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The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) spans 2,650-miles across the length of the U.S from it’s southern border with Mexico to its border with Canada. On the 7th August, 27-year-old British endurance hiker Josh Perry set the new fastest known time (FKT) on the PCT, completing it unsupported, in just 55 days, 16 hours, and 54 minutes
‘The experience I had was an incredible one and the struggles are an expected part of that,’ Josh posted on Instagram. ‘I also learnt a lot, and have much to be proud of. I dealt with my injuries and hardships better than I have on previous FKTs, I rode the line for a long stretch without going over the edge, but I could nearly always push further when it was required.’
One of the world’s most iconic long distance trails, the PCT rises from sea level to as high as 13,153 feet at its highest point, passing through 25 national forests and seven national parks, taking in landmarks such as the Mojave desert, High Sierras, Mount Whitney and Cascades.
My stomach had completely shut down during the detour. I could barely move
Hikers usually spend in the region of five months completing the trail, with many of them opting to challenge themselves to take on the PCT without outside support, carrying all their own equipment and supplies for the duration of the trail, co-ordinating their own resupply points in towns along the way.
As a result, FKTs on the PCT are divided in to supported and self-supported categories. Being self-supported, Josh faced multiple adversities along his route, enduring multiple overuse injuries, jogging through tendinitis and bruised ribs from colliding with a tree. He also suffered severe heatstroke and a 25,000 calorie deficit after taking a diversion owing to a trail closure caused by wildfire.
‘My stomach had completely shut down during the detour. I could barely move,’ said Josh. ‘I was puking, pooping, and pissing everywhere. I tried to move on once it cooled down. Packed my stuff up, stood up, and collapsed.’
Northbound thru-hikers on the PCT will usually embark on the route in mid-April to early May, whilst those travelling Southbound will generally start in late June to early July, this is in order to avoid snow covering on the trail. In recent years, the route has become increasingly unpredictable as wildfires routinely change the course and length of the hike, and navigating alternative trails makes record keeping difficult.
Hikers can expect to walk around 19 miles a day in order to reach the end before the conditions deteriorate. For Josh, trying for an FKT thru-hike of the PCT involved covering on average, a gruelling 48 miles per day.
Prior to this record, the unsupported fastest known time on the PCT was that of Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson in 2013, completing the trail in 60 days and prior to that, Scott Williamson in 2009, who took 65 days.
Josh previously made an FKT bid on the PCT in 2019, but had an allergic reaction after being stung by a wasp and collapsed some 1,000 miles along the trail. He was carried to the nearest town by other hikers, and had to shelve his efforts.