Last week the Training Hike Guide was released to participants that have sent in their signed waiver. (You can also sign it and scan it in and email it to email@example.com) When you receive your training hike guide it will have a few pages where is helps you break down how to choose the right training hike for you but today I want to break that down even more. I hiked for awhile not really understanding the break down of miles and elevation gain because I had always hiked with hikers who had more experience than I did and knew they would pick a hike that would be good for us. Since this is my 4th year team leading I have had plenty of practice choosing hikes and needing to use my experience to be able to correctly read a map and check resources to make sure conditions are ok for that trail.
Every hike is challenging.
The White Mountains are…. Mountains! For this reason, our use of labels such as “moderately challenging” or “challenging” are not the result of an exact science. They are an attempt to draw some distinctions, based on information from the White Mountain Guidebook, our experiences on these routes, and factual information: such as mileage and elevation gain/loss.
Mileage and Elevation
Mileage presented for each hike is the round-trip total for the planned route. Each training hike may not complete the mileage that is listed because of the weather, the pace of the group or other circumstances, this is totally ok and still a successful hike. The mileage that is listed is what the goal for the day will be. It is good to have done some training on your own before the hike, but you probably can hike more than you think, currently I am working on getting back into shape and running a 5K (which I need to still stop and walk), but in the last few weeks I have done hikes that range from 7-10 miles. This is very dependent on elevation, but know that we take breaks when we need to and the pace is set by all the members of the group, we hike as a community together and I love the support this creates.
The elevation is presented as the total gain experienced over the course of the hike. Since what goes up must come down, you will experience that elevation as an overall gain when heading up the mountain, and an overall loss when heading down. This does not mean entirely up in one direction, or entirely down in the other. There can be rolling hills, flat stretches of trail, and even significant drops and gains in elevation between the parking lot and the summit – the total gain loss simply tells you the overall difference in elevation.
Hikes can vary significantly in terms of how steep they are. 1,200 feet in elevation gain over the course of 5 miles presents a more moderate grade than a gain of 2,100 feet in elevation over the course of 5 miles.
We provide an estimated time for each hike, referencing the “book” time presented by resources such as the AMC’s White Mountain Guide. Still these are estimates, since factors such as the size of the group, the weather, the needs of the group and even traffic on the trail can cause the actual time it takes to complete a hike to vary greatly. These time estimates are still useful, however, as they can help you to compare the duration of one hike, relative to the others on the list. Always prepare for full days of hiking, and try and get a good’s night rest before heading to your training hike(s).
Two of my favorite resources are my Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) maps and Guide Book. This is where I usually start when choosing a hike, the guide book has descriptions of the trails and for their recommended hikes they provide a difficulty level, similarly to our training hike guide. If you are buying maps my recommendation is that you buy the waterproof maps which are super durable (the paper ones can rip holes in them after one hike and you need to make sure to keep it in a ziplock bag) and the new waterproof maps also have a breakdown of the mileage which is helpful on the trail to see how far you have gone. Your team leaders will have copies of maps, so no worries if you do not have your own, although if you hike on your own, this is an essential piece of gear. Another few things I do before a hike are checking http://www.newenglandtrailconditions.com/nh/ to see if other folks have hiked the same trail recently and if they report any special gear or anything to note about the hike and check the weather–I always carry my rain gear but other kinds of weather that is expected is helpful, for instance if there are projected thunderstorms, it would be best to stay away from ridge lines. Team Leaders are trained to do this sort of research before your training hike and will inform you of any concerns or are information to better equip you for the day, but if you look into some of these resources it is helpful in choosing a training hike.
If you have any questions or want to see maps of the training hikes before you decide feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or the team leaders listed for the hike you are interested in. I highly recommend participating in more than one, it offers you more training and the chance to meet more Wilderness Heals hikers!