledger. But that's a different topic altogether (repeat in unison: "that's a different topic").

This is why I believe it's most important for prospective 2013 AT thru-hikers -- before reaching their point-of-no-return day -- to go out and do hikes that require they carry their backpack 10 miles per day (not camping) several times for several weekends each month between now and the day they start their AT thru-hike. Then do a one-week backpacking trip where they carry their backpack for 10 miles per day over the course of the week.

After doing all that, they'll know whether an AT thru-hike is something they want to pursue -- and they'll know it before they reach their point-of-no-return day where the prospective AT thru-hiker gives up their job, life, friends, family, comforts, warmth, water from a spigot...not to mention thousands of dollars in cash.

Surely I must be joking.


Datto

campingfever
11-04-2012, 08:48
VERY well stated!

HermesUL
11-04-2012, 09:29
People started doing the trail with 70 pounds on their backs, back in the day. Don't give me that. And I will gladly carry extra weight if it means eating and sleeping better, and having a better chance of survival (extra fuel, for example). Plus, it's a better workout. And I do have a lot of winter gear so I'd say I'm doing well on weight.

I'm sorry for the confusion, I didn't remember that you were talking about a winter hike. However, it's not fair for you to be saying things like, "I'm sorry, what? The southern AT isn't that difficult? It's ****ing hard. And I am in extremely good shape." Hiking in winter, carrying more creature comforts, trying to get a good workout, etc are very legitimate ways to do the AT, but you should acknowledge that you're making it significantly more difficult for yourself than necessary, and therefore you're going to have a very different experience from most thru-hikers, especially people who keep their pack weight under 25 lbs and hike in summer.

I'm super impressed with your AT plan--it looks like a heck of a lot of work and a fun trip--but it's not fair to flip out at someone who says that they found the southern section of the trail to be relatively easy. It's actually a good idea to keep their comments in mind, because the Whites might be hell on wheels come February.

FWIW, lightweight backpacking has always been a thing on the AT. Earl Shaffer slept under a poncho tarp.

OzJacko
11-04-2012, 09:37
Earl Shaffer slept under a poncho tarp.
......often.:)

For me the difference between Earl's day and now is best exemplified by the fact he toughened his feet by putting sand in his boots. No duct tape!

jakedatc
11-04-2012, 09:42
It's actually a good idea to keep their comments in mind, because the Whites might be hell on wheels come February.

he's on pace to do it in like 230+ days... he won't have to worry about the Whites until July

4shot
11-04-2012, 09:46
Speaking of the steepness of the trail and terrain difficulties,

This is why I believe it's most important for prospective 2013 AT thru-hikers -- before reaching their point-of-no-return day -- to go out and do hikes that require they carry their backpack 10 miles per day (not camping) several times for several weekends each month between now and the day they start their AT thru-hike. Then do a one-week backpacking trip where they carry their backpack for 10 miles per day over the course of the week.

After doing all that, they'll know whether an AT thru-hike is something they want to pursue -- and they'll know it before they reach their point-of-no-return day where the prospective AT thru-hiker gives up their job, life, friends, family, comforts, warmth, water from a spigot...not to mention thousands of dollars in cash.

Surely I must be joking.


Datto

excellent advice. I will add one thing... alot of people will train in areas where they cannot simulate the elevation changes. Even in my part of TN, I was doing 15 - 18 miles day with pack on training hikes and thought I was in good shape.

However, when I got to Springer, I struggled to do 10 miles/day at the start. I really felt sorry for those hikers from Fla.,Texas, Indiana, etc. It's hard to reproduce the AT hike for alot of hikers. One guy from Texas was in very fit condition and planned to do 20-25 miles/day in the beginning. He was barely making 8. OTOH, those who trained or hiked up in New England really did not have any issues with the southern AT. After hiking in Maine and NH, I can see why this was true.

MuddyWaters
11-04-2012, 13:38
I'm sorry, what? The southern AT isn't that difficult? It's ****ing hard. And I am in extremely good shape. I ran 14 miles the week before I started my hike and I was like sweet, 14 miles running: I can definitely do 10 miles with 40 lbs on my back. Which I did. But it was ****ing hard. And so was the southern AT (which I am still on). Fact is, coming from a highly experienced distance runner, hiking is a completely different kind of shape. Completely. And the southern AT is that hard.


I dont consider it very hard, even at 15-20 miles per day. Neither does my 13 yo son.

There are only walka few notable places where you have to use hands to help climb. Those fall into the "harder" category.

The rest is just a fairly easy walk. Half uphill, half downhill.

You set your own level of difficulty by how fast or far you go, and how much weight you carry.

Datto
11-04-2012, 17:16
Now, imagine doing this all the time -- and you're carrying that 30 lb backpack everywhere you go. And you're always wet. And you're always sore.

One thing about what I said above -- after 450 miles of hiking (about 40 calendar days or so) an AT thru-hiker is starting to get in pretty good trail shape (trail shape is different than being in shape back home) and carrying that backpack seems to be normal. If fact, a thru-hiker might have the highest worry point when the backpack isn't mounted on their back (wondering where it is, have they lost their pack, has someone walked off with their pack, oh...there it is, just where I'd forgotten that I'd left it).

Also, after 450 trail miles and 40 days (or less) an AT thru-hiker has developed somewhat of a daily AT thru-hike routine (complemented by daily surprise and unexpected experiences of joy, beauty, humor, kindness from others, unforeseen daily challenges, frustrations, meeting different people from yourself) that an AT thru-hiker gets accustomed to so that helps with developing the feel that the Trail is where you should be at this time in your life. I can't say it happens immediately for most people who start an AT thru-hike at Springer because most AT thru-hikers are not well prepared and really have underestimated what an AT thru-hike involves.

But -- that is one of the most interesting elements for many of those AT thru-hikers who are still on the Trail after 450 miles. The requirement to adapt to how things are rather than how things are imagined.

Getting to milepoint 450, of course, is the biggest challenge for most as exemplified by the high dropout rate of AT thru-hikers in Georgia and North Carolina.

If only prospective AT thru-hikers were more prepared -- mentally as well as physically prepared -- that dropout rate would diminish considerably. AT thru-hikers are a microcosm of society and people in society are not normally good planners and don't normally adapt well to the rigors and requirement for substantial change that the AT demands.


Datto

prain4u
11-04-2012, 18:05
I'm sorry, what? The southern AT isn't that difficult? It's ****ing hard. And I am in extremely good shape. I ran 14 miles the week before I started my hike and I was like sweet, 14 miles running: I can definitely do 10 miles with 40 lbs on my back. Which I did. But it was ****ing hard. And so was the southern AT (which I am still on). Fact is, coming from a highly experienced distance runner, hiking is a completely different kind of shape. Completely. And the southern AT is that hard.

Some people could spend all day debating the definition of terms like "Southern AT" and "difficult". Some people might also disagree regarding whether (or not) they PERSONALLY found portions of the AT in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee to be "difficult". (What is difficult for one person--is not so difficult for another person--and vice versa).

There is nothing wrong, or incorrect, in believing that the Southern AT is difficult.

However, if you have found "the Southern AT" to be "difficult" (and you have currently hiked not much farther North than the Smoky Mountains)---it is probably pretty safe to say that you will experience some "much more difficult" sections of the trail before you reach Mount Katahdin.

One additional point: There is a BIG difference between being in great shape for distance running and being in great shape for backpacking in hill country. They are two entirely different things. A wise person once said to me, "The only real way to train for hiking in hill country---is to actually put on a full pack and hike in hill country." I would tend to agree.

Happy hiking!

Mags
11-04-2012, 21:30
And so was the southern AT (which I am still on). Fact is, coming from a highly experienced distance runner, hiking is a completely different kind of shape. Completely. And the southern AT is that hard.

I think that's why you found it hard..you did not come from a hiking background. Different pace, different set of training and so on.

I'm short, not the the lean athletic type and I found the southern Appalachians to be comfortable back on my AT hike. This was when I had the monster pack, leather boots, white gas stove and so on. I was carrying about the same amount of gear you did it sounds like. My baseline was northern New England and, combined with a decent amount of backpacking experience (Long Trail thru-hike the year before), did not find the Southern Appalachians really that hard. When I was again on the Benton MacKaye Trail in the southern Apps years later, I did a good pace as well.

You may have been in good running shape, but sounds like you were not used to carrying pack. A different challenge than what you are used to I think. Goes very well with what Brian, Muddywaters and what others said.

MuddyWaters
11-04-2012, 22:53
Its relative to expectations I suppose.

Hard to me, is when I literally can only take 10-20 steps, then have to stop and rest and lean on to a tree, or when I need handholds, or when the trail is steep such that Im walking on my forefoot only.

Breathing hard 8 hrs/day is just expected, its "normal".

jakedatc
11-04-2012, 23:43
as a rock climber when i get to use my hands it is sometimes easier. hard for me is steep, slippery downhills.

NH is my "home field" so i don't find that as hard as most since i'm used to it. Still need to do Mahoosuc notch in maine to see what that is about.. sounds fun to me.

NotYet
11-05-2012, 00:22
Sucky views? All a matter of perspective. "The long green tunnel" can be very beautiful in its own right. The thick woods, the shrouding fog, the moss along the trees. Simply awesome. Something I rarely get out West and love when I am back East.


I concur with Mags. I would never consider the views to be "sucky" on the AT. It's true that you don't get lots of expansive open areas and the "in-your-face-type" grandeur that some of the trails out west offer, but that isn't what the AT is. The AT has incredible forests with rich and diverse flora and fauna. It offers hikers loamy soil covered in thick duff, cool refreshing creeks and welcoming shade. These ancient mountains offer a subtle beauty that will lift your heart if you chose to appreciate their mystery instead of wishing that they were something else. They certainly aren't boring!

The trail is the trail...if the hiker is bored or finds it too difficult or wishes the views were different, that's on the hiker. One common characteristic often found among those who complete a thru-hike is that the person accepts and appreciates what "is" and then adapts to it.

NotYet
11-05-2012, 00:25
Another common characteristic among those that complete a thru-hike is that they had good luck regarding the things that they couldn't control!

Donde
11-06-2012, 01:36
First plus 1 to notyet.

Also if you just want to finish a thru hike ( why so you can claim a title) and pick a trail based on probable completion rate I suggest the BR&O in Fairfax County VA managed with help from the PATC. It will take depending on pace 6 to 48 hours. It really is very nice.

SassyWindsor
11-06-2012, 02:01
I do remember my knees hurting for the first time on the decent into NOC (coming from Wayah Bald). I also felt the difficulty level of the AT started to increase somewhere after Hanover.

MedicineWoman2012
11-06-2012, 11:25
I planned and prepared more than I would like to admit for 2012 thru hike but these things stopped me:

1) Missin my son and realizing it may not be his dream to participate during summer months.
2) Broken foot (poor decision to go back resort to trail runners after hiking yrs with boots) after hiking 250 miles without it broken seemed so much easier. The last 45 or so miles were miraculous views as I knew I was not going to be able to continue and really savored those moments and memories.
3)Your going to love this one..Realing my bf's dream wasn't the same as mine and managing his tantrums wasn't on my agenda

Tuxedo
11-06-2012, 11:44
The reason I left the trail in 03' I'd had a knee injury that had me off the trail for 6weeks and when I got back on the AT doing an incomplete flip-flop. I did 200 more miles having fun and hike'n at a good pace but... about 3 days before I got off I called my parents to tell them not to send the next drop and that something was wrong. My Spirit was ready to move on, to simplify I couldn't stop looking at my trail guide everytime flipping thru the pages saying I wanna hurry up and get to here.

I only state hike your own hike and hike'n mine in a poor state of mind of hurry up and get it over with was not my idea of hike'n.

Spirit Bear
11-06-2012, 12:31
Thanks for all the replies. I have lived in Atlanta most of my life and the first time I hiked a section of the AT was this past February, My girlfriend and I camped down at lake Winfield scott and as we went through suches we crossed over Woody gap. We decided to stop spur of the moment and take a walk northbound. We got up to the summit of Big cedar and just chilled out, the wind was blowing hard that February day on one side of the mountain but when we reached the summit, the wind was no longer blowing on that side, we sat down and relaxed for about 20 minutes, I wanted to keep walking, the trail started haunting me from that day, calling me. Two weeks later I did a section hike, a walk I mean from woody gap to neels gap.

Since then I have hiked much of the Georgia section of the trail, have encountered 6 bears, met 4 thru hikers, was introduced to whiteblaze by a guy I met at the Nantahala last April thru hiking, can't even remember his name but I gave him a bottle of Jim beam i had in my car for our camping trip.

I have spent more money than I would like to admit on hiking and I have truly enjoyed it. The AT keeps calling me everyday I am working in my office. I want to do a thru hike, I just have to set a date and do it. Evaporate from my life for 8 months and go.

I have already experienced hiking for 10 hours in the rain, what a 40lbs pack feels like, have gotten my pack weight under 20lbs, winter pack still figuring it all out. Made the mistake of hammock hanging in 25 degree weather with a 40 degree down bag and a liner that said added 25 degrees, LOL what a joke that was. Have been afraid when I encountered my first bear, then the 2nd bear with her cub just 30 feet away.

I think in my head my biggest fear is that I just quit and grow tired of the high I have gotten from hiking. I would like to think my mind is mentally tough enough to withstand the pain and boredom associated with day to day walking alone day in and day out. But with every section hike I gain experience and realize what challenges are going to come my way with a thru hike, the un glamorous days associated with the green tunnel and no summit view climbs. This past summer I hiked from Springer Mountain to Neelís gap in 3 days and the next morning, I guess three and a half days. The weather was mid 90s all day and I survived that first test.

Could I do this for 6 months straight and from my home state of Georgia to Maine, a state I have only visited once just 2 years ago that took us 3 days to get to by car taking our time. I know how far that is, I have been there by car; the thought of walking there just blows my mind.

I have so much respect for any human who has hiked this entire trail, words can't describe the level of dedication and mental toughness one has to complete it.

I just hope my 40 year old body can handle the stress, I can work on the mental part of it, I just hope my body can.

Still planning my thru hike...

DrRichardCranium
11-06-2012, 13:06
It's all about the mind.

I thur hiked in 2010. Some people have been complaining about how on the AT, you're in the forest nearly all the time and mountaintop views are too rare.

I think part of my success was due to the fact that I love being in the forest. It isn't boring for me at all.

Often on long hikes I will identify the plants and trees as I pass them. Every species of plant has a story behind it, and there's really a lot to occupy your mind if you know something about what you're seeing in the forest. I feel bad for hikers who feel compelled to tune it all out with their mp3 players.

T.S.Kobzol
11-06-2012, 13:38
I think you hit the nail on the head




Regarding the AT vs. PCT completion rates--and "why" a greater percentage complete the PCT. I think there are MANY reasons. Let me inquire about another possibility....

I have never been to the PCT--but it would appear (on paper) that it MIGHT be a bit more difficult to quit the PCT than the AT. From what I can see, it seems that towns, crossroads and other potential "exit points" are much more common on the AT than the PCT. And, many of the PCT potential exit points seem to be much more remote than similar points on the AT. (What do you think--you people who have hiked both trails?).

If someone is having a "bad day" or a "bad week" on the trail--the presence of a greater number of potential "exit points" would seem to make it more likely than someone will actually quit the trail a bit more hastily. Conversely, if you have to keep hiking for another day or two on the trail before you can reach an exit point--perhaps the "mood to quit" will pass and you will keep hiking).

Would this theory have any potential validity?



Sent from my GT-N7000 using Tapatalk 2

Hosaphone
11-06-2012, 16:24
These ancient mountains offer a subtle beauty that will lift your heart if you chose to appreciate their mystery instead of wishing that they were something else.

Wow that's poetic!

Karma13
11-06-2012, 16:41
"Katahdin barada nikto."

Best sigline ever. Ever! :D

/derail

4shot
11-07-2012, 07:38
I just hope my 40 year old body can handle the stress, I can work on the mental part of it, I just hope my body can.

Still planning my thru hike...


there is a nice advantage to hiking the AT at 40 or over....from my observations, the older hikers tend not to cluster in packs and thus more likely to travel at their own pace. Usually, in a group, there is always the weakest link who tries to "keep up" with his or her faster buddies and ends up with some type of injury. Older hikers generally do hike their own hike so to speak.

Hans Solo
12-15-2012, 03:14
I disagree about the AT trail being a bad trail. In my opinion, it has the best of all landscapes to hike through with plenty of wonderful views. People get to hiking everyday like that and have overwelming feeling of being a total idiot for walking like that for no apparent reason. So, im just gonna walk over 2000 miles just to say I did or something. It's 25 degrees and you're wet trying to wrap up in a frozen sleeping bag. You've got to get up and climb out of your tent in the middle of the night into the freezing cold to do your business. You dont shower for extended periods of time and are constantly hungry. Spending a couple thousand dollars, just so you can walk to Maine.

Then, you get some annoying person that walks the same pace as you and wants to be friends. You cant get rid of them and they driving you insane. Then of coarse you have homocidal maniacs that like to cut hiker's heads off.

Different Socks
12-15-2012, 04:43
reason #5 boredom
reason #6 they miss mommy or daddy
reason #7 their relationships are faulting
reason #8 they don't like cold and wet

Reason #9--I thought it was gonna be fun, not hard work!

Don H
12-15-2012, 10:28
Spirit Bear, If I can do it at age 54 you can do it.

Getting up and hiking day after day in all kinds of weather is a challenge but for me the hard part wasn't the hiking, it was being away from my family for months at a time.

SassyWindsor
12-15-2012, 12:07
Many hikers attempting the AT are beginners carrying too much, out of shape, and dreamers. The trail is not difficult but I would suggest some miles of shorter overnight trips to gain experience before doing a long distance one. Also, don't make the PCT your first go at a long trail, it's more difficult in a lot of ways than the AT, do it second.

bamboo bob
12-15-2012, 12:14
I missed watching sports on TV. oh.... and my wife. But I kept going anyway.
On an earlier trip I hurt my foot after 1500 miles.
SOBO another time I just got lonely. I eventually fished each time.
i bet at least 90% of PCT people had done long hikes before and there were many AT veterans.
AT starters are newbies mostly. My first day backpacking was Springer Mountain. Who knew?

Dogwood
12-15-2012, 14:23
What are some of the biggest reasons for this and I would really like to hear from any of you who have attempted but failed to finish in the season. - Spirit Bear

So far you have received five pages of answers given the question, "why people quit?" While these answers can provide insight, I believe a MUCH MORE EMPOWERING question would be, "what characterizes those who DO NOT quit?" Personally, making that MY PRIMARY FOCUS is MUCH MORE helpful in acheiving my goals, which in this context is completing my thru-hikes. There will always be an infinite amount of reasons why folks quit. However, there are also reasons why folks DO NOT quit. Either way, realize patterns of behavior(habits) are being created and strengthened.

Try reading this in addition to what you' may have learned by the answers given on this thread: http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/cdt_what_is.html

Don H
12-16-2012, 09:19
I was just to stubborn to quit.

bardo
12-16-2012, 14:20
Thanks for all the replies. I have lived in Atlanta most of my life and the first time I hiked a section of the AT was this past February, My girlfriend and I camped down at lake Winfield scott and as we went through suches we crossed over Woody gap. We decided to stop spur of the moment and take a walk northbound. We got up to the summit of Big cedar and just chilled out, the wind was blowing hard that February day on one side of the mountain but when we reached the summit, the wind was no longer blowing on that side, we sat down and relaxed for about 20 minutes, I wanted to keep walking, the trail started haunting me from that day, calling me. Two weeks later I did a section hike, a walk I mean from woody gap to neels gap.

Since then I have hiked much of the Georgia section of the trail, have encountered 6 bears, met 4 thru hikers, was introduced to whiteblaze by a guy I met at the Nantahala last April thru hiking, can't even remember his name but I gave him a bottle of Jim beam i had in my car for our camping trip.

I have spent more money than I would like to admit on hiking and I have truly enjoyed it. The AT keeps calling me everyday I am working in my office. I want to do a thru hike, I just have to set a date and do it. Evaporate from my life for 8 months and go.

I have already experienced hiking for 10 hours in the rain, what a 40lbs pack feels like, have gotten my pack weight under 20lbs, winter pack still figuring it all out. Made the mistake of hammock hanging in 25 degree weather with a 40 degree down bag and a liner that said added 25 degrees, LOL what a joke that was. Have been afraid when I encountered my first bear, then the 2nd bear with her cub just 30 feet away.

I think in my head my biggest fear is that I just quit and grow tired of the high I have gotten from hiking. I would like to think my mind is mentally tough enough to withstand the pain and boredom associated with day to day walking alone day in and day out. But with every section hike I gain experience and realize what challenges are going to come my way with a thru hike, the un glamorous days associated with the green tunnel and no summit view climbs. This past summer I hiked from Springer Mountain to Neel’s gap in 3 days and the next morning, I guess three and a half days. The weather was mid 90s all day and I survived that first test.

Could I do this for 6 months straight and from my home state of Georgia to Maine, a state I have only visited once just 2 years ago that took us 3 days to get to by car taking our time. I know how far that is, I have been there by car; the thought of walking there just blows my mind.

I have so much respect for any human who has hiked this entire trail, words can't describe the level of dedication and mental toughness one has to complete it.

I just hope my 40 year old body can handle the stress, I can work on the mental part of it, I just hope my body can.

Still planning my thru hike...

Great post! After a long weekend trip of 12m days I am driving home dead tired and looking at my odometer. Seeing what 30, 40, 60 is in a car while being so tired the thought of hiking 2,200 miles is mind blowing.

brian039
12-16-2012, 14:56
Could I do this for 6 months straight and from my home state of Georgia to Maine, a state I have only visited once just 2 years ago that took us 3 days to get to by car taking our time. I know how far that is, I have been there by car; the thought of walking there just blows my mind.



Yes you can, the trick is to make yourself forget that you are walking from Georgia to Maine. It's not so much about mental toughness as it is about making yourself mentally dumb and living in the moment. Once you're out on the trail you're going to have to adapt to something every day so be flexible and don't plan too much. Learn to enjoy simple things like running water and a breeze in your face after a long, hot climb.

Avoiding injury is mostly about luck but start slowly and gradually increase mileage. Make sure your shoes have adequate traction once you get to New England, the downhills get steep and wet.

Grampie
12-16-2012, 17:50
My view of the reasons folks fail on a thru-hike:
#1 Not enough time..Even when they start they know they don't have enough time.
#2 Not enough money. Even though they don't have much money they start anyway....Need about $5,000.
#3 A injury that prevents them from continueing. Quite a few quit for minor sickness or injury but the strong continue.
#4 It's hard. Walking 8 to 15 miles a day for 6 months. I told folks that doing my thru-hike"was the hardest job I ever had."

Nean
12-17-2012, 12:40
perhaps other than injury- what I have seen is- people overestimate their abilities and underestimate the trail.

As far as the pct goes, it has more experieced hikers attempting it and is much easier walking. Not always beautiful views as suggested but a lot more of the wide open views that come w/ bigger mountains.

Studlintsean
12-17-2012, 13:48
First plus 1 to notyet.

Also if you just want to finish a thru hike ( why so you can claim a title) and pick a trail based on probable completion rate I suggest the BR&O in Fairfax County VA managed with help from the PATC. It will take depending on pace 6 to 48 hours. It really is very nice.

Is this referring to starting at Fountain head and finishing in Bull Run Park??

kayak karl
12-17-2012, 13:54
Reason #9--I thought it was gonna be fun, not hard work!
i always wonder what kind of jobs yous guys got that makes you think hiking is HARD WORK.

MJW155
12-17-2012, 15:45
Here's the biggest reason, in my opinion, that most people quits: the AT, as a hiking trail, mostly sucks. It's excessively steep in many places. Most of the time you're walking through woods with no views. The routing is poor, going over many pointless climbs with no views or other payoff. A lot of the trail up north is badly eroded, fills with water when it rains, and can be slippery or even dangerous when wet.

This is the underlying reason explaining why so many people quit. It's why people get bored (no views) and get injured (too steep).

My advice: if you want to finish a thru-hike (50%+ completion rate vs 20ish% on the AT) and enjoy yourself throughout, go hike the PCT.

This. I thought the trail sucked. There were parts that would cross a logging road at the base of a mountain. You'd have to hike over the mountain, and then cross the same logging road on the other side. Stupid. This happened numerous times. My take was that when the trail was designed, they said "How can we get from point A to point B and make it as senseless and difficult as possible?"

There was 1 section in NC where you hike 8 or 9 peaks in 20 miles and not one of them has a view. If it rained, water would be up to your ankles. I don't mind hiking in rain but I don't want to be wading in a river either. For the amount of rain the trail gets, I thought it was annoying how hard it was to find water at times. You would see a little sign saying water was .1 of a mile off the trail and end up having to go down 500 feet to a stream and then back up again. I hiked from Springer to Clingmans and got bored and went home.

SassyWindsor
12-17-2012, 17:20
Correlation does not prove causation.

Just because there's a higher finishing rate among PCT thru hikers does NOT mean that any given person is more likely to finish. The PCT has a very different crowd than the AT. Not to say the views aren't relevant, but...


I hiked the PCT 3 years after the AT, my observation was the PCT had a much, much higher percentage of veteran hikers. Most of the newer hikers were section or day hikers. The AT has a much larger number of hikers and a higher number of newbies. In addressing some of the other comments on this thread: It's true the AT doesn't have all the views but the ones you do have are nice, I found the AT to be sort or a social network where friends are made and I'm still amazed at the speed which news travels along the trail. AT trail towns have the ones on the PCT beat by a mile. Food along both trails are great, more eats along the AT by far. Weather can be a killer on either trail, the PCT has the killer part down pat. I would recommend anyone trying to decide which trail to hike first, I'd tell them the AT then the PCT. I one day will attempt the CDT along with the Canadian GDT (3900 miles?), will have to figure out the timing and exact routing.

NotYet
12-17-2012, 20:37
This. I thought the trail sucked. There were parts that would cross a logging road at the base of a mountain. You'd have to hike over the mountain, and then cross the same logging road on the other side. Stupid. This happened numerous times. My take was that when the trail was designed, they said "How can we get from point A to point B and make it as senseless and difficult as possible?"

There was 1 section in NC where you hike 8 or 9 peaks in 20 miles and not one of them has a view. If it rained, water would be up to your ankles. I don't mind hiking in rain but I don't want to be wading in a river either. For the amount of rain the trail gets, I thought it was annoying how hard it was to find water at times. You would see a little sign saying water was .1 of a mile off the trail and end up having to go down 500 feet to a stream and then back up again. I hiked from Springer to Clingmans and got bored and went home.

While this may have been both unpleasant and unexpected for you, it doesn't mean "the trail sucked." It simply means that the way you chose to interpret your experience led you to perceive that the trail sucked. Another person with a different mindset might have thoroughly enjoyed the same experience or had a tremendous learning about him/herself. We choose what we get out of an experience; we choose whether or not we are bored, and we choose what we think does or doesn't suck. The trail has much to offer anyone who chooses to hike it, but it's up to the hiker to decide what the experience can or will mean. The trail simply is. You can go back to the same trail time and again and have completely different experiences every time. We control our own perceptions and how we define them. I think the trail is wonderful... :)

Dogwood
12-17-2012, 20:57
While this may have been both unpleasant and unexpected for you, it doesn't mean "the trail sucked." It simply means that the way you chose to interpret your experience led you to perceive that the trail sucked. Another person with a different mindset might have thoroughly enjoyed the same experience or had a tremendous learning about him/herself. We choose what we get out of an experience; we choose whether or not we are bored, and we choose what we think does or doesn't suck. The trail has much to offer anyone who chooses to hike it, but it's up to the hiker to decide what the experience can or will mean. The trail simply is. You can go back to the same trail time and again and have completely different experiences every time. We control our own perceptions and how we define them. I think the trail is wonderful... :)

+1 Well stated. Heed the golden nuggets of wise principles in this post. They can change the quality of not only your experiences but your life. It comes from a person who truly understands how to have a good time!

hikerboy57
12-17-2012, 21:07
This. I thought the trail sucked. There were parts that would cross a logging road at the base of a mountain. You'd have to hike over the mountain, and then cross the same logging road on the other side. Stupid. This happened numerous times. My take was that when the trail was designed, they said "How can we get from point A to point B and make it as senseless and difficult as possible?"

There was 1 section in NC where you hike 8 or 9 peaks in 20 miles and not one of them has a view. If it rained, water would be up to your ankles. I don't mind hiking in rain but I don't want to be wading in a river either. For the amount of rain the trail gets, I thought it was annoying how hard it was to find water at times. You would see a little sign saying water was .1 of a mile off the trail and end up having to go down 500 feet to a stream and then back up again. I hiked from Springer to Clingmans and got bored and went home.
this past august we hiked for a full day of nonstop torrential rain, boots filled with water that i just kept them on for stream crossings, and we sang.
loved/hated every second of that day

RockDoc
12-17-2012, 21:45
My take was that when the trail was designed, they said "How can we get from point A to point B and make it as senseless and difficult as possible?"

I met a maintainer in Maine who told us as much. There's a competition between the states for toughest trail segment. Maine went all out to win the award with more PUD's than you can count. But other states aren't far behind...

WingedMonkey
12-17-2012, 22:13
this past august we hiked for a full day of nonstop torrential rain, boots filled with water that i just kept them on for stream crossings, and we sang.
loved/hated every second of that day

One whole day of rain? Oh my I don't know how you finished your hike.

:banana

MJW155
12-19-2012, 23:17
I meant sucked as in generally speaking. Of course there were plenty of parts I enjoyed. I like Springer, Blood Mountain, Fontana Dam, etc.

I think the AT would be a lot more enjoyable if there was a driver route that you could take and see as much of the trail as possible w/o having to deal with being in the "woods" for days at a time. Basically, complete the trail in say 2 months instead of 5, or whatever.

I do get that the uncomfortable part is part of the challenge. Different strokes for different folks.

NotYet
12-19-2012, 23:51
MJW155, the AT has so many road crossings that it's possible to day-hike the entire thing (even though it's possible, most hikers would probably rather backpack some of the longer/harder roadless sections). A two month thru-hike = BIG miles every day. Maybe one day you'll get to hike the trail in a way that will give you the experience that you're seeking, be it section-hikes over several years, jumping around from one beautiful section to another whenever you get the chance, doing one long, continuous "slackpack", doing a "traditional" thru-hike, or exploring the AT in some other way. One of the reasons the AT is so special to so many people is because it can be enjoyed in so many ways. Happy Trails! :)

MJW155
12-20-2012, 00:41
MJW155, the AT has so many road crossings that it's possible to day-hike the entire thing (even though it's possible, most hikers would probably rather backpack some of the longer/harder roadless sections). A two month thru-hike = BIG miles every day. Maybe one day you'll get to hike the trail in a way that will give you the experience that you're seeking, be it section-hikes over several years, jumping around from one beautiful section to another whenever you get the chance, doing one long, continuous "slackpack", doing a "traditional" thru-hike, or exploring the AT in some other way. One of the reasons the AT is so special to so many people is because it can be enjoyed in so many ways. Happy Trails! :)

Oh I know. But the OP wanted to know the biggest reasons people fail to hike the whole thing. I was just being honest. If I could do it again, I'd get a buddy to come w/ me and we'd use a car and switch back and forth. But unfortunately, no one actaully really suggests that as an option. It's either hike the whole trail or "die trying" so to speak.

mweinstone
12-24-2012, 12:38
My name is matthewski. I belive that should answer your question. As the bigest looser, finishwise, id have to say the reason I fal to thru is my name.

hikerboy57
12-24-2012, 12:39
My name is matthewski. I belive that should answer your question. As the bigest looser, finishwise, id have to say the reason I fal to thru is my name.

happy holidays matty.

MuddyWaters
12-24-2012, 13:15
This. I thought the trail sucked. There were parts that would cross a logging road at the base of a mountain. You'd have to hike over the mountain, and then cross the same logging road on the other side. Stupid. This happened numerous times. My take was that when the trail was designed, they said "How can we get from point A to point B and make it as senseless and difficult as possible?"

There was 1 section in NC where you hike 8 or 9 peaks in 20 miles and not one of them has a view. If it rained, water would be up to your ankles. I don't mind hiking in rain but I don't want to be wading in a river either. For the amount of rain the trail gets, I thought it was annoying how hard it was to find water at times. You would see a little sign saying water was .1 of a mile off the trail and end up having to go down 500 feet to a stream and then back up again. I hiked from Springer to Clingmans and got bored and went home.


If you want to walk roads, you can do that anywhere.
Trail clubs routed the trails over interesting features, not necessarilly scenic. In some cases there used to be views where the land was previously logged when the trail was laid out, and today theres none.

Water is extremely plentiful on the AT. You can hike it without carrying water, people have. Just drinking at sources.

If you think walking in woods sucks, walking in the desert sucks more.

max patch
12-24-2012, 13:25
You can always HYOH, oops, I meant HDOH (Hike Doyle's Own Hike) by joining his slackpacking 2015 "Expedition". Carry just a pint of water and an orange and hike the trail; a true ultra-lighters dream.