The Appalachian Trail is in the news again with a Washington woman breaking the record for fastest unsupported hike.
Heather Anderson set out on the trail this summer and finished on Sept. 24, completing the whole 3,500-kilometre trek in 54 days, seven hours and 48 minutes. She ran with no support van, no crew and no help. Anderson is a 34-year-old personal trainer from Seattle and also owns the record for fastest thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s something she accomplished two years ago when she set a time of 60 days and 17 minutes.
In order to hike the AT self-supported, she mailed packages of gear and food to locations along the way. This is the norm for hikers on trails like the AT and PCT. Businesses such as gear outfitters, hotels and restaurants will often allow a hiker or runner to mail personal items to their address and venture off the trail to pick it up.
The previous AT record was set by Matt Kirk. Anderson’s time beats his by quite a bit: four days, one hour and 52 minutes.
Because her hike was self-supported, Anderson’s record was not in competition with Scott Jurek’s. The trail runner set his record of 46 days, eight hours and seven minutes this summer, but his was a supported journey, meaning he had a van and an entire crew to assist him on the trail.
That’s the record that has since kicked up a fuss about the future of the AT. The size of Jurek’s crew was under scrutiny by park staff who said he was running with too large a group. When he drank champagne on Mount Katahdin to celebrate the end of his run, he was accused of breaking the no alcohol rule and littering. As a result, the park is now considering rerouting the end of the trail to avoid unruly behaviour from damaging the natural state of that section of the trail.
Anderson’s long-distance hiking is something that she has graduated to after being an ultrarunner for several years. She has said in the past that ultra running has mentally prepared her for getting through long-distance treks on her own.