Endurance Tales: Backpacking the High Sierra Trail, Summiting Mt. Whitney, and Comparisons with Competitive Sport

July 27, 2016
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A special edition of Endurance Planet with Tawnee and her husband, John, who are interviewed by Lucho about their backpacking honeymoon! Click here for the full written recap of the trip on Tawnee’s blog that includes more photos, GPS files, and a detailed spreadsheet of their exact gear list (with brands), meal plan, HST itinerary, travel info and more.

  • Background on why they did it and what they did (what is the High Sierra Trail)
  • They wanted to create their own event–not participate in a structured event with rules
  • Discussing the original conservative plan vs. how the actual timeline unfolded–finishing 2 days early!!
  • Preparing for the trip (planning, shopping, training, mental, etc)
  • Lessons learned: they could not treat this immense thru-hike like a race, and had to get over the “racing attitude” that’s usually ingrained
  • The mental and physical of backpacking vs. endurance racing
  • It’s not easy to backpack, it’s also not as hard as preparing for Ironman, it’s just different
  • Having a new concept of what “a mile” means. And why it’s better to focus on time!
  • Mileage was always off, couldn’t rely on trail or map numbers, just accept it and keep moving forward
  • Having patience and a flexible approach
  • Dealing with blisters
  • The simplicity of being out in the backcountry: everything to live was on our backs
  • Day 4: Tawnee deals with a visit from an “old friend” and how she managed
  • Day 6: Climbing Mt. Whitney and feeling those old “pre-race butterflies”
  • “Performing” at elevation, and/or feeling like death over 13,000 ft.
  • Tying this into races at high elevation like Leadville, etc.
  • Similarity of picking ultra pacers and picking your backpacking partner(s)
  • The importance of TEAMWORK!
  • Finding a routine in the mornings and evenings before and after they day’s hike.
  • Backpacking vs. ultra (mindset)
  • Feeling “free” without being addicted to the data–a shift from past ways
  • Equipment highlights:
    • Delorme – safety net in case of emergency
    • Garmin watch – good backup for tracking hikes
    • Trekking poles – and why they were the best decision ever to have these on the trail!
    • Shoes and blisters – harsh realities
  • Top experiences on the HST:
    • Kaweah gap
    • Getting completely on the same page with your mate
    • Summiting Mt. Whitney
    • Precipice Lake
  • What would we do differently?
  • Little mistakes: poor choice in mittens/gloves, accidentally brought multiple soaps yet not enough floss, no SD card in GoPro, bad socks, solar panel vs. battery packs, different shoes, etc.

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