Two weeks out from the PCT

We were about two weeks out from our proposed start date for the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and we still had a few things to tidy up. Our plan at that point was to have her father act as our bounce box, shipping us gear as needed.  We meticulously went through all our guide gear and personal gear to see what we would use and might use. Making the final purchases for our hike, we settled on our pack list and set our gear aside.

We had finalized our plan with two packs in mind:  the Osprey Exos 58 and the Zpacks Arc Haul.  In the first part of the trail, we will have to carry more water and maybe more food, meaning higher weights. The Osprey would shoulder that load better than the Zpacks.  Then, when we would send our bear can back, we’d also ship out the heavier packs in exchange for the lighter Zpacks.  Not to mention that the Osprey can hold the bear can sideways, while the Zpacks has to have it stand upright.  Our base-weights (everything in our pack minus food and water) came in around 12 pounds with camera gear and a few luxury items.  Of course, that is what’s on paper and not what we might need in smaller spurts.

We packed a box for her dad, with all the things we need situationally, like heavier gloves and base-layers, extra socks and clothing, our bear cans, and micro-spikes. All in all, we were ready, just waiting to start.  Mentally, though, was altogether a different story.  I knew what I, we, were getting into and wondered if that instilled me with a sense of false confidence or a healthy respect. A friend of mine that successfully accomplished a thru-hike of the AT the year I hiked, didn’t finish the PCT.  Yet another friend of mine had finished.

My mind was filled with unanswered questions of how these two people had two different outcomes.  How much was mental?  Did knowing that there was a price to be paid and what it was, help or hinder me? One thing was for certain – I wasn’t taking this 2661.4 mile journey lightly.  With a similar success rate as the AT, we wanted to ensure every possibility that we would succeed.

On the AT, DejaVu and I talked about what it takes to finish a hike of this magnitude. What we came up with was that gear maybe makes up about a 15%, skill was 10%, positive mental attitude was 25%, and luck was 50%.  People finished with all sorts of different skill levels and gear, and most of them, if not all, had a positive mental attitude. Luck.  Luck was the final determiner in the equation though.

You step right on a small stone, rolling your ankle inward, breaking the leg in two places. Around noon-time, you trip for no reason and smash your face on the ground breaking your nose and giving yourself a concussion. Hell, I saw my buddy trip, put his trekking pole out to catch himself, only for it to slip then catch again, resulting in him taking the pole directly to the crotch with all his weight behind it.  In the end, it all comes down to luck.  You can do all the gear prep in the world, take all the classes you can, but all that does is help you get that edge over the trail.  Luck will carry you the whole way.

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