A.T. More Popular but Less Successful

HikeItForward-Final-MediumSome interesting statistics have recently been posted regarding the 2013 class of thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail. The numbers of hikers that attempted the trail during the last calendar year were calculated as of January 19, 2014 and these numbers will most likely increase slightly because some hikers have not yet communicated their completion. The numbers account for NOBO and SOBO hikers as well as section hikers (those taking more than one year to complete the trail).

The facts concerning the NOBO (NorthBound) thru-hikes (Georgia to Maine) record that 2,700 people signed in at Springer Mountain, GA with every intention of standing atop Mt. Katahdin, ME. This is the largest cohort in the history of the trail (2010 = 1460, 2011 = 1700, 2012 = 2500). By the time the hikers checked in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harpers Ferry, WV (the psychological mid-point of the trail – really mile 1,019), there were only 1,130 left. Over 1,500 hikers had to abandon their dreams and wait for a better day. So then, just under 42% of the original brave-hearts made it to Wild Wonderful West Virginia. After breathing some refreshing mountain air, the faithful continued on. Of these triple-figure, experienced hikers, only 548 have reported a successful climb of Katahdin – that’s a tad over 20% of those who stepped out in Georgia. This graduation rate is the lowest in the past eight years (2006 = 32%; 2007 = 28%; 2008 = 29%; 2009 = 28%; 2010 = 30%; 2011 = 27%; 2012 = 21%)  – the odds of completion are not good.

Springer PlaqueThe SOBO hikers, although smaller in number posted a higher success rate. The journey started with 336 individuals heading south from Maine. Harpers Ferry (mile 1,167 for them) found 167 backpackers checking in to get their pictures taken at headquarters (49.7%). Springer Mountain greeted 82 SOBO hikers or 24.4% of those that started at Katahdin.

Another 50 folks reported a completed hike having taken alternative routes but walking the entire trail within one year. There were 132 section hikers who had hiked the trail in sections over several years and completed their journeys during 2013. If my math is correct the graduating class of 2013 was 812. My congratulations and admiration is warmly extended to each and every one of the 2,000 milers. And to the class of 2014 – I’ll see you along the trail!

Springer Plaque http://www.100megsfree3.com/wordsmith/backpacking/atphotos.html

Katahdin Sign: http://www.ericexplores.com/2007/09-01/entry.shtml

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Georgia, Harpers Ferry, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “A.T. More Popular but Less Successful

  1. I’d be curious to hear how you’re feeling after reading those numbers. Might make for either a very long or a very short post 🙂

    • Lone Stranger
      Thanks so much for the inquiry. The low completion rate of thru-hikers is concerning but not discouraging. I guess if 90% made it, it would indicate that it is not very challenging. One out of four puts sobering thoughts in my mind (which is good), but I have such a sense of calling that I have a peace about making such a journey. I love a quote from leadership author, Peter Senge (The Fifth Disciple) – The Journey is the Reward. I plan to stand beside the wooden sign atop Katahdin but the real reward is experiencing each day of the hike.

  2. Nicole Durham

    Those numbers are intimidating! My husband and I plan to do the hike in about five years after the youngest graduates high school. We are going to attempt the whole way, but are open to the idea of flip-flopping or section hiking it. Best of luck!

    • Nicole,
      Numbers can be intimidating but you and your husband are not numbers. I think, when the time comes for your hike, you will have an inner peace about beginning the trail. I have a keen sense of calling to this thru-hike – without it I would probably keep the dream to myself and not try on a backpack. I may not make it to the end but I am leaving with a commitment to 5 million steps and to enjoy every day that God gives me on the trail. No pain, No rain, No Maine!

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