Monday, September 30, 2013
Runpacking the Oregon PCT
[Edit: you can read a full report of this adventure at irunfar.com.]
On the morning of August 9th, Yassine Diboun and myself will begin an attempt to run the 460-mile Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail. We will start at the California/Oregon border and journey northward toward the Oregon/Washington border. Our effort will be in the same 'self-supported' style as previous thru-hiker records, meaning no support crew and no pre-arranged meetings for support. We will carry all of our own food, water, and equipment. We will exit the trail at various points to pick up mailed resupply packages containing food and gear and will re-start the trail from the same exit point. We will not ride in cars or use any form of transportation other than our feet and will follow the official PCT trail with no detours or alternate routes. Any deviation from this criteria will preclude an official record. I will be posting updates and locations on my blog (hopefully daily) and Yassine will be carrying a SPOT beacon. In addition, I will be carrying contact cards to give to various hikers on the trail to help verify our effort.
As of this writing, the fastest (officially recorded) PCT speed record for the state of Oregon is 10 days, 14 hours, 14 minutes and was set by Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley as they achieved an incredible northbound thru-hike of the entire 2,655-mile PCT (in 65 days, 9 hours, and 58 minutes). Scott and Adam's record surpassed previous records by Scott, Joe Kisner and also David Horton's astonishing 2005 supported run of the PCT (66 days, 7 hours, 16 minutes). In 2011, Scott Williamson continued his impressive string of PCT hikes and beat his and Adam's previous PCT co-record, but I don't have an official time for the Oregon section from that attempt. It appears that Heather Anderson (aka Anish) has now nearly completed a new record-setting thru-hike of the entire PCT and averaged close to 50 miles per day through the state of Oregon. The new official Oregon PCT record time is not available at this point, but her overall achievement is truly humbling and amazing. Peter Bakwin's excellent website contains much more detailed information about the history of speed record attempts on this and other trails.
As an ultrarunner, I want to sincerely express how humbled I am by the incredible achievements and commitment of thru-hikers (both speed and non-speed hikers). I have to admit that a record attempt on a shorter section of a much longer trail feels a bit crass within the context of a full-length thru-hike. With that said, my primary goal for this project is to explore the intersection of fastpacking and ultrarunning, where the objective is to move quickly across vast geographical areas with minimal gear, where fitness is the main vehicle for the voyage. For me, the most inspiring adventure runs tend to be day-length endeavors, circumnavigating volcanoes, ascending mountains, and crossing ridgelines and canyons, where the aesthetics of the undertaking are somehow definitive, clean, and dictated by a larger scope, be it geographical, historical, or otherwise. And while it is always nice to begin and end a long and arduous day in the comfort of a soft bed, I have become more and more intrigued by the possibility of going further while still maintaining the unencumbered freedom that is central to the 'fast and light' ethos. Given the time constraints of family and work commitments, the somewhat arbitrary traverse of my home state falls neatly within the parameters of a more committed and challenging adventure run and combines the skillsets of ultrarunning and ultralight fastpacking, which I find very appealing and liberating. My own humble intention to set a speed record is subordinate to the simple pursuit of adventure and freedom, of seeing beautiful places, engaging and exploring natural landscapes, testing my own physical limits, and sharing an adventure with a good friend.