Monday, 13 April 2015

Murphy's Law striking again.

With only a couple of days left till I fly to the USA to take on the Pacific Crest Trail I should be focusing all my effort on gear and prep and last minute chores, but no.  What am I thinking of?  Toothache.

Last Friday I started to get some mild soreness around my gum and by Sunday evening the pain was ghastly.  Luckily, I was able to alleviate the pain with Ibuprofen, and get an emergency appointment this lunchtime, which established the problem was an abscess around an old bit of tooth left after an extraction ten years or more ago.  This is a big relief, as it proved possible to drain the infection and hopefully with antibiotics clear thing seup, at least enough to fly and see what happens.

I had horrific scenarios in my mind on the scale of fracking for natural gas, but it turned out to be much serious.  The dentist even laughed when I warned her she was more likely to be doing archaeology than dentistry in my mouth.  Fingers crossed it doesn't bother me too much when I'm hiking, but at least there's a dentist every hundred yards or so in America.  I checked on the internet, and there seems to be one at even the smallest settlement, so with luck I will be able to handle anything that comes up!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

What is the Pacific Crest Trail? [pt2]

The early section of the PCT is relatively low altitude starting at 2915 ft, rising quite gradually to a peak of about 9000ft until one reaches the High Sierra where altitudes exceed13000ft in one or two places.   It is possible to take a detour to higher ground if certain mountain summits appeal to you, but the highest actual trail point is Forrester Pass at 13180ft.  Inconveniently, this is about 29ft over the typical limit for most travel insurers, and one I called told me I'd have to insure myself for exceeding that altitude, over the duration of the whole trip, even though I'll probably be over the pass in half an hour and back under the limit.

The desert, is also the habitat of crotalus atrox, or the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.  Its not the only rattler though - there are many other varieties and most of them live in abundance here.  You may walk a week without seeing or hearing one, but then see five in a hundred yards.  They are potentially deadly poisonous, and can bite multiple times and lightening fast in a second or two.  I say potentially as about 7,000 - 8,000 people are bitten per year in the USA, but fatalities number in the single digits.  The good thing about them is they are not stupid, and when some lumbering hulk of a hiker comes barreling down the trail towards them, they know he is 50 times their size and could kill them, and immediately start warning of their presence with the rattling-tail gag.  This is a good thing - no-one ever died from hearing a rattlesnake. so as long as you stay alert, don't step over something where you can't see the other side, poke your hand into bushes or under rocks and so on, you will be highly unlikely to get too close to one, and therefore never get bitten.   Few rattlesnakes exceed 4-5ft, and can strike about half their body length, so if you walk six or seven feet round the snake, its not going to reach you even if it did try to strike.  

Occasionally, a lazy or stubborn one might sit in the middle of a path,refusing to move.  If lobbing rocks at it doesn't see it off, you may have go round it, if that's safe.  Its pretty stupid to muck around with such a snake though, so best not to go poking it with a hiking pole or what have you. Most snake bites happen because people are interfering with the snake or trying to handle it - so the trick is, don't.  If I met a snake in a confined gully, I would be only too happy to take a short reverse detour if possible, or settle down for a cuppa a few yards back until it buggered off.  What I wouldn't do is piss it off.

Other hazards include scorpions, which of course have a stiong on their articulated tail - apparently, the ones with big claws are generally not very venonmous, whereas the ones with little feeble claws tend to be VERY venomous.  Scorpions are nocturnal, so my plan is to keep my shoes and socks inside my tent when I remove them, and then I know there ain't any hitchhikers to shake out next morning.  Even the most venomous scorpions rarely cause fatality to a fit person, but the sting is ghastly and painful from most of then, so best avoided.

The bigger animals to be aware of are bears, black bears, (which are not always black - sometimes brown).  They are powerful, physically big animals, but seldon aggressive, and more likely to hurtle away at pace if you encounter one.  A juvenile might be curious and follow a hiker hoping for food, but my feeling about bears is I will be pleased and excited to see one.  It would be foolish to assume that there is no danger from bears though, and in some sections of the hike, especially the sierra there are places where bears have become familiar with humans and may come close, so close control of food storage is required to reduce their dependency on being near humans - this has become such a problem that bear-proof canisters are mandatory in places.  In parts of Canada and certainly Alaska, the Grizzly bear (or what Native Americans called the "real bear") is common.  These buggers are a whole different kettle of fish and I would not want to meet one of those much.

Then there are Mountains lions, also known as cougars, or puma.  These big cats are common through the whole of North and South America.  They are not as big as African Lions, being slightly smaller than a Jaguar or Panther, but still capable of killing a man.  In fact there are rising numbers of attacks in the last two decades with some 20 deaths or so, which is twice as many as in the previous century.  This is because of rising numbers of human visitors to their territories, although nearly two thirds of these fatalities were children.  On the whole it is unlikely that you will be attacked by a mountain lions, as they usually don't recognise humans as prey, but a cornered or very hungry cat might be more aggressive.  I really hope I get to see one, but they do say you are a hundred times more likely to be seen by one, than see one yourself.

I'm saving the worst till last obviously.  Mosquitoes. Little bastards.  Like tiny single engined aircraft whining around looking for someone to bite.  In the summer in the Sierra, where water is everywhere, so are the mozzies, so its long pants, long sleeves, head net and bug repellent, and maybe you'll get away with out too many bites.  But, you WILL get bitten and sometimes they are as thick in the air as smoke.  I'd sooner meet a pack of wolves.

Presuming one is not inconvenienced by any of these creatures, the walking will be tough, depending on how fast or slow you take the journey.  The thing is, you can't be too slow because of the weather.

Most people start in mid to late April, and indeed there is a big 2 day kick-off party about 20 miles up the trail at the end of April.  Start any sooner than this and you risk getting to the Sierra Nevada while there's still too much Nevada going on - snow.  And it can be many feet of it. Too late, and the desert will be getting hot and dry, the melt water in the creeks in the Sierra will be raging torrents, and you may not get top the end of the trail before the snow starts falling for next year in Washington.  The journey takes most comleters about 5 months.  My plan is to do it in four and a half, starting from Campo on April 18th and hopefully crossing into Canada on or before 31st August. I will fly back from Seattle on September 2nd.

If I make it, and that is far from being a gimme, as I am fat, fifty one and have a bad left knee, I will almost certainly lose a significant amount of body weight.  Some people lose a third of it or more.  I consider this a plus, but any thru-hiker knows that their relationship with the trail largely boils down to food.  Its common for resupply days to be about obsessive laundering, blogs, restocking the food for the next week's walking, and as many meals in town as its possible to cram in....three breakfasts, two lunches, maybe a couple of dinners.  Its basically impossible to carry enough calories to replace what's being burned off, so resupply days are very much about gorging to compensate.

Monday, 30 March 2015

What's the Pacific Crest Trail? [Pt1]

I'm always moaning on about the PCT and how marvelous it is, but it just occurred to me, that not everyone knows what its about or where it is!  Well, here's a picture of it.  You see that thin red line meandering up the west coast of the USA?  that's it; that's the PCT.  A strip of dirt two feet wide and about 2660 miles long.  That's some path.  Its generally attempted as a northbound trip, but annoyingly, its not always heading north, and even sometimes goes quite seriously south.
It starts at the Mexican border near Campo, a border control settlement, and winds up through California, Oregon and finally Washington; terminating at the Canadian border. Lack of roads at the northern terminus means most hikers walk on another 8 miles to Manning park in Canada, and get a bus to civilization to return home.  As well as being long, there's a lot of up-ness and down-ness,  about 498,000ft of each, which is the equivalent of ascending and descending Mt Everest (from sea level) over 17 times.  That is serious.

So, it IS a long old path, but its hard going in places for more reasons than distance.  For example, the first 500 mile section is in the Mojave desert, which is a scrubby desert, rather than the sand-dune kind of thing you might imagine when you think of the Sahara. But that doesn't mean its not hot - it can be roasting and carrying enough water to get from A to B is a major undertaking.  Most people need about 5l of water a day to be reasonably well hydrated, but that varies from person to person a little.  You really don't want to get dehydrated in the desert heat - not just because you feel thirsty, but because you will eventually inhibit the body's ability to sweat and once that stops, you are in serious risk of heat-stroke where the body cannot shed heat fast enough, and overheats, possibly fatally.  Planning your water consumption and sources is therefore very important.  Its not a completely dry desert, and there are creeks and springs in places, often dry by the middle of summer, but in April, potentially still viable water sources, and on top of that, settlements, cattle troughs and sometimes water caches left by volunteers.   Water caches are coming into disrepute lately because of the trash they cause.  They can be a godsend of course, but I wonder if one ought to try not to expect them, and/or plan around them, simply because they are not obliged to be there and dependency on them becomes risky.  On the other hand, if I happen on one, will I fill up with water?  You bet your skinny, bone-dry ass I will.

[cont pt 2]

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Book Review: Chris Townsend - Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles

Chris Townsend - Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail - 2014 [Sandstone Press]

Hopefully reader, you are familiar with Chris Townsend - one could hardly be unaware of him if at all active on the UK walking scene, such is his longevity and credibility as a commentator on matters of long distance hiking, wild camping, equipment and techniques to name a few. Recently he has even become quite the 'luvvy' featuring centrally in two of Terry Abraham's films, and with cameos in others - I'd actually seen some gear features on Youtube before I ever read any of Chris's books, so by the time I did, they read in his voice. Happily, he remains active as a writer, blogger and columnist on the outdoors, and has written many books about his travels, and on the techniques and paraphernalia we all obsess about. 

His most recent book gives an account of his walk on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1982, a time at which "thru-hiking" was a fledgling concept and the trail attracted a few dozens of hikers compared with the hundreds and thousands who attempt it today. By that time, Townsend was an experienced walker, having completed a trip from Lands end to John O'Groats, but admits in the book that he was naive about the demands and hardships he would encounter on the PCT. One incident that presaged walking practice today was his abandonment of heavy boots almost immediately the walk began in the desert, preferring to wear his running shoes that were only taken for camp comfort. He returned to the boots in the snowy High Sierra, but finished the walk in a pair of what we would now regard as approach shoes much against supposed expert opinion at the time. If you read any account of the PCT today, you will find no-one wears big boots, especially in the desert; and it's insights like this that give the impression he was as much sculpting the way hiking would be done in the future as enduring the walk in the moment. I don't suppose he thought of it in those terms then. Most of the adjustments and compromises he made seem to have been a matter of accelerated evolution as a walker learning on the hoof what wasn't working and how he could deal with it. 

Real testament to his spirit and toughness then that he was among a relatively few completers that year. The PCT association's website records as few as 11 people finishing the walk in 1982, whereas the total for 2014 was 371 - notwithstanding that some names may be missing. 

Townsend compiled journals throughout the trip upon which he has been able to depend in recalling detail of individual days - his thoughts and actions revived after more than thirty years, lending the book a feeling of documentary that teaches us more about today's likely experience than a simple account of a walk undertaken last year would do. We already know about Goretex and meths stoves, trail magic and bear canisters - what this book does is strip away the necessary but distracting ephemera around which we plan long distance trips today (I know because I am already making gear lists for my attempt in 2016), and gives us insight into the environment, the effort involved, the reaction of people he met, and perhaps most importantly, the impression it made upon him, shaping his life and career thereafter. On his website, there is a tab detailing the major walks he's completed up to about 2002 (probably needs an update - at least the Scottish Watershed walk is missing). He makes a major trip every three to four years in the sequence, some of them astonishingly ambitious to my eye, and one wonders if he would have dreamed of doing any of those if the PCT had been a disaster. 

For those who might aspire to trying a long distance hike, on the PCT or anywhere else for that matter, you would do far worse than read this book. Its often said that state of mind and determination are the most vital bit of gear you need and weigh exactly nothing, and this above all is what comes over. I think back to one amusing passage of indignant comment he makes concerning a hiker who is roundly suspected of fibbing about how much actual walking he'd done.  He points out that its nobody's business how much or little of the walk one actually treads - indeed there are probably as many or even more 'section hikers' who do a little bit here and there than thru-hikers - but to lie about what you've done is just disrespectful to others who have put the sweat in. 

It's indicative of the simple honesty of using one's own two feet to cover long distances that is at the centre of all of Townsend's books, and this one is no different, but it has one extra quality that makes it important. It amounts to a walking manual - not a gear manual or a backpackers guide (he does those too!), but a manual on how to walk, think about walking, how to stop and not walk at times; and what you might get out of all of it. 


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

What's the plan for 2015?

I can't read "2015" without wanting to say "A quarter past eight" because I'm a nerd. I suffer for it, but it comes in handy weighing stuff I might put in my backpack, that nerdiness does.
However, nerd or not, 2015 is upon us and I need to start thinking what I'll be doing this year, especially as it's the year I will be getting ready for the big trip in the USA next spring - the Pacific Crest Trail. That is unless my employers get the arse when I tell them I'm leaving in just over a year, and fire me. In that case I'll do the PCT this year and panic like mad with only a few months to get ready. That would make any plan for 2015 go to cock.
But let's assume I am in Blighty MOST of this year....
  • Well, firstly, I plan to record all my mileage this year, and I've downloaded an app to do so called "Walk log". Fiendishly clever name that. I am currently on 32.4m, all on the flat or nearly so. I reckon there's about an eighth of an inch of total ascent to report. I'll be doing a lot of miles locally on the flat this year to pursue my project of changing myself from John Falstaff to John Hazelstaff. In addition to that, all my proper walking will be logged, and I'll be ramping up the distances as the year goes on in prep for 2016.
  • Next, I have a bunch of Wainwrights still to do, albeit mostly the smaller ones now, excepting Scafell and Slight Side. I think I have 56 left to do and I think I can get those polished off in the next twelve months. To realise this I will do a lot more wild camping this year so I can complete the list in fewer trips and make the bagging a bit more efficient. Some of the ones I have left are dreary and in some cases isolated having given up on walks during bad weather etc. one of those is Raven Crag overlooking Thirlmere. Sometimes it's nice to have a weekend mopping this kind of fell up. I did five or six last autumn on a Saturday just driving between them and scooting up and down quickly - like Binsey, Little Mell Fell, Great Mell Fell and so on.
  • In mid to late April I may do a longish 'week' of desert training in the Mojave, perhaps getting 100 miles under foot. I will be hiking at the same time as the 2015 PCT crowd, so I get a realistic feel for the heat and water issues at the same time of year as I will be setting out for real in 2016. This will be tougher than the real thing as I will not have lost all the weight I will have over a year from now, but that simply means it will be a bit easier in 2016.
  • Back home again, I want to take one of my dogs on the Coast to Coast walk. I have three dogs, two of which are very doughty, a West Highland terrier cross Maltese ( a highland Malt!) and a Field Spaniel. The Spaniel is still a pup at only 6 months, so he will be approaching a year by then. I think he will have the legs for it, and I will find out more on the fells this Spring. The Westie, Jocky, has never given up on a walk with me - he's done about 65 Wainwrights - and seems to just keep going, but I wonder how he would cope day after day. I think he would be fine, but maybe I'll start training him a bit. The third dog in case you wonder is a lovely little cocker cross toy poodle. She's tiny. Actually she's done about 25 Wainwrights so she's far from idle, but I just don't think she'd really keep up the pace if we took her. Anyway, she's a lady and detests the rain. Funny dog - loves a bath and actively seeks out rivers, ponds and mud holes. But hates rain.
  • I'd also like to do the Dales way this year, but pressure on holiday days from work might dictate I try to do the whole thing at an all nighter. It's about 36 hrs at my kind of pace with stops, but lots of people have done it and it would be a great challenge.
  • ....erm. That's it. Oh, no it's not. My wife demands that I take her up the miners track. That didn't come out right. She wants to climb Snowdon, so that will probably be a weekender with all the dogs, or possibly a short week trying to knock off the Welsh 3000's. I've only done Snowdon, so it would be pretty good to do some of those.
Mmmm. It seems like quite a lot, but it all falls nicely into place with the plan for next year so hopefully my log will keep getting bigger...longer...oh you know what I mean!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Preparation preparation preparation!

Just that word repeated three times puts me in mind of Ben Kingsley playing Don Logan in Sexy Beast.  

However, I am referring to my preparation for the PCT in 2016.  Seems a long way off, but I will have to let my employer know about it before long - especially as I would like to begin fundraising midway through 2015, and if that scares the horses, I don't want to be out of a job for many months before the walk. My thinking is that I tell them straight after New Year that I will be leaving in a years time or so, and if they get the arse, I'll leave straightaway and do the walk in 2015 instead.  It gives me less time to get ready, get fitter and so on, but I could still do it at a pinch.

But, there is a huge amount to plan, so onwards and upwards...

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Looking ahead to the Pacific Crest Trail 2016

So, I've made the decision that I will hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016.  I'd love to do it in 2015, but I am in no shape to take it on, and have not done any prep yet, other than a bit of thinking and a few mappy things, so I feel I should be more prepared.  

There are three stages to doing the PCT...  

1.  Deciding you're going to do it.
2.  Really deciding you're going to do it.
3.  Doing it.

I've been in love with the idea of this walk since I read Chris Townsend's book about his walk on the Arizona Trail.  That is a shorter, but seemingly very tough walk (Arizona is modelled on Mordor in places) which got me thinking about long distance trails.  I then became aware of the PCT and the Continental Divide Trail; read some of the books written by thruhikers and finally got round to to Keith Fosket's book "The Last Englishman", and soon thought I'd like to be the next Englishman!

Recently, a film has been released dramatising the book "Wild:A Journey From Lost To Found" by Cheryl Strayed.  In her book she describes her experiences hiking the PCT or a good part of it, following some personal difficulties leading up to her adventure.  Its a decent read as a personal story, though not much in the way of a hiking manual (she makes nearly every mistake imaginable, but toughs it out nonetheless even if she consciously concludes the walk at the Oregon-Washington border).  Perhaps surprisingly, and to her credit, the author manages to come over as likeable despite setting up a rather unsympathetic account of herself and her behaviour.  In fact her candour about the adventure has earned her some negative reactions, which seem to be based on either exaggerated or ignorant conclusions about her.  The film stars Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, and has provoked good reviews - I haven't seen it yet as it is to be released in the UK in January 2015, but people are talking about Oscars so I'd like to see it and make up my mind.  One negative review described it as a feature length selfie, which I hope is off the mark, but we'll see.  When I first read the book I did feel it conveyed the feeling of "Look how wonderful I became when I rehabilitated myself", but subsequent comparison with other books reminded me that Strayed's writing manages to deliver sentiment without sentimentality which I think is important.

I confess I am worried the film might inspire a legion of fashion hikers thinking they can just get up and go - any exposure on TV or film for a sport or activity seems to create a brief flush of mad enthusiasm for it.  You only have to try to book a public tennis court during Wimbledon to know this, but walking 2650 miles is a more serious undertaking.  I visualise lots of clueless hikers setting off into the Mojave desert with one pint of water and running screaming at the first sight of a rattlesnake.  Maybe I am underestimating people's common sense, or overestimating the reach of the film, but I go walking for peace and a certain amount of solitude, so I wouldn't be delighted to see the trail become too busy. My hope is that it will have died down a bit by 2016, though numbers on the PCT grow year on year regardless.  When I reflect on the many thousands that walk in the lake district and how few people one sees on many fells, I can see an argument that the extra numbers will not be a problem.  On the other hand, there are some aspects of trail life which might be destroyed by a big surge in hikers - not least the fragile world of "trail magic" - favours offered by strangers for no reward.  Such generosity is to be deeply appreciated but never sought, and I wonder how fatiguing it could be for the kind souls who become known as "Trail Angels" to suddenly face thousands of demanding people.  I hope its a future I don't see realised.

On the matter of potential crowding, hiking guru Chris Townsend suggested to me leaving early or late, or even doing the North to South route.  He's right of course, but at this stage I don't know how much flexibility I have for the start time, with the well known issues of snowfall in the Sierra Nevada and the Northern Cascades.  Basically, if you leave too early from Campo, at the Mexican border, you risk getting to the High Sierra while there is still lots of snow from the previous winter. This could slow you down significantly, or even make the walk impassable and force you to wait for weeks - which obviously defeats the point of starting early.  On the other hand, if you start late, the High Sierra might be clear, but melt water could be an issue in some creeks running off the Sierra, and you also risk encountering next Winter's snowfall further North in Washington state, which has the potential to curtail the hike completely.

The ideal would be to start late, and walk at such a pace as to get to Washington well before the snow starts to fall.  Plenty of people do that, but they hike at a hell of a pace.  At my currently level of fitness and endurance I doubt if I would average much above 18 miles per day, even if I will do some 30 mile days at times.   And you have to factor in the "zero days" which one must take in towns near the trail to resupply.  From what I read, this is as often as weekly for many hikers, but occasionally longer on some sections.  I'll have to make a detailed resupply plan, and work how many days that represents and go from there.  If I conclude I need to average over, say, 25 miles a day then I will have to train up to that for the early section.  After a month or so, I imagine I will be as fit as I'll ever be, but the first section of the trail is in the desert, which is bound to slow things down, and I'll be getting my trail legs too.  I read in a PCT blog recently that an important early lesson to learn is that you don't have to get from Campo to Lake Morena in one hop.  Its the first 20 miles and many set out determined to be there for the first night's camp.  If that works for you comfortably, then fine I guess, but the point was you really need to listen to your body and settle into the walk if you stand any chance of getting to Canada.  This makes good sense to me, and I do not see making my feet into burgers as a great way to start the trip.  I'm hoping I can prepare well enough that water and heat will be the big challenges rather than trouble with feet. I can only recall ever getting one blister in the past which I treated with a Compeed, so maybe I have the knack of getting footwear right.  The unkown I need to better understand  is that of distance versus the weight of water its necessary to carry.  For twenty miles, with a camp at the end of it, I can see how I would be starting out with 6 litres or more. In the desert it is now common to find caches of water left by "Trail Angels" - former PCT hikers who voluntarily provide various conveniences, luxuries, supplies and assistance on the trail, completely for free.  I feel its risky to depend on water caches unless you leave them yourself and hide them well enough to be sure they are still going to be there.  I think Chis Townsend may have cached a few places in his Arizona Trail hike, which is even more brutal on water use, but I'll have to check.  Anyhow, the point is, to be safe, you have to carry lots of water, which affects your speed and distance.  If we do see a big increase in hiker numbers in the next year or two, the pressure on water caches will be severe, and put the emphasis on starting early to be ahead of the pack.

The notion of hiking North to South needs more research as I hadn't seriously considered it, but my initial reaction is that its a completely different project to the South-North approach.  It makes dealing with Snow a different proposition as the late start from the North must begin when you can comfortably navigate whatever is left on the ground, and its likely you will get to, and past the High Sierra before the next snows, leaving the desert till last.  However, the desert section would be horribly dry by the end of the summer, making dependency on water sources a bit patchy.  I hear that many hikers of the Continental Divide Trail walk North to South, and encounter this issue, though that trail is a bit longer and perhaps it necessitates the North-South route.

I may do a week in the summer of 2015 in Arizona or Nevada to get a feel for this.  There are actually some good hiking routes near Las Vegas in the Mount Charlston area, which would be easily accessible and plenty hot enough, or I could even do a hundred miles or so of the Mojave from Campo to try it out.  If I find I am going really slow, its no risk to the eventual walk, and I can factor it in my plan.  I did a little walking in Canyonlands, Utah last year and it was pretty hot.  I drank a litre of water in about two hours, and could have drank more - perhaps should have, but to be fair I had no real walking gear with me, and we stayed within two or three miles of the visitor centre on well marked paths, so could have walked out even with no water at all.  The real deal will be very different, and not to be underestimated.  I'm no camel, but I do find it possible to tolerate lack of water for a while, yet even the hottest days here are nothing compared to the desert.  I've been to Death Valley three times, and experienced crushing heat, although the hottest I ever experienced was in Arizona when I visited a native American archaeological site a couple of years ago.  The heat was so intense, it felt as though the nearly silent desert was "buzzing" - like Tinnitus.  Its hard to explain, but other hikers I've mentioned it to have agreed on the illusion of being able to "hear" the heat.  

Lately, I have noticed some soreness in my right knee when walking more than seven or eight miles on the flat, but its never a problem on the hills, so I conclude its an issue of my weight constantly bearing down on the same point of the joint - it goes away after an hour or two.  I think weight loss will fix this more than anything else.  I have a plan to monitor this over the next six months or so, and lose weight accordingly.  I have some Wainwrights left to do - about 60 or so, and will be walking the English Coast to Coast path next Summer, so this will give me some indication of any problems I might need to consider.  Funnily enough, they say don't start the PCT too skinny.  Basically, its hard to carry enough food to make up for the energy you burn, and people lose a lot of weight walking the trail.  Good.

I will have to give up work to do this, for which I can budget, but I need to work up to this with my employer.  Who knows - they might keep my job open for me, but I am assuming not.

Also, I plan to try raising money for Mountain Rescue so I need a bit of a run-up to that if its going to be effective.  I want to split whatever I get between the England and Wales MR and the Scottish MR.  I haven't yet done any walking in Scotland, but I will one day, and I've seen enough of their terrain to know it is not to be taken lightly. I'll write more about Mountain Rescue in another post so I can direct potential sponsors to it in the future.