Friday, August 22, 2014

Be A More Efficient Hiker

Trail To Summit is proud to celebrate 100 posts! Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey! I began this blog to keep track of my hikes and help others with their aspirations to hike the 4000 foot peaks in New Hampshire. Thanks to your interest, I have included trip reports for hikes all over New England, a new story-like installment of my John Muir Trail thru hike, recipes, tips, and gear reviews.

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For my 100th post, I'd like to share how to be a more efficient hiker. These are tips I've learned along the way and I hope it helps you to get the most out of each hike!

1) Fuel your body.

Think about nutrition before, during, and after your hike! I like to drink at least a liter of water on my drive to the trailhead (prehydrate!) and use a bladder to keep myself drinking throughout the day. Have snacks within reach and eat all day vs one or two dedicated food breaks.

2) Take micro breaks and make the most out of them. 

When I stop for too long, I get stiff and sometimes find it difficult to get back to the speed and rhythm I was hiking at before. Take numerous 20 second to one minute breaks versus a 5-10 minute break. Make the most out of each stop. If you need a breather, grab some water as well or snap a couple photos. Think ahead. Are you just going to stop again to put on microspikes? Do it now while you add another layer of clothing.

3) Go lightweight!

Your body will be much more efficient with less weight on your back, hips, shoulders, and even feet! Think about the hike you plan on doing and take items that would be useful in a situation that is likely to occur. You don't need to prepare for a blizzard on a typical summer hike. Keep extra items at home and replace that five pound pack!

4) Plan your next three steps.

If you're hiking on rocky terrain this is especially important. Avoid missteps or following a less than ideal route by looking ahead. Visualize your next three steps as you hike.

5) Find your stride. 

Get into a rhythm. Your steps should be smooth and in control. This is especially important going downhill to prevent injury.

6) Wear gaiters!

I used to only wear gaiters in winter to keep snow out of my boots, but I discovered summer gaiters. If you wear low trail runners like me, they keep all debris out of your shoes so you can keep on hiking.

7) Think prevention vs treatment.

Feeling a hot spot? Do yourself a favor and take a couple minutes to treat it. Same goes for ailments such as dehydration. You'd be surprised how much you slow down from issues that are easily treatable.

8) Use trekking poles and use them correctly.

A lot of people have issues with trekking poles. Some have even compared them to canes and act as if it's a weakness to use them. Your knees will thank you down the road! When using trekking poles with straps, put your hand through the bottom of the strap. Tighten the strap so it is snug around your wrist supporting you. You don't need to give the handle a death grip! A light grip is all you need.

9) Get in hiking shape.

As they say, the best way to get in shape for hiking is to hike. Start small and build your way up. Hike on a regular basis and if you're comfortable with it, hike year round! Winter is my favorite season to hike in and I don't have to spend all Spring getting back in hiking shape!

10) Take meaningful steps.

When the trail gets hard, this is how I deal with it. Make every step purposeful and strong. You're putting in the effort and you'll feel stronger instead of dragging yourself up.

11) Be prepared.

Do your research! Find out the conditions you'll most likely encounter, what you should bring (and what you could leave behind), bail out routes, and typical outing time. What is the route you're planning on like? Do you need special skills to complete it? Will you run into other hikers or is the route more remote? Looking at maps, guidebooks, blogs, and other resources will help you have a more successful and efficient hike.

12) Get a water filter.

Instead of carrying loads of water or hoping you have enough, bring a filter. I like the Sawyer Mini filter. It weighs 3 ounces and only costs $25.00! You can learn how to make it into an inline filter here.

13) Don't talk with everyone! 

You may find yourself surrounded by dozens of like minded, friendly people but be mindful of your schedule. A quick hello can turn into a 30 minute discussion about back country ethics or your favorite hikes. You don't want to end up hiking out in the dark because you couldn't keep moving. Talk as you hike or make hellos short.

14) Get up the tough stuff quickly.

My big secret about being a more efficient hiker is learning how to deal with the hard sections. I often quickly ascend a steep section leaving those behind me wondering what I must have eaten for breakfast. It's really all in your mind. Find a landmark to hike to or a number of steps to reach before you stop (and then go past it)! Runners use this method all the time. I keep up my pace and really focus on my stride as I go. If I choose to count steps it could be anywhere from 50 to 300. Yes, in the Sierras I made a goal to keep going up a steep section until I hit 300 steps. Look at your route and get going. Every time I look up ahead I add another 20 steps. If you're hiking with a group, you get a longer break! Use your time wisely: grab a snack, get hydrated and get a few pictures of what you just accomplished!

What are your tips for being a more efficient hiker? Leave a comment below!

Solo Summer One Day Presidential Traverse

I returned from thru hiking California's 220 mile John Muir Trail about a week ago and figured I needed to visit the Presidential Range as my first hike back. I did this traverse two years ago in the Spring and it was good to be back!

I drove up in the morning and got started right after 9:30 am. My first time hiking it I began at 4:45 am. You can either start or finish in the dark. This time around I wanted to be more rested the night before and hike out in the dark.

During a Presidential Traverse you gain 8500 feet over just under 20 miles. Going up to Madison, the first peak of the day, you'll get your first taste of rocky, rough trails and lots of elevation gain. No switchbacks here!

Indian Pipe

Below treeline it was humid and I was ready for the breeze. Just above treeline is the Madison Hut.

I hiked up Madison first and then paid a visit to the hut. I got some delicious pink lemonade, ate a rocky road Snickers (my new favorite), and hit the trail.

The view from Madison was stunning. I had the perfect conditions for a traverse: not too hot or humid with a slight breeze.

While the whole traverse is rocky, the Northern section is especially difficult. You will constantly be balancing on rocks and without a doubt, find some loose ones in the process. I like to plan three steps at a time. Deciding my next few steps ahead of time makes me less susceptible to missteps and taking a less desirable route.

This is the actual trail. No soft soil up here; you're in the granite state!

On Mt Adams, one of the coolest summits in the Whites standing tall at 5793 feet.

Up next is Mt Jefferson and Washington. Keeping my pack weight down and taking micro breaks helped me stay moving on this trip.

A Presidential Traverse is not official if you skip summits. Many of the summits have routes around them or they are on side paths. If you think the view from Valley Way is nice, wait until you climb another 200+ feet!

Feeling good on Mt Jefferson (5712')

Getting up to Mt Washington is a long and difficult stretch. Last time I really felt it going up and took some longer breaks (and dealt with a LOT of fog). This time around, I felt strong and really enjoyed the elevation gain. You have to like steep trails to be up here!

There were two trains coming down as I neared the final push up to Washington. As you close in on the summit, you can't tell how crowded it is until you make your way all the way up. Only then can you really see the cars, lines of people at the summit sign, and tourists walking around with coffees and jeans.

Once atop Mt Washington (6289') I got in line to get my summit picture and enjoyed some trail mix. You need to multitask to get the whole traverse done! I spent about 40 minutes atop Washington before I began the southern half of the traverse.

Rocky, but more predictable footing on the southern half of the traverse.

Although Lakes of the Clouds was filled with hikers and tourists, it was very peaceful right outside. I didn't pay a visit inside, but instead enjoyed the views of the beautiful alpine lake.

Monroe was an easy peak for me on this hike. I was really enjoying the views and my trail mix. Once I reached the summit, I shared it with two giant ravens. I was in good company!

 Atop Mt Monroe (5372')


The sky was absolutely gorgeous from Eisenhower (4780'). I felt very lucky to have these mountains so close to me.

 I made it to Mt Pierce (4310') in the dark. I already had my headlamp on and was ready to descend down the trail. The Crawford path, although very wet and muddy) is very easy to follow.

Soon after Pierce an owl flew across the trail and landed on a branch. My camera's flash wasn't on and the owl left the branch. It landed a few feet away and hung out for quite some time. After a few pictures, I headed down the trail, leaving my new friend to enjoy the trail.

I stayed at the Highland Center and took the shuttle back to my car the next morning.

I realized after my hike that I officially completed round 2 of the NH 4000 footers. Because of the order I did them in I should complete round 3 this fall! I beat my first traverse by over 3 1/2 hours (first time I had never never been on the Presidentials and took 15 1/2 hours). The following day I didn't hurt. The only thing that really gets you in shape for hiking is just to hike! My JMT hike (along with all the 4Ks I had been hiking the past couple years) really prepped me for this hike.


Peaks: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Eisenhower, Pierce

Elevation Gain: 8500'

Mileage: 20

Hike time: 11 hours 50 minutes

More detailed stats:

start 9:30 am

Madison summit 11:40 am

Adams Summit 12:35 pm

Jefferson summit 1:55 pm

Washington summit 3:52 pm

Left Washington 4:30 pm

Monroe Summit 5:45 pm

Eisenhower summit 7:10 pm

Pierce summit 8:00 pm

Highland Center 9:20 pm