3300 miles around the Alps

We recently posted Andrew Skurka’s audacious 7000mi Great Western Loop. I doubt there are any unbelievers.

In Europe Judy Armstrong has already begun a 3300mi quest she’s calling the Alpine Challenge, the first to attempt to circumambulate the Alps.


Judy has a fantastic website — AlpineChallenge.info posted in four languages!

Check the brilliant way she shows the map of her intended route.

And her detailed gear list: 7.13kg (15lb 11oz).

You look terrifically well organized Judy. Good luck!

Andrew Skurka attempts the “Great Western Loop”

Walk the entire west of the USA? Is he crazy?

Skurka is the man these days. (We link to him from the right hand navigation under HIKERS if you want to check on his progress.)

Andrew starts as soon as April 1st. Good luck!

The numbers tell half the story: 7,000 miles, 7 months, 12 national parks, 75+ designated wilderness areas, 5 existing long-distance trails, 2 desert traverses, and zero attempts or completions to date. …

In early-April I will begin the Great Western Loop, in a location and direction that will depend on this winter’s snowpack (I’m leaning towards going counter-clockwise, starting near California San Gorgonio Pass). This is going to be an awesome trip!

And, to a greater degree than ever, those who wish to will be able to share in the experience via a soon-to-be overhauled AndrewSkurka.com website, Podcasts, and more frequent postings of photos and updates. With this enhanced trip interactivity, I’m hoping to help others develop a stronger connection with the outdoors, which I think is a key component in a much-needed, more eco-friendly lifestyle that emphasizes doing more with less and minimizing one’s impact on our planet.

More details will be forthcoming over the next 2 months.



Snowman Trek, Bhutan

Rogier Gruys is an expert on the West Coast Trail in Canada, the hike we rated #1 in the world. Rogier’s BluePeak Travel Photography pics of the WCT are still the best we’ve ever seen.

But Rogier likes the Snowman Trek even better.

Very few have ever done that long Himalayan trek (minimum 19 days) due to high cost (US$200 / day) and high risk.

The Snowman trek is the most difficult trek in Bhutan because one has to walk and camp at high altitude for nearly three weeks. As long as one has no problems with the high altitude and the weather is good, it is not a particularly difficult trek. But, if something were to happen along the way, someone would have to carry you down to the nearest house, or try to find a telephone to get a helicopter from Thimphu. Both are often several days’ walk. Initially, many people planned and wanted to go with us on the trek, but in the end they all bailed out and only two of us went.

Snowman trek description, Bhutan

BluePeak photo – high resolution version – flickr

Rogier recommends the Cicerone guidebook. It’s essential advanced reading for anyone considering trekking in Bhutan.

A Trekker's Guide (Cicerone)

Bhutan: A Trekker’s Guide (Cicerone)

John Muir Trail in 15 days

Jeffrey Hunter, Southeast Trail Programs Director of the American Hiking Society, did the JMT August 11 – 25 this past summer.

He recommends August as biting insects are in decline, “water is still plentiful, and the days are long”.

I can do long days, myself. Having never thru-hiked it, I would try for a fast trip like this. For one thing, it reduces the amount of food I would have to carry on the challenging second half.

Thanks for the advice.

Check Jeffrey’s blog: Southern Appalachians Initiative

Kings Canyon National Park – Jeffrey Hunter

This is just one of his 2006 – The Hiking Year in Pictures series.

John Muir Trail – more information

book – Ten Million Steps

Ten million steps is the incredible story of a 10-month walk from the Florida Keys to Quebec.

“Eb” Eberhart has another book, Where Less the Path is Worn: First Trek O’er Appalachians of North America, recounting a 347-day trek, over 5000mi, from Belle Isle, Newfoundland to the tip of Key West, Florida.

After getting medical advice he needed a pacemaker, Eb instead he walked over 17,000mi since 1998. If you see him on the trail, he goes by the monicker of Nimblewill Nomad. Age-68, he is not slowing down yet. He did the Lewis and Clark Trail in 2006.

Ten million steps

NimblewillNomad.com – official website

(via Two-Heel Drive)

Sierra High Route, California

Just finished listening to the final episode of Steve Howe’s on-the-trail audiocast of his solo Sierra High Route trek in California.

Howe is BACKPACKER’s Rocky Mountain editor.

Sounds fantastic! And very few hikers do it each season.

Howe posted daily to an interactive map. Very cool.

He was 37 days, 280mi (450km) on the trail starting August 26, 2006.

If you are looking for a much-more-dangerous alternative to the John Muir Trail, this is it. Much of the walking is above the treeline.

There’s no real continuous trail. Some experience in off-trail route finding is needed.

Scouting the High Route – GORP

“The Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country” (Steve Roper)

hiking the Netherlands

header_01.gifJan de Jong recommended the very professional wandelnet.nl website (in Dutch) for a comprehensive list of hikes 100km or longer. It includes guidebook recommendations.

To translate to English, I used the Babel Fish website. It works quite well, though only one page at a time.

The best part is the interactive map. (screen shot below) On the website version you can hover over the map and click on the routes.


If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much. Thanks Jan.

Stichting Wandelplatform-LAW – Lange-Afstandroutes : LAW’s (long routes page)

John Muir Trail record attempt(s)

“I built a castle in the swamp and it sunk. I built a second castle and it sunk too. I built a third castle and it burned down and then sunk. But the fourth castle, Ahhhh! That one stood.”

—Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Well-written account of an attempt to speed hike the JMT by 49-year-old Al Shaver.

Before my attempt, Reinhold Metzger held the unsupported, unresupplied speed record for the 208 mile John Muir Trail at 5 days 7 hours. I hoped to best his time this September. After three valiant attempts, his record still stands.

I knew I wasn’t necessarily the person best suited to break Reinhold’s record, but I was drawn to the challenge and I thought it was possible. …

As it turns out, the third time is not always a charm. I could take the advice of Mssrs. Cleese et al and try one more time, but I fear I took on a 40 miles a day challenge with 30 miles a day feet.

Results: John Muir Trail (JMT) Record Attempt – Unsupported, Without Resupply @ Backpacking Light

Al Shaver and the gear

(via The Adventure Blog)

why extend the Appalachian Trail?

We got an important comment from the official AT.


“Actually the terminii of the Appalachian Trail were determined by an act of the U.S. Congress when it established it as the first National Scenic Trail in 1968. To “lengthen” the official Trail would take a similar act of Congress.”

Martin A. Bartels – www.appalachiantrail.org


original post:

Most finish the AT at Mount Katahdin, Maine.

But the Appalachian Mountains continue into Canada. Surely the standard 2,175mi is not long enough.

You could cross the U.S.-Canada border at Fort Fairfield and add another 500mi or so. This is one of the extensions referred to as the International Appalachian Trail.

Trek Through to the True End of the Appalachian Mountains

But is that far enough?

Why not extend your walk through to the north tip of Newfoundland?


source – InternationalAT.org

Walking for walking’s sake is not necessarily a good thing. Because it’s there, not a good enough reason.

Be discriminating when you choose your hikes. That’s what besthike.com is all about.

Life is short.

grand slam of American hiking

Ken Powers and his wife Marcia have done all four: Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and — a weak fourth — the American Discovery Trail.

larger version

Having done none of the four myself, I was interested in their answer to this question:

Which trail is the hardest, best, prettiest, most fun?

This is a difficult question to answer. The Appalachian Trail is usually considered the hardest because of it greater (and steeper) elevation gains.

But many things on the AT seem easier because of its proximity to civilization. Sometimes it is too easy to go off-trail to get pizza and ice cream.

Best, prettiest, and most fun becomes a subjective question. We usually say the Pacific Crest Trail is the prettiest. It seemed to have the most views per mile. But the Continental Divide Trail also had great views and was our greatest accomplishment. The constant focus on navigating the CDT was an additional challenge.

The western portion of the ADT also has incredible views. The red rock areas of Utah are incredibly beautiful, but bring your own water.

We felt the Appalachian Trail was a more social trail. There were many more hikers and the frequent shelters became a gathering place for hikers every night. The trail passes through hardwood forests for most of the trail. The views are limited by the constant cover of leaves. Our AT hike was very different than hiking in the western states.


(via Two-Heel Drive)

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