I posted a story about Josh Garrett closing in on the end of the Pacific Crest Trail and a new speed record for the hike. As expected, Josh did finish his journey yesterday, clocking in with a time of 59 days, 8 hours and 59 mintutes. That shaves more than five days off the previous record and is certainly an impressive feat.
Little did I know that when I posted that story I was actually wading into a bit of a controversy that has been going on in the thru-hiking community. You see, while Josh was busy chasing his record on the 2655-mile (4272 km) PCT another hiker was just a day ahead of him and in pursuit of a record of her own. The way these two hikers went about their journey is now a source of debate amongst other long-distance trekkers, creating a controversy of sorts around these speed records.
On Wednesday of this week, Heather "Anish" Anderson wrapped up her own end-to-end hike of the PCT. Her official time was 60 days, 17 hours and 12 minutes, which would have been good enough for a new record as well, although it was beaten by Josh the following day. So here is where the controversy comes in. Heather was making her trek unsupported in that she had to do everything on her own, while Josh had a single-person support crew who brought him food and other supplies to the trail. He was also sponsored by John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, who helped fund the adventure.
The lines between what is "supported" and "unsupported" start to get blurred a bit however as there are reports that Heather also had a few people with good intentions delivering her supplies to her on the trail as well. She often posted about her hike on the Internet as well, sharing the details of where she would be on certain dates, which prompted some people to gather at access points along the trail to offer words of encouragement while also offering food and drinks to keep her going. Whether or not that still qualifies as "unsupported" is entirely up to you to decide.
Thru-hikers are a resourceful, independent bunch and I personally feel that some of them didn't appreciate the fact that Josh had a sponsor that assisted on his trek. This resulted in a bit of a backlash within that group for how he went about the attempt on the speed record. Either way, I'm not going to wade into the middle of this debate because quite frankly I think that both Josh and Heather accomplished something very cool. They may have taken slightly different approaches to their PCT speed hikes, but they both covered all of those miles at impressive rates.
I want to congratulate both Josh and Heather and leave it at that. They are both inspirations.