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  1. #1
    Registered User Nevermind's Avatar
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    Question SOBO v NOBO length

    Does a SOBO thru typically take more/less/the same amount of time as a NOBO? I know SOBOs usually have a slower start, with rougher terrain. And shorter days near the end. That would suggest it could take longer, on average. Clearly it depends on the individual, the weather, alignment of stars, etc. etc. but I was just looking for some general thoughts on the matter. Or if anyone had any statistics from TJs. No need to convince... I'm already set on going SOBO 2011

    What do you think? SOBO longer than NOBO?

  2. #2

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    I've checked and rechecked and it would appear that the A.T. is about 2175 miles going in either direction.

  3. #3

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    When O.W. Lacey did his surveys on AT hikers, he found that southbound hikers generally had shorter hikes than NOBOs. The NOBO average was about 12 mpd while the SOBO average was about 15. It probably has to do with starting the trail in summer (longer days) and the relative scarcity of trail towns in Maine. NOBOs start with weather problems, short days and towns every 3 days. It slows you down.

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    Registered User Nevermind's Avatar
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    Very interesting. And exactly what I was looking for. I'm still surprised though, since SOBOs have a pretty rough start. Though now that I think about it, a lot of NOBOs are starting in snow, at least this year... Also, SOBOs would hit those southern trail towns eventually. You would think it might even out from end to end. Just like Pebble said, same distance both ways (not accounting for general relativity, of course). I wonder if the crowds makes a difference. Not traffic jams on the trail, but more frequently going into towns? Or maybe SOBOs are more likely to travel with a smaller pack, or solo for longer sections.

    Note: I realize it depends 100% on the hiker, not which way he or she is traveling. I was just curious about trends.

    Thanks Spirit Walker

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    Registered User slugger's Avatar
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    Good question.


    I would argue only against the length of days. The summer solstice is either June 20 or 21. That means when the SOBO start the days are only getting shorter. The NOBOs start when the days are getting longer and keep hiking until the days get short. off that alone I would say the NOBOs get more time.


    As for why the NOBOs take longer I would say weather has to do with it but I think a big thing is the trail towns. Lots of opportunities for zeros and low number days at the start. Where the NOBOs don't seem to have the luxury and get their trail legs faster.... Just a guess though.
    21.1% Done

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nevermind View Post

    Note: I realize it depends 100% on the hiker, not which way he or she is traveling. I was just curious about trends.
    That factor may lead to SOBO being faster.

    Here is why I say that.

    1. It seems like for a fair number of SOBO the reason why they are going SOBO is schedule related. They are choosing SOBO because it is the only avialable time off from work or school. This leads me to think a larger % of the SOBO have a quicker date they must finish by whereas a good chunk of the NOBO can take as long as they feel like taking so long as they get to Baxter before it closes.

    2. You can arrive at Springer out of shape and get into shape by starting off slow. And if you like slow you can stay at slow, except in a few locations. You need to do some pretty solid miles from day one going SOBO unless you want to carry a ton of food thru the 100 miles. Odds are you aren't gonna slow down after starting out putting in big mile days.

    So I think the analysis isn't which direction lends itself to being easier to hike quicker, but what type of hiker is more likely to go GAME or MEGA.
    Love people and use things; never the reverse.

    Mt. Katahdin would be a lot quicker to climb if its darn access trail didn't start all the way down in Georgia.

  7. #7
    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    Default SOBO vs NOBO

    I started as a NOBO in April and flipped at Doucannon and started SOBO on Julu 22. My thoughts were of how much tougher it must be to do a SOBO hike.
    The trail in Maine must be extreamely wet in the spring and the foot path is not as well maintained. You also have less places to get off the trail for resupply and a motel and resturant. Being able to do this helps to keep your spirits up when the going get's tough.
    I met two hikers who had done both a NOBO hike and a SOBO hike. They both said going NOBO was easier.
    Grampie-N->2001

  8. #8
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    My thought is that by the time you get your trail legs going sobo, you have conquered some tough terrain. Going nobo, the tough terrain is saved for the end. My point, let's say, is that if you avg 10 miles a day in the beginning, knocking out tough terrain is more strategic. Just a thought.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustaTouron View Post
    2. You can arrive at Springer out of shape and get into shape by starting off slow. And if you like slow you can stay at slow, except in a few locations. You need to do some pretty solid miles from day one going SOBO unless you want to carry a ton of food thru the 100 miles. Odds are you aren't gonna slow down after starting out putting in big mile days.
    I did this at Katahdin (although saying I wasn't in shape is only kind of accurate; I was healthy and not out of shape, but I hadn't put on a backpack in several months [and before that trip, several years] and wasn't really regularly exercising beyond utilitarian walking around a college campus). The first 115 miles took me 11 days, including one day to hike up/down Katahdin and one day-hike-only day following it. My pace didn't go notably or consistently above 10-12 miles a day until Glencliff (mostly intentionally; it was pretty clear during that time that my start time, stops, and stop time plus variable terrain conspired to keep me about at that pace unless I pushed beyond it being fun). After that it went to a little below 15 through Vermont (decided to time my arrival in southern VT to go to a hiker festival), then it went somewhere above 15 and gradually increased to 20/day by the last month (colder weather, hiking more and taking fewer breaks during the day, Springer fever or somesuch). Overall was 15.6/day. I see no reason why a not-particularly-out-of-shape person can't get in shape starting from Katahdin (especially if initial packing is better than mine was, a laughably easy feat even if the distance is stretched over 12 or even longer).

    I don't quite understand what's meant by "knocking out tough terrain is more strategic", to be honest. Notwithstanding I did some stupid things early on (who hasn't? ), my primary goal by southern Maine was just getting to Glencliff, not getting there at some particular pace (and certainly not the 15/day pace I was aiming for over the entire trip). I don't think others had particular goals that early, either.

  10. #10

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    "12 days or even longer", that is.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwalden View Post
    "12 days or even longer", that is.
    My theory, warped as it is, is that I believe you would have avg 10 miles a day regardless if you started in ME or GA. It takes awhile for trail legs regardless of your physical shape. Now, at the end of your hike and in good shape, the last mileage in NC/GA will be alot faster than the last mileage in the Whites and ME because of the terrain. Just a theory. With anything, tackle the hardest first. I bet it's even better from a mental aspect and mindset is very important.

  12. #12
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    jwalden, i quoted the wrong text.

  13. #13

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    Oh, I see; I can believe that. Notwithstanding the terrain, I did start out aiming for 15/day (almost invariably stopping after 10ish to acknowledge reality), so you're probably right to assume I'd have done 10+/day if I'd started in the south, probably even gone faster, sooner if I could. How much of these comparisons are really due to self-selection bias? Probably a lot, and I'm guessing there aren't many people doing it both ways to say anything meaningful (in a statistical sense) from just their experiences.

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