Anish Breaks the Appalachian Trail Unsupported Speed Record!

Today, at 5:25pm on top of Springer Mountain, history was made.

Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson just set the record for the fastest unsupported hike of the 2,285-mile Appalachian Trail, finishing in 54 days, 7 hours, and 48 minutes. She averaged about 42 miles a day over the course of the trail.

History repeats itself, and so does Anish.

In 2013, Anish set the record for the fastest unsupported thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking the entire 2,663 miles in only 60 days, 17 hours, and 12 minutes.

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Anish at the Southern terminus of the PCT

Which means… Anish is now the first person to hold the unsupported record on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail simultaneously.

Supported hikers are followed by a team of people who meet them at road crossings with food, water, and shelter. Unsupported hikers carry all of their own gear and walk into towns to resupply instead of accepting rides – technically, they do more walking than most actual thru-hikers, who hitch into towns from road crossings.

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Anish on top of Mt. Washington in NH – the mountain with ‘the worst weather in the world.’

Anish posted her intentions on the Fastest Known Time Proboards on July 30th and began hiking Southbound from Katahdin August 1st. She used a SPOT device to document her journey, but did not release the data until she had completed the trail in an effort to retain her privacy.

The record is unofficial, pursued for pure love of the trail. It was previously set by Matthew Kirk, whose 2013 hike took 58 days, 9 hours, and 38 minutes and finally dismissed doubts that the trail could be hiked in under 60 days (check out his book Fast, Light, and Free on the Appalachian Trail). The previous women’s record was held by Liz ‘Snorkel’ Thomas, who hiked the trail in 80 days, 13 hours, and 30 minutes.

In declaring her intentions, Anish wrote, “I hope in my endeavor to not only bring parity to the male and female self-supported records, but if possible lower it overall. These records are currently held by Mr. Kirk and Miss Thomas, both of whom I hold in very high esteem.”

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Anish has been labeled ‘the Ghost’ for her frequent night hiking, when she passes through the forest like a shadow.  The hours she keeps can cause her to run into some unexpected company.

“Nothing like almost stepping on a copperhead to wake you up nighthiking.” She posted on September 5th, with the hashtag ‘AdrenalineisBetterthanCaffeine’. Her follow-up post on September 6th was “And tonight it was rattlesnake night…”

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Anish smiling, rain or shine!

True to her ghostly reputation, Anish doesn’t advertise her hikes. The cryptic comments on her Facebook page were the closest to updates that she offered to the hungry hikers following her. But after the whole nation watched Scott Jurek struggle to gracefully divide his focus between his hike and his fans, Anish is well aware of the benefit of anonymity. There has been a lot of discussion about the commercialization of the A.T. lately, but it seems that Anish, with her big smile and trademark dresses, has managed to slip beneath the eye of the media.

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Anish posing for her halfway picture in front of the ATC headquarters in Harper’s Ferry, WV.

Her Facebook page is split between her own beautifully written observations and quotes ranging from ultra-runner Killian Jornet to aviator Amelia Earhart. Anish posted the Ken Chlouber quote, “Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone.” on August 28th, after making it through what is widely recognized to be the hardest section on the Appalachian Trail, Northern New England. This quote seems to embody the essence of Anish, who has made an art out of walking through pain.

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Anish at the end of her journey, just after Clingman’s Dome

But perhaps the most telling quote Anish wrote was posted Sept.20, 4 days before finishing the trail, and it was written by herself:

 

“I think I’ll just do the minimum miles necessary to break the record and just coast in from here,” said Anish. To no one. Ever.#CrushingIt #MEGA15

Posted by Anish Hikes on Sunday, September 20, 2015

 

Which tells us exactly how she managed to accomplish the impossible– by being wildly, uncontrollably in love with pushing her body to the limit.

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On behalf of Appalachian Trials, congratulations to Heather Anish Anderson!

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Comments 22

  • Pretzel : Sep 24th

    She broke the self-supported record. Unsupported means she would have carried all her food from beginning to end, thus never resupplying at a Post Office or grocery store.

    The folks over at Fastest Known Time say…

    Unsupported means you have no external support of any kind. Typically, this means that you must carry all your supplies right from the start, except any water that can be obtained along the way from natural sources. This approach has also been termed “alpine style”. The longest trip I’m aware of using this style is Coup’s 20-day thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. For most people, carrying enough food for more than a few days to one week will be prohibitive

    Reply
    • Grayson Cobb : Sep 24th

      The terms unsupported and self-supported are often used interchangeably for the 3 long trails in the US. Especially among the general public.

      Reply
  • chaig : Sep 24th

    That photo is of Anish at the SOUTHERN Terminus.

    Reply
  • Grayson Cobb : Sep 24th

    Super awesome! Great write-up.

    Reply
  • Noam Gal : Sep 25th

    You still have some placeholders in the text up there… But thanks for the write-up.

    Reply
  • Jim Floyd : Sep 25th

    The Real Champion!!

    Reply
  • blutsteel111 : Sep 27th

    Guess I somehow missed the point of hiking (and climbing). All these years I thought it was about getting outside in the beauty of the world, enjoying some solitude (and challenge)….a kind of personal thing. Turns out it’s a competition and publicity endeavor. Dang. I will have to turn in some records to the media apparently.

    Reply
  • jhtlag : Sep 27th

    I’ve been kinda getting into it on some blogs about the Jurek thing, his speed record reminds me of Art Buchwald’s 6 minute Louvre. Anish seems a little more legit, dare I say eccentric. By even talking about rattlesnakes she makes an observation outside of the speed record: good. Not that I’m going to start wearing dresses but I could see how they might be totally practical, light, loose fitting, wash the whole thing in one shot (half the clothes) makes sense.

    Reply
  • Allan Stellar : Nov 7th

    Am I correct in stating that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy doesn’t endorse such trail records whereas the Pacific Crest Trail Association seems to endorse such activities?

    Reply
  • Bob : May 3rd

    Ugh… this is not a record.. unless its the fastest women. Less then 50 days set a few times…
    https://www.runnersworld.com/trail-racing/scott-jurek-breaks-appalachian-trail-thru-hike-record

    Reply
    • Maggie Wallace : May 28th

      Hey Bob, thanks for your comment. The way FKTs (fastest known times) work is that there are two categories for any given record: unsupported and supported. Anish (source: https://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/6 ) holds the overall unsupported record for both the AT and PCT because she has hiked those trails faster than any other person while also carrying her own gear, walking into and out of every town, and resupplying herself. If you’re still confused, check out the FKT introduction post here: https://fastestknowntime.proboards.com/thread/19/read-first or just read the article above where I explain the difference in detail.

      Reply

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