Serial Weight Loss on the Pacific Crest TrailWeight loss is one of the great challenges of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). I had lost 33 pounds on the Appalachian Trail. To be sure, it had been a problem. However, I had quickly recouped the weight by retaining my hiker’s appetite even after the AT hike was over. Bu the PCT represented a greater challenge.
The distances between resupply are longer on the PCT than the AT. That usually means that a hiker will carry less weight for each day between trail towns. Double that with the fact that PCT hikers hike greater distances each day (customarily 25, vs. 20 on the AT), and thus use greater amounts of calories, and you have the recipe for serial weight loss. It simply is impossible for a hiker to stock 6,000 to 7,000 calories per day for a long stint, without it materially affecting their mileage. And, of course, we thru-hikers have been known to get mileage greedy!
By the time I got to the Oregon-Washington border at the Columbia River, I was on the verge of desperate. The massive weight loss had begun hampering me late in the day. Further, I had lost almost all body fat, which made it difficult to maintain body warmth at high elevations. I was down 45 pounds.
All along the AT and PCT, hikers had urged me to try olive oil. The reason? Olive oil is the elixir itself, having the highest ratio of calories to weight. I began pouring olive oil on everything I consumed. Immediately, I felt a greater body (and flatulence!) to my diet, which bolstered me in the early autumn weather of the Northwest. In fact, I ultimately ended up only losing 43 pounds for the entire PCT (similar to many other hikers), and actually gained 2 pounds in the Evergreen State. Miraculous!
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (2010). He also is the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (2008), as well as ‘The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago’ (2012). Walker, who is 6’11”, is now working on a book on the subject of height.