Historical data

I went on the PCTA website and pulled out some interesting numbers. They only have reliable date from 2013. Prior to that, a single permit could be issued for up to 8 hikers so they really aren’t sure how many people attempted the thru-hike before 2013. The numbers of successful completions are based on self-reports. The incentive for someone to report a successful thru-hike to the PCTA is a nice medallion. So nearly everyone reports their completion to get the medallion, and perhaps some that don’t really complete the hike, as well.

2013: Total thru-hike permits issued: 1,041. Northbound thru-hike permits: 988. Southbound thru-hike permits: 53. Thru hikes successfully completed: 274. Success rate: 26%.

2014: Total thru-hike permits issued: 1,461. Northbound thru-hike permits: 1,367. Southbound thru-hike permits: 94. Thru hikes successfully completed: 482. Success rate: 33%.

2015: Total thru-hike permits issued: 2,808. Northbound thru-hike permits: 2,486. Southbound thru-hike permits: 322. Thru hikes successfully completed: 647. Success rate: 23%.

2016: The official numbers won’t be released until after the first of next year. I counted up northbound permits issued for the Mexican border. There were 3,274 through June 30. These permits are for 500+ miles on the PCT. There is no way to know what percentage of those are thru-hikers, though I’m sure the vast majority are. But some permits are for long section hikers.

There were roughly 2,160 permits issued prior to my start date. If everyone with a permit started and on their permitted date, I was about # 2,160 to start the trail.

At mile 211 was a trail angels’ house – Ziggy and the Bear. It is in the desert and nearly everyone had to stop there for water. They carefully register and photograph everyone that comes through and I was # 1,209. A lot of people dropped out early, I passed a lot of people in the desert, and some may never have started so somehow I moved up about 950 spots.

The PCTA lists all the completers as they self report but they enter the data in batches. When I reported my finish, there were 62 names already on the list. When my name showed up on the list last week, there were 147 names. So I finished roughly in the 62-147 range, though many could have, and probably did, finished before me and not reported in yet.

The PCT is not a race but I feel an extra sense of accomplishment finishing near the front of the pack after starting near the back of the pack.


Gear review

I won’t go into depth here but will touch on some of the important items:

Pack: ZPacks Arc Blast. Use again? Definitely. Very comfortable. Plenty big. Some webbing needed repair halfway through but it was 3 years old.

Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek 2. Use again? Yes. A joy to setup. Plenty big. Zipper failed in Oregon, as many Fly Creek 2’s did, and had to replace tent.

Sleeping bag: ZPacks 20 degree quilt. Use again? No. Not warm enough. I added down to it in WA and that helped. But had to wear all 4 of my layers to keep warm on 35 degree nights. I shivered on 30 degree nights.

Sleeping pad: Full length Neo Air. Use again? Definitely. No leaks. Very comfortable.

Favorite pieces of gear:

SanDisk MP3 player. Holds 2000+ songs. Didn’t have to use phone to listen to music. Always clipped to my shirt. Light – 0.9 oz.

Patagonia Houdini wind jacket. Super light at 3.9 oz (large). Durable. Still looks new. I wore it everyday.

Sea to Summit inflatable pillow. Well worth the 3.1 ounces. Slept better with a pillow.

10 foot charging cord for my phone. This came in handy so many times in restaurants and other recharging places.

RailRiders Journeyman shirt and Eco-Mesh pants. Both treated to repel mosquitoes and other bugs. Wore them every day. Expensive. Durable. Comfortable. Lots of pockets. Dries quickly. Well worth the money. You’ve seen enough pictures of these.

Here are my favorite pieces of gear, minus the RailRiders shirt and pants.

Gear that needed repair/replace:

Sleeping bag
Black Diamond trekking poles- just wore out and failed. They were 5 years old.
Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer down jacket – zipper jammed making it a pullover.
Anker phone battery charger – failed, making it an anchor.
Smartwool gloves- unravelled in both thumbs.
Darn Tough socks- wore out 3 pairs but they are guaranteed for life.
Brooks running shorts (used as underwear) elastic lost its elasticity. They were 2 years old.
Lexan spoon- broke

I didn’t see anything anyone else had that I wished I had, other than a warmer sleeping bag/quilt. I had no regrets going stoveless and didn’t miss hot food at all on the trail. Going stoveless may or may not be lighter but it sure is simpler.

If you have any specific gear questions, please email me at richsteward24@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to answer them.


Misc info and stats

Here is some miscellaneous info on the PCT in general and my trip in particular.

More people have summited Mt. Everest than have thru-hiked the PCT. There have been 6,871 successful Everest summits thru 2013; there have been 4,210 successful PCT thru-hikes thru 2015.

I ate a total of 87 meals off trail in 134 days: 25 breakfasts, 24 lunches, and 38 dinners.

I took 14 zeros and 9 neros on the trip.

Meals cooked on trail: 0

I wore the same clothes everyday.

Pairs of shoes used: 5

Pairs of socks used: 6

The PCT can easily be thought of in 5 major sections. Here are some stats from my trip on each:

The Desert: Campo, mile 0, to Kennedy Meadows South, mile 702. Distance: 702 miles. Total days: 36. Zeros taken: 5. Neros taken: 1. Full hiking days: 30. Average miles/day: 23. Average elevation gain/day: 3400′. 30+ mile days: 0. 5000′ elev gain days: 4

I took 2 neros between sections.

The Sierra: Kennedy Meadows South, mile 702, to S. Lake Tahoe, mile 1091. Distance: 389 miles. Total days: 25. Zeros taken: 2. Neros taken: 1. Full hiking days: 22. Average miles/day: 18. Average elevation gain/day: 3600′. 30+ mile days: 1. 5000′ elev gain days: 0

I took 2 zeros and 1 nero between sections.

Northern California: S. Lake Tahoe, mile 1091, to Ashland, mile 1716. Distance: 625 miles. Total days: 25. Zeros taken: 1. Neros taken: 0. Full hiking days: 24. Average miles/day: 26. Average elevation gain/day: 4500′. 30+ mile days: 3. 5000′ elev gain days: 7

I took 2 zeros and 1 nero between sections.

Oregon: Ashland, mile 1716, to Cascade Locks, mile 2144. Distance: 428 miles. Total days: 16. Zeros taken: 0. Neros taken: 1. Full hiking days: 15. Average miles/day: 29. Average elevation gain/day: 3800′. 30+ mile days: 7. 5000′ elev gain days: 2

I took 1 zero and 0 neros between sections.

Washington: Cascade Locks, mile 2144, to the Canadian border, mile 2650. Distance: 506 miles. Total days: 23. Zeros taken: 1. Neros taken: 2. Full hiking days: 20. Average miles/day: 25. Average elevation gain/day: 5500′. 30+ mile days: 4. 5000′ elev gain days: 13.

The Entire PCT: Campo, mile 0, to the Canadian border, mile 2650. Distance: 2650 miles. Total days: 134. Zeros taken: 14. Neros taken: 9. Full hiking days: 111. Average miles/day: 24. Average elevation gain/day: 4100′. 30+ mile days: 15. 5000′ elev gain days: 26

If you split this trip into 2 sections, before Tahoe and after Tahoe, this is how it breaks out:

Before Tahoe: Campo, mile 0, to S. Lake Tahoe, mile 1091. Distance: 1091 miles. Total days: 63. Zeros taken: 7. Neros taken: 4. Full hiking days: 52. Average miles/day: 21. Average elevation gain/day: 3500′. 30+ mile days: 1. 5000′ elev gain days: 4.

I took 2 zeros and 1 nero between sections.

After Tahoe: S. Lake Tahoe, mile 1091, to the Canadian border, mile 2650. Distance: 1559 miles. Total days: 68. Zeros taken: 5. Neros taken: 4. Full hiking days: 59. Average miles/day: 26. Average elevation gain/day: 4600′. 30+ mile days: 14. 5000′ elev gain days: 22.


Fri 9/16

We spent the night at Maria’s house last night. For DC’s last day before flying home, she wanted to see a little of Seattle, which she had never visited before. So we headed downtown and rode the monorail, visited the Chihuly glass exhibit below the Space Needle, went to Pike Place market, had coffee at a couple different places, and had lunch at a Persian restaurant.

We stopped at Shellie’s house on the way home for wine and snacks and had a surprise visit from Chrissy, one of my best friends.  We went back to Maria’s home and she whipped up a great dinner in about 20 minutes to end our day. DC and I stayed at her home again, but it was an early bedtime as I had to leave at 3:30am to get DC to the airport. DC is so excited to get home and see Erik and her dogs.

For me, I’m really tired.  I have so much to do and get caught up on. At this point, I haven’t even had time to empty my backpack. I’m still hungry all the time. My final weight, on my home scale, was 158. I started at 172. I lost less weight than most guys on the trail. For some reason, girls didn’t lose nearly as much as the guys.

I’ll probably post a couple more blogs in the next week or two, one commenting on gear and one giving some stats about the trip.

Maria and DC enjoying coffee next to the new KEXP studio ( my favorite radio station) in downtown Seattle.


Thu 9/15

DC and I were up early after a short night’s sleep and drove 2 1/2 hours up to Rainy Pass to greet hikers coming through, hoping we would see at least one person we knew. Rainy Pass is about 60 miles from the border so people we would see were roughly 4 days behind us. We were blown away by how many people came through that we knew.

We arrived around 9:30 and the first hiker to arrive was T Rex, a guy we met in the desert and hadn’t seen since. The next to arrive was Crazy Mama, a good friend who we had flip-flopped with for 2000+ miles. And the entire day went like that. I saw 2 guys I hadn’t seen since Idyllwild, 2400 miles ago. A couple came through that remembered me from last year when I picked them up at Stevens Pass and drove them to the grocery store in Gold Bar! That was very cool. The wife broke her elbow shortly after they left Stevens Pass last year so they were back to finish the trail this year.

We had about 30 hikers come through and we knew more than half of them. It was SO fun! We had ice cold beer, sodas, fruit, chips, cookies, candy, and most importantly, chairs.

I could only round up 6 chairs in very short notice; at one time we had about 15 hikers hanging out with us. Some stayed as long as 2 hours just visiting with us. You probably can’t understand how nice it is to sit in a chair after months of sitting in dirt. They were so appreciative of everything. The looks on some of their faces as they rounded the corner and saw us was priceless. Many were shocked we were already done.

DC and I both agreed today was one of the best days of the entire trip.

Some of the gang. Wish we had more chairs!

Crazy Mama, one of our best friends we saw today.

T Rex, who I hadn’t seen since the desert.

Mr. Tree, who I met in Idyllwild, 2400 miles ago, and hadn’t seen since.

Apple, a German girl we flip-flopped with for 1000+ miles.

Wed 9/14, Day 135, 9 miles, mile 2650.1

Yep, as I climbed out of my tent on another subfreezing morning, I didn’t feel done with the trip. We had 9 miles to the Manning Park Lodge, which we covered in a brisk 3 1/2 hours. We ran into 2 more friends who were hiking southbound to provide trail magic to their hiking partner, who was a day behind.

We were pleasantly surprised to find our friends Megan and Yuch at the lodge restaurant when we arrived so we joined them for a late celebratory breakfast. As soon as we finished breakfast, we walked over to the lodge and were intercepted by my buddy Matt, who drove 3 hours up to get us. The timing was perfect for us because we were a few hours early. It was not so perfect for Matt because he was planning on mountain biking for a few hours until we arrived.

He drove us all the way down to Mukilteo, where we scrambled like on a resupply nero: showers, laundry, grocery shopping. We are driving 3 hours up to Rainy Pass tomorrow to provide trail magic all day to thru-hikers. It’s our way of starting to give back.

Breaking camp for the last time.

Sunrise in the Canadian mountains

It says, “YAY PCT’RS!”. Thank you Canada.

This is the frisbee that Ally sent me. I carried it 2000+ miles and it brought hours of fun in camps along the way.

DC, Matt, and me at the Manning Park Lodge. Matt drove all day to get us and take us home. Matt, thank you SO much!


Tue 9/13, Part 3

We made it! We did our 10 mile celebration at mile 2650 around 6:15pm then DC ran the last 0.1 mile to the monument. I slowly walked there alone. There was no one at the monument. We spent about 30 minutes taking pictures, writing in the trail register, and reflecting on what we just did. We were # 20 and 21 to sign the register today. That doesn’t mean that many people finished today- many skipped ahead and have to go back and finish big chunks of the trail.

How did it feel to finish? It’s hard to explain. First, we still have almost 10 more miles to get to the Manning Park Lodge so we have to camp another night along a trail. So it doesn’t really feel like we’re done. But we are in Canada and done with the PCT. I guess there’s a feeling of accomplishment but I’m actually not feeling much of anything as I lay here in my tent another night. It just doesn’t feel like we’re done. Perhaps it will hit me tomorrow.

It’s certainly the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally. But I feel great. Nothing hurts, not even my feet.

So did I have any great epiphanies along the way? Well, no. But I did promise myself I will be kinder, more understanding, more generous with both my time and money, and more empathetic.

Trying to match the pose from my starting photo, which I’ll post next. The trees are cut down along the border, in the background.

Starting photo. Who is that clean guy in the clean clothes? My shirt and pants held up great- I wore them everyday. I went through 5 pairs of shoes.

DC looking proud and happy. And she should be. She is awesome!

Selfie. We made it!

I’m in Canada. Yeah!


PCT 2016