Thursday 20 February 2020

What I've Been Reading Online No 17: Outdoors - hillwalking, long-distance hiking, mountaineering

Winter Tree, February 10

The last few weeks I've found a fair amount of interesting stuff to read online so again I'm splitting the piece in two, starting with outdoors

The Quest in Scotland's Hills

John D Burns goes in search of a bothy in the Monadhliath. A tale in pursuit of a dream.

Why They Walked: Portraits of 2019 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers

Fascinating stories and photos of Appalachian Trail hikers as they near the finish.

Thoughts on hiking solo

Pacific Crest and Arizona Trail thru-hiker Joan West praises solo hiking and gives some advice. 

A Triple Crowner’s Advice for Following Through on Your Hiking Goals

Triple Crown (Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail) hiker Effie Drew gives some good advice on long-distance hiking.

Frozen In Time

Former President of the American Alpine Club Alison Osius describes the mountaineering disaster on Peak Lenin in 1974 in which fifteen people died.

What was Your First Ice Axe?

Mountain Rescue Expert Heavy Whalley looks at the development of ice axes in the 1970s. My first axe? In 1977. I can't remember the model.

The Future Is Female: Women in Ultralight Backpacking 

"As more people take to the trail, I’m calling for a quieter, less extreme version of ultralight." 

 Five Bad Days on the PCT and How I Got Through Them

On a long-distance walk every day can't be perfect. Some will be difficult.

10 Best Lightweight Backpacks

Some good packs in this review by sectionhiker. I'be used five of them and a larger version of one of the others.

Norway End-End 2018

Photo-blog by Tramplite. Inspiring photos and words, useful information.

The Trans-European Alpine Route

Description on how to hike this route, which is approximately 6250km long and which traverses 6 mountain ranges and passes through 16 countries and 16+ national parks.


  1. What always surprises me is that there are still so many articles about why people hike solo. For most hikers there is nothing strange about that. The hikers who themselves like to hike with company do generally understand what the attraction is for hiking solo. However, for non-hikers it is often a very alien concept.

    1. I've found it's a very alien concept for many hikers as well. I've been hiking solo for over forty years and it's something I'm asked about frequently, as much by other hikers as non-hikers.

    2. Of course you have a much longer experience than me. I started long distance hiking only a few years ago.

      I think things have changed a lot in the last few years. With so much information readily available, people blogging, navigation apps etc, solo hiking has become much less daunting than it was before.

    3. Hiking in general has become much easier. Finding information even for the UK was quite difficult when I began. The internet has made a huge difference.

  2. Thanks for highlighting Joan's article.

    Men often can take it for granted hiking solo and only get minor criticism.

    At least here in the US, there is still a culture of strongly implying that women should not go out solo as it is too dangerous; wrong as might be overall. And there are still some fears, partially because of the culture that disuades solo pursuits, women have when initially going into the backcountry. Luckily, as Joan pointed out, this attitude is changing.

    Of course, as Chris said, going solo hiking is overall not the norm for many. Most people only get a handful of outdoor trips in a year and would rather spend the time with family or friends than take off by themselves. I think the more active a person is in outdoor pursuits, the more likely they will take off solo.

    1. Looking at the PCT 2019 HalfwayAnywhere survey:
      40% of the hikers were female.
      65% of all hikers started the trail alone.
      58% says they hiked alone for >75% of the time
      16% says they camped alone >50% of the time

      On my own latest long(ish) hikes (223km Larapinta and 1000km Bibbulmun Track in Australia) I met almost as many ladies hiking solo as men.


  3. Thru-hiking is not an accurate snapshot of outdoor use. The educational level , socioeconomic, and view of the outdoors will differ from the general outdoor population.

    OIA reports, besides a much larger sample size, portray a different view than the tiny thru hiking slice of the outdoor pie.

    Continuing with anecdotes, as a backcountry guide, thru-hiker, and avid outdoor user beyond the thru hiking community, I can say most people are ambivalent about solo hiking.

  4. Most of my hiking isn' thru-hiking of course. Mostly I go hillwalking in Scotland on day walks and one or two night trips, occasionally longer ones. I do see far more solo walkers than I did when I began. And far more women. But that said most walkers are in pairs or groups.