This hiker just completed the 6,800 mile Great Western Loop in under 200 days

This hiker just completed the 6,800 mile Great Western Loop in under 200 days


13 pairs of mountaineering sneakers, 17 pairs of socks and 5 headlamps. 9 US states, six nationwide parks and 25 backpacker hostels. About 15 million steps and 6,875.5 miles complete.

These dizzying measurements come from the current realization of the hike by hiker Nick Gagnon Great Western Loopa regular Hiking that connects sections of the Pacific RidgePacific Northwest, the continental divide, Grand Enchantment and Arizona Trails in an almost 7,000 mile circle. Nobody is aware of what number of hikers have walked the route, however only two more have documented their profitable travels: backpacker Jeff Garmire in 2018 and information Andrew Skurka in 2007. Garmier accomplished it in 208 days and 15 hours, whereas Skurka accomplished it in 213 days and 6 hours.

Gagnon, 37, who goes by the path title “Chezwick”, turned the third documented finisher on November 6 when he entered the small city of Nothing, Arizona, on the similar location the place he began the hike on November 19. april. He stopped the clock at 197 days and 11 hours. Yet one more stat so as to add to Gagnon’s spectacular stroll: two partially torn meniscal tendons, which made the previous couple of hundred kilometers insufferable.

Hiker Nick Gagnon simply accomplished a 6,800 mile trek. Photograph: Nick Gagnon

“I bought to know that I used to be going to want knee surgical procedure,” Gagnon advised me. “It was value it ultimately.”

After I spoke to Gagnon earlier this week, he might barely hobble from his sofa to the fridge and again once more. Simply 4 days after finishing his epic journey, Gagon underwent surgical procedure to restore his proper knee, and he now faces six weeks of restoration. Later this winter, he additionally plans to have his left meniscus surgically repaired, which would require extra time without work. Gagnon works as a bartender and snowmobile information to fund his mountaineering obsession. He says he’s unlikely to return to work anytime quickly.

However Gagnon advised me he did not remorse the injury he had finished to his physique. He is used to the ache of mountaineering: In 2021, he tried the Nice Western Loop solely to fall and break his foot after mountaineering 4,800 miles. He continued for an additional 100 miles earlier than he might barely stroll and determined to give up. This setback solely fueled his want to return in 2022 and full the journey. After I spoke to him on the telephone, he was optimistic about his accomplishment.

“I might contemplate this the toughest hike on the planet,” Gagnon mentioned. “In the event you’re on one of many triple crown [Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide] trails they’re properly maintained. On this one you are typically on a lot smaller path networks, however you need to maintain the tempo excessive.

Not like a marathon course, the Nice Western Loop has no customary route – there are lengthy sections the place hikers have to seek out their very own method alongside again roads and lesser-known path networks.

“Mainly, from the Arizona Path to the Grand Canyon to the Pacific Crest Path, it is a full choose-your-own journey,” Garmire advised me.

Tempo is the important thing to finishing the monumental journey earlier than the onset of winter. Garmire and Skurka averaged 33 miles a day for his or her respective rides. Gagnon maintained 34.8 miles a day, a stunning tempo that required him to surrender the few materials comforts that hikers generally recognize. He took no days off and compelled himself to stroll in unhealthy climate. He solely slept in cities in the event that they fell at or close to his every day 35-mile terminus. He hardly ever did laundry, typically scrubbing his garments when he showered.

The Nice Western Loop contains sections of the Pacific Crest, Pacific Northwest, Continental Divide, Grand Enchantment and Arizona Trails.

“Each time I used to be off monitor it drove me loopy,” he mentioned. “I could not stand to sit down and await something.”

When Gagnon stopped alongside the way in which, he did so with velocity in thoughts. He tried to restrict his time in cities to only three hours, tops.

“If I used to be in a position to stroll 15 miles at midday, I might justify going to a metropolis, and a number of occasions that simply did not occur,” he mentioned. “I might go to a restaurant and eat a daily meal, then discover {an electrical} outlet and cost all my issues. If every thing was totally charged, I knew I did not need to go. [back into town] for 5 extra days.

The brisk tempo was tough to keep up for the primary two weeks, as Gagnon carried further water to outlive the dry Mohave Desert. He made up for misplaced time in the course of the first half of the Pacific Crest Path, the place he encountered a decrease than regular snowpack. The thick blanket of snow in Oregon slowed him down once more.

“It was 1,500 miles postholing for that final part,” he mentioned.

Gagnon elevated his every day common to 40 miles alongside the Pacific Northwest path and saved the tempo excessive for the primary half of the Continental Divide path. A bit of the Grand Enchantment Path in New Mexico has practically accomplished its route. In early October, shortly after traversing New Mexico’s Grand Enchantment Path, Gagnon bought misplaced whereas traversing a ten,000 foot cross. He was strolling by means of a forest that had been decimated by a wildfire, and Gagnon was struggling to seek out path marks amid scorched timber and matted bushes. A rainstorm swept over him and soaked him, and earlier than he knew it, he was approaching hypothermia.

“Every bit of my clothes was ripped, I rushed over downed timber for hours and my tempo dropped to a couple of mile per hour, getting misplaced and circled,” he mentioned. “At one level I tripped over barbed wire and fell on my face.”

He spent the night time curled up in his sodden tent preventing the chills, and questioning if his physique can be heat sufficient to proceed the journey the following day. It was. This second is only one of some of the tracks that Gagnon retains repeating in his head. He advised me that these recollections are seemingly to assist him navigate the sedentary life-style he should undertake this winter for his physique to heal. Gagnon believes he’s prepared for the problem of resting after such a protracted stroll.

“It was the toughest factor I’ve ever finished,” he mentioned. “Now I really feel like I can do something.”

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