In 1971, 18-year-old Eric Ryback became a household name in the backpacking community when he became the first person to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail in one trip.
Unprepared by all accounts for the 2,650 mile trail — which runs the entire length of the western United States from the most southern point of California to the U.S. Canadian border — Ryback suffered from bouts of starvation and illness along the way.
Early last week, best friends Dashiell (or Dash) Hillgartner, 24, and Rick Sayler, 23 — both native Oregonians — set out on the same trail, planning to hike the entire route in one trip. The duo approached Polar Bottle earlier this year about sponsoring their trip. Inspired by their enthusiasm, we hooked them up with some gear to keep them hydrated along the way. With Polar Bottle Water Bottles in hand, let’s hope they are more prepared for their trip than Ryback was for his decades age!
The Pacific Crest Trail (referred to by hikers as they PCT) passes through 25 National Forest and three states. Along the way, hikers are challenged by rigorous mountain passes, dangerous waterways, wild animals and bugs and unpredictable weather.
Hiking the entire route in one trip — which hikers call “thru-hiking” — typically takes between four and six months. Planning the trip can take close to a year. Only about half the hikers who attempt a thru-hike on the PCT succeed.
Dash and Rick have been officially planning their trip for about two months, focusing mainly on food preparations. Expecting to need around 4,000 calories daily to sustain them through 20 or more miles a day of continuous hiking, the hikers have meticulously planned various food pickups in the towns dotting the PCT. With some stretches between towns as long as seven days, carefully planning daily meals, the hikers say, is key.
Rick and Dash, who are both from Ashland, Oregon, hope to finish the trail in a little under five months and plan to summit some rigorous mountain passes along the way, including Mount Shasta, Reineer and Whitney (the highest mountain in the lower 48 states).
Acquaintances for years, the duo became close friends in college after several late night drinking contests and numerous unforgettable adventures in the Oregon wilderness.
“Our friendship is defined by acts of risk and gluttony,” Dash said of their relationship.
They cemented their decision to tackle the PCT together last December, theorizing that the year after graduating from college when they had no immediate plans nor commitments was as good a time as any to complete an adventure they both had dreamed about their entire lives.
“It seemed like the perfect solution for an empty calendar,” Dash said. “National parks, summits, amazing stars, endless views, it doesn’t get much better for me than waking up in the wilderness with my only task being explore, find a place to camp and occasionally bathe.”
Though they expect it will be an adventure of a lifetime, Dash admits that there is plenty to be nervous about. Anything from an injury to a bad storm can force hikers to cut their trip short, he said.
“It’s easy to twist an ankle or tweak a knee and it can take weeks to heal,” he said, explaining that this is one of his biggest concerns given previous injuries. “I am worried about rolling an ankle, I’ve broken both of mine three times.”
Another obstacle the friends may have to overcome, they say, is spending so much time with no one but each other. Spending five months in grueling conditions together, they expect, will definitely test their friendship
“I was asked when I thought I would be eaten by a bear and when I would kill Rick,” Dash joked. “I said I would get eaten by the second bear I encountered, the first I would have made sure ate Rick.
In the end, however, Dash says the experience will really only strengthen their bond.
“Of course Rick and I are going to get sick of each other but at the end he will know me as well as I do,” he said. “People are meant to walk together — we are evolved hunter gatherers. In a hiking community, even if it’s just two dudes, you both know how important you are to each other in regards to safety, sanity, and companionship. You have to work together in order to succeed and this makes a bond that overshadows any negativity.”
Keep up with Rick and Dash here!