The countdown is on

IMG_0846Counting down the days to the start. Now it´s only 2 months or 62 days left until we´re leaving from Amicalola Falls State Park.
Our flights from Luleå to Atlanta via Stockholm och Chicago are scheduled for 1 April. We plan to stay 2 nights in Atlanta in order to complete our equipment with food for the first 3-5 days. If everything works out as planned we´re going to start our journey on April 3.
We´re still not finally decided if we shall hike the approach trail from Amicalola Falls SP or take a shuttle to Big Stamp Gap, USFS 42, walking back on mile on the AT then.
Excitement and anticipation grow day by day.

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2014 Thru hiker statistics

The latest odds for completing a NOBO (northbound) Thru Hike are 25,76%! A little bit morNOBO_2014e than one of four succeeds.
Thanks to www.appalachiantrials.com for the graphs!

SOBO_2014

The full statistics for 2014 (and all time since completion of the trail  in the 1930ties) are available on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website:
http://www.appalachiantrail.org/about-the-trail/2000-milers

A walk in the woods – the film

A movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte based upon the popular Appalachian Trail book A Walk in the Wothods  by Bill Bryson had its debut on January 23 at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

Robert Redford says he first read A Walk in the Woods  when he and his wife Sibylle went on vacation. He grabbed a copy from a bunch of books on his desk … because it had a bear on the cover.  He later said, “I don’t remember laughing out loud as much as I did when I read that book.”

The film stars Robert Redford as an aging travel writer who decides to hike the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail with an estranged high-school friend (played by Nick Nolte), bickering and making wry observations about their lives and the world around them in the process. Nick Offerman, Kristen Schaal and Emma Thompson also joined the cast. Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine”) wrote the script.

Upon relocating his family back to the U.S. after years abroad, acclaimed humorist and weathered travel writer Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) decides it’s high time to explore his own country. His first order of business: trek the famed 2200-mile Appalachian Trail, much to his wife’s dismay. She allows him to go on one condition – that he find a travel walk-woodscompanion to accompany him on this ludicrous journey. The only person Bill is able to convince is an old acquaintance, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte), a wise-cracking recovering alcoholic and semi-reformed womanizer who is grossly out of shape and arguably out of his mind. As the two men set off into the wilderness, they encounter hilarious characters, wild animals, and life-threatening situations that will test the limits of their friendship – or end it. To be directed by Ken Kwapis and based on Bill Bryson’s beloved best-selling memoir, A Walk in the Woods showcases what is sure to be an unforgettable pairing of Redford and Nolte in this hilarious and touching “coming of age” story about two men who finally discover that life is about the journey, not about the destination.

More info:
www.imdb.com/title/tt1178665/
www.facebook.com/pages/A-Walk-in-the-Woods-Movie/783052905055942

Equipment check

IMG_0853

The ambition is to keep the basic equipment – without food and water – below 8 kg.
If you are 195 cm tall this is extra challenging. The XL sized sleeping mat has almost twice the weight of the smallest model and shoes in EU 49/ US 14 are also much heavier than such in “normal” sizes.

Some details:
Telt: Tarptent Rainshadow 2 – 1200 g
Backpack: Lightwave Ultrahike 60 M3 – 1215 g (Wolfgang); ÜLA Ohm 2.0 L – 892 g (Silva)
Sleeping bag: Cumulus Panyam 450 – 854 g
Sleeping mat: Therma-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite R 356 g (Silva); L 434 g (Wolfgang)
Pillow (!): AntiGravityGear Flex Air Ultralight Pillow – 27 g
Rain jacket: Marmot Essence – 165 g
Down jacket: Rab Xenon X Hoodie – 400 g
Stove: Optimus Crux Lite – 74 g
Pot: Evernew ECA-522R Titanium Pasta Pot 1000 – 116 g
Shoes: Nike Flex 2014 RN 14 – 270 g
Gloves: Montane Prism Mitt – 46 g
Water filter: Sawyer Mini SP128 – 97 g
Bottle: Platypus soft bottles 1 and 2 liters – 24 & 30 g
Headlamp: Petzl Tikkina – 85 g

Main sources for our ultra light gear were:
http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/ and
http://www.trekking-lite-store.com/

4 Mental Techniques for Peak Performance in Endurance Sports – my experience from Ultra-Running

A post I wrote for www.appalachiantrials.com – the best site for preparing your (thru)hike!

My so far most demanding long distance challenge was doing 100 km (62,2 miles) ultra-running competitions in the end of the 1990ties. My best time was 8h20min which still is around top 60 in the Austrian all time rankings. In addition I did some 25 marathon competitions, best time was 2h54min, but then I suffered from a chronic inflammation of my Achilles tendon and never got back to this level. Later, in 2008 and 2009 I participated in a 120 km Ultra Trail run in the North Swedish Mountains which took around 18 hours and was mentally even more challenging due to spending hours alone.
I think it´s amazing that you can do a 100 kilometers run when in training you never did a longer distance than 30 kilometers. A clear evidence how decisive the mental factor is.

100km_98Regarding this mental part of handling very long distances I hope my experience from ultra-running will help me to complete my AT Thru Hike planned for 2015.
Here are the mental strategies that helped me most and worked for me in order to keep up motivation when trying to cover long distances, as e.g. finishing a 100 kilometers ultra-running competition.

1) Full focus on the very next section
Always concentrate on the next stage, on the next part of the journey, on the 5-10 kilometers to come, on what is straightforward and manageable. NEVER, absolutely NEVER think about how far it still is to the finish line. Coming back to my ultra-running past I can say that to start thinking that it´s still 80 kilometers left when you have already done 20 km of running is disastrous. Or imagine having already done a marathon at a reasonable time and still not having reached half distance of your race – you will quit immediately if you allow for such thoughts.

2) Picture your katahdin-peakmoment of triumph
Picture crossing the finish line and how it will feel. In fact, it was one of the best moments in life for me crossing the finish line of an ultra-running competition. I imagined the picture of that moment all the time when doing long distance challenges, no matter if it was a competition or an activity on my own as e.g. cycling 320 kilometers (199 miles) to my summer holiday destination.
Since last summer I have photos of Mt. Katahdin as screen background on my computers and smart phones and in addition a picture in my sleeping room. Really hope this will help to make the entire AT!

3) Be prepared for the worst
Be mentally prepared for the worst that may happen on your journey. Assure for yourself that you are capable to overcome difficulties that for sure will occur. Once I completed a Marathon where I had open blisters on my feet after the first 10 kilometers. If you are aware that such thing can happen it´s easier to handle the situation. Of course it will hurt and of course it´s 100% ok to curse and swear, but never lose your capacity to either overcome or endure the problem. In other words: I´m trying to be (mentally!) prepared for snow in the SMNP, 2 weeks of consecutive cold icy rain directly after starting from Springer Mt, no hitches the first times trying to get to town for resupply or not one single trail magic for hundreds of Miles. If it comes out better, just enjoy!

4) Determination is decisiveIMG_5634
Someone has written that thru-hiking the AT is a call. Of course you can do it successfully without feeling such type of determination, but I´m deeply convinced it helps. It helps quite a lot. Some examples from my personal life:
Directly after finishing school I did a pilgrimage to Mariazell (Austria, 120 km/75 miles from the capital Vienna) together with one of our teachers and some class mates. When arriving I started calculating that it should be possible to do it within 24 hours. It cost me 2 failed attempts but determination for the goal made that I succeeded 2 years later. This became my introduction to long distance and endurance activities. Besides, my “equipment” for this first long hike was an old rain jacket, a lighter (for night time orienteering) and some pieces of barm brack in my pockets.
I started running in 1992 and after only a few training rounds I did know I have to do a Marathon, this it is what counts. Only half a year later I completed my first Marathon in spite of less helpful conditions – the temperatures were above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). For almost 20 years I had the dream to once in my life complete the world´s biggest (16 000 skiers) and most famous Cross Country Skiing competition, the 90 kilometers (56 miles) long Vasaloppet in central Sweden. After moving to Sweden I did it in 2012 in spite of heavy pain in the back.

Since having read Bill Bryson´s “A Walk in the Woods” 10 years ago I feel a call and determined to hike the AT.
Of course I´m aware that it´s a long way from running 100 kilometers to finishing the entire AT. Anyway, it´s just managing to do 35 times 100 km!

Some Appalachian Trail facts and figures

  • 250px-Map_of_Appalachian_TrailAt almost 2200 miles/3540 kilometers, the Appalachian Trail is the longest marked trail in the USA.
  • The A.T. is marked by more than 160.000 white “blazes”. Primarily found on trees, one can follow the trail of blazes all the way from Georgia to Maine.white blaze
  • The A.T. passes through 14 states: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
  • More than 250 shelters can be found along the trail. Sometimes called a “lean-to”, the shelters are generally a three-walled structure with a wooden floor and roof.200px-AppTrailMap
  • It is estimated that 5 million steps are required to complete the trail.
  • The ends are Springer Mountain, Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia in the south and Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine in the north.
  • The highest point on the A.T. is 2019 m at Clingman’s Dome in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Along the way, the AT crosses 8 national forests, and 6 National Parks, following the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains.
  • The most common animal found along the trail are White-Tailed Deer. Other animals hikers might be lucky enough to see are Beavers, Moose, Feral Ponies and Porcupines.
  • The trail is maintained by volunteers. Last year some 6,200 volunteers, led by members of 31 official Appalachian Trail maintaining clubs, worked 210,000 hours repairing trails, painting blazes and maintaining shelters, privies and wells.
  • An estimated 12.000 people have hiked the full length of the Appalachian Trail since it was completed in 1937.
  • Trail magic is an unexpected act of kindness or generosity. It can be as simple as a day hiker giving a thru-hiker a candy bar or as grand as volunteers setting up a grill near a road crossing and passing out hot dogs.