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Trail Tales

Confessions of a Hiking Geek

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My name is Lyndon and I am a Hiking Geek. Ever since I could read, I've been obsessed with statistics. As a kid I spent countless hours analyzing pro baseball and football statistics and even recorded stats for our neighborhood pick-up games. I have notebooks filled with gym workouts from days past, as well as notes detailing my food intake and body measurements. For as long as I can remember, I've used statistics to make sense of the world around me.

I guess it was only natural that I started logging trail data when I became passionate about hiking.

Why Track?
When I first started collecting data on my hikes, my main reason was to see if I was getting stronger. That first year, I was training to hike Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in contiguous United States. This was my big comeback; a few years earlier I quit hiking and running because of foot and lower back pain.

Elizabeth Wenk's book "One Best Hike: Mt. Whitney" was essential to my training, especially the section that broke down the long, 22-mile day into sections, making the hike more manageable. After seeing how useful this information was, I decided that gathering similar data for my future hikes should be part of my planning and research process.

That's when I became a true hiking geek, creating two different types of stats. For simplicity reasons, I'll call them Pre-Hike & Post-Hike Stats.

Pre-Hike Stats
Image 001 CWP Stats REVISEDHere is an example of Lyndon's pre-hike analysis.

I break my hikes down into sections and create data for each of those sections to help prepare, and to estimate the hike's difficulty and duration.

This isn't as easy as it may seem. One needs to consider many factors including: mileage, elevation gain, altitude, the difficulty of the terrain covered, pack weight, weather, etc. I can usually do this accurately, largely due to notes I've taken.

Sometimes the hike may not go as planned and this information becomes even more useful. For instance, when hiking the Sierra Nevada's Cottonwood Pass in 2014, we realized that we were moving too slow to summit Mount Langley, 14,026 feet (pictured above). My chart showed us in no uncertain terms that we should shelve our summit fever. Without this detailed information, we probably would have continued on, not realizing our mistake until a few hours later.

Post-Hike Stats
I use the data that I compile post-hike to create pre-hike data for future adventures. My notes often include the factors listed above, as well as anything else that may have affected me or the group that day. I've also used data to evaluate and compare the difficulty of different trails.
Image 003 Trail Comparison REVISED2 1

It was this data that helped me convince my father-in-law to hike Mt. Whitney with me in 2014. My charts helped him realize he had already hiked trails of comparable difficulty and that Whitney was more manageable than he had originally thought.
Image 004 Trail Crest
Convinced by the numbers, Lyndon's father in law joined him for a trek up Mt. Whitney in June, 2014. Here approaches Trail Crest. Photo: Lyndon Scott

Is any of this necessary?
Well, of course it isn't, but it makes the overall experience and days I don't spend on the trail more enjoyable. I enjoy planning and researching before I hit the trail, documenting my hikes afterwards, and sharing the experience with others. Most may think I'm crazy, but I actually think the data crunching is fun; I guess that's part of what makes me a Hiking Geek.

Lyndon is an avid outdoorsman who logs 3-400 miles per year. Follow him on or Twitter.

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