Examining FKTs: The Kaiha Bertollini Case Study

For the latest, check out the update at the bottom of this post.

Last week, we posted about Kaiha “Wild Card Ninja” Bertollini, a thru-hiker who was gunning for the self-supported FKT.  On Sunday night, the same day that Karl Meltzer broke Scott Jurek’s supported AT record, Bertollini posted the following to her Facebook page:

“Sunday September 18, 2016 at 4:50:16 pm. If my math is correct, That is 45 days, 6 hours, and 28 minutes and 16 seconds. The fastest known time to Ever walk/run the trail.

This time bests the previous self-supported AT record, held by Heather “Anish” Anderson, by a whopping nine days. It also tops Meltzer’s brand new supported record by 16 hours.

Here’s the question many in the AT community seem to be asking: Could her time possibly be legit?

Why it’s a hard pill to swallow

The two primary sources of skepticism stem from the following:

1) Bertollini has no prior history of FKT attempts, ultra running, or anything of the sort.

karl meltzer appalachian trail fkt

To establish a new Appalachian Trail speed record, one would have to unseat world-class ultrarunners (Jurek and Meltzer are two of the most accomplished names in the sport) and the only person to ever hold FKTs on both the AT and PCT (Anish).  She would’ve had to hike the AT’s 2,189 miles with a pack and no support system faster than legendary distance runners have without a pack and elaborate aid- receiving massages, meals, and shelter at road crossings along the way.

If Bertollini has any background in endurance sports, we are not aware of it. Her relationship with long distance backpacking dates back to only the beginning of this year, when she started hiking south from Virginia with a friend on January 4th.  After reaching Springer, she flipped back up to where she began her hike, and continued hiking north. Once reaching Katahdin (after skipping a small section in Maine), she then yo-yo’d back south, which kicked off her record attempting hike.

2) There is no GPS tracking data

Despite the unlikelihood of this feat, all of the skepticism could have been eliminated with GPS data to verify her claims. She did not carry a GPS device. Because of the impromptu nature of this record attempt, Wild Card Ninja did not research the process for what goes into “official” fkt attempt.

For these two reasons alone, her stated claim seems improbable, but certainly not impossible.

So did Kaiha Bertollini break the self-supported and supported Appalachian Trail speed record?

I don’t know.  The AT community will sort that out.  And it’s not the point of this article.


As FKT records become more lucrative and garner more national attention- resulting in book deals and exposure from Backpacker, Outside, the New York Times, amongst others- the carrot to become the new king (or queen) of the mountain grows bigger.  Whether the reasons are purely intrinsic, extrinsic, or more likely some combination of the two, I think it’s fair to state that the draw to break trail records is on the rise.

In a previous article, we stated that because Bertollini “is not carrying a GPS tracking device, and thus is not in strict compliance with FKT guidelines.” As it turns out, this is only half true (for the record, this was my doing, not post’s author).

It’s untrue because the three qualifications from the FKT proboard read as follows:

  • Announce your intentions in advance. Like a true gentleman, pay your respects to those who came before you, and tell them what you intend to attempt and when.
  • Be an open book. Invite anyone to come and watch or, better yet, participate. This makes your effort more fun and any result more believable.
  • Record your event. Write down everything immediately upon completion. Memory doesn’t count.

No where is there mention of GPS tracking.

Kaiha stated her intentions on her website. She passes the “open book” test, as she publicly shared many photos throughout her hike, even encouraging people to come out and “say hi”.  As for cataloging her day-to-day, she’s calling on those she encountered on trail to help fill in the gaps.

The GPS as a form of FKT verification is true because:

1) Further down the FKT guideline page, under the “thoughts on verification”, the following is stated: “SPOT and Delorme satellite trackers just might be the ultimate verification tool, and they provide a measure of safety as well. Also, it’s a lot of fun for your friends to be able to watch your progress online in real time. These are becoming standard for longer trips. Use them!” Although not a primary requirement, if you’re going through the effort of torturing your body for a month and half or more, one would think to utilize the “ultimate verification tool” to prevent this extreme effort from being invalidated in the public eye.

2) Although not explicitly required, it has become the unofficial standard for FKT attempts nowadays.  As one hiker who is heavily entrenched in the FKT world (who wishes to remain anonymous for this article) puts it, “SPOT and Delorme have definitely become de riguer.”

3) Perhaps most importantly, because of the absence of GPS tracking from Bertollini’s hike, even if all of the puzzle pieces are connected by the community, a cloud of skepticism seems destined to loom over the accomplishment indefinitely.  Since FKTs do ultimately rely on the honor system, as long as this is questioned, a large asterisks would lurk alongside the feat.

Why this is unsatisfactory

In the scenario that Kaiha did legitimately break the overall AT speed record, her accomplishment is unjustly mitigated. In the scenario where foul-play was involved, legitimate record breaking efforts by Anish, Meltzer, Jurek, Pharr Davis, and others, are grossly disrespected.

It should never get to this point.

Updating the FKT guidelines

Although there already exists stated guidelines for establishing a FKT, these procedures pose problems. First, as previously mentioned, there’s a difference between what the proboard qualifies as a FKT and public perception.  It’s possible that Bertollini will meet the requirements outlined in the proboard, and for the public to reject its validity.  As the draw for obtaining a FKT grows, as previously outlined, it’s easy to foresee similar scenarios playing out.

Additionally, at least to my understanding, there seems to be gaps in these definitions.  The proboard defines a self-supported FKT as:

“Self-supported means that you don’t carry everything you need from the start, but you don’t have dedicated, pre-arranged people helping you. This is commonly done a couple different ways: You might put out stashes of supplies for yourself prior to the trip, or you might just use what’s out there, such as stores, begging from other trail users, etc. Long distance backpackers are typically self-supported, since they resupply by mail drop or in stores.”

This definition leaves a lot open to interpretation.  Is hitch-hiking (i.e. accepting rides from strangers) allowed?  You can’t accept support from “pre-arranged people” but “begging from other trail users” is allowed.  At what point does another trail user become a friend (i.e. a pre-arranged person)?  These details may seem like minutiae, but over the course of a 2,200 mile haul, differing interpretation could result in the difference of several hours, if not days.

The unofficial system seems to necessitate someone attempting an FKT follow the protocols outlined by the current record holder.  After hypothetically posing the question of protocols to our buddy and accomplished thru-hiker, The Real Hiking Viking, he states that, “I would consider not adhering to unofficial rules about accepting rides and trail magic, but I respect Anish too much to rob her record by doing it my own way.”  Similarly, before setting out on her PCT FKT earlier this year, Carly Moree reached out to Anish to ensure she was following the same protocols (including what to do during a wildfire trail reroute, which is ultimately what derailed her attempt).

But what happens when someone follows the letter of the law (FKT guidelines), but veers from convention?  Controversy- which could otherwise be avoided with clearer language and updated guidelines.

To be clear, I’m not pointing any fingers at the people who run the FKT proboards.  They have been involved in the thru-hiking community far longer than this site.  Managing these records requires a lot of work, and it’s a labor of love. And, I’m sure, when FKTs were first introduced, no one envisioned it becoming such a national spectacle.  When the reward is notoriety amongst a small group of people, the honor system is sufficient.  But clearly, as the spotlight has grown, so too has the need for a new set of rules.

Specifically, I think this case sheds light on the fact that GPS should be required for an official FKT.  Sure, this isn’t a fool-proof system- anything shy of a constant, objective witness leaves some margin for error- but it’s a simple and meaningful improvement, and one that’s being implemented in most cases already.

Additionally, what constitutes a self-supported hike needs more clarification.  People entrenched in the FKT community are likely on the same page on this subject, but should it be mandated that someone take on a research project before embarking on a record attempting hike?  Wouldn’t it be much easier to include a few sentences of shared expectations to avoid confusion and controversy?

Last note

Regardless of whether Bertollini’s attempt comes back valid, invalid, or inconclusive, the personal attacks on her are deplorable and need to stop. You can question her feat (with stricter guidelines, we wouldn’t have to) without tearing her down as a person. Most of us cannot imagine what she has been through.  Those who can empathize with her have a new champion, regardless of outcome. Her story is courageous, her strength is admirable, and her goal is to empower other victims.  What makes the Appalachian Trail such a beautiful endeavor is the heart of its community.  Let’s keep it that way.

– UPDATE (9.22) –

Although Kaiha still stands by her claim, the evidence against her does not look good.  Specifically the below timeline.

September 3rd (11am)

(Photo taken from the Hike for our lives Facebook Page)

Kaiha is seen at the intersection of the AT and Skyline Drive closest to Front Royal (i.e. Compton Gap).

Kaiha location Sept 3 11am

September 4th (Afternoon) 

(Photo taken from the Appalachian Trials Facebook Page. Claim verified with a photo)

Billie Beartrap says to have hitched her from Swift Run Gap to Stanimal’s hostel in Waynesboro, arriving “around noon”, according to Stanimal.

Kaiha Hitch Hike

September 5th (6am)

(Photo taken from Stanimal’s Facebook Page)

Kaiha is dropped off at Rockfish Gap, outside of Waynesboro, 45 miles south of Swift Run Gap (where she was picked up).

Kaiha Rockfish Gap

In her most recent note, Kaiha has made the claim that Billy Beartrap was lying about picking her up at Swift Run Gap, saying instead that she was picked up at Rockfish Gap.  For this to be true, based on Phil Gray’s Sept 3rd account, she would’ve had to have covered 105 miles in approximately 24 hours.  The first comment on Stanimal’s photo above says that “yesterday was a 53 miler”.

Normally, we opt to avoid the drama and negativity that can circulate online regarding trail rumors, gossip, and public shaming.  We would’ve preferred to stay hands off this as well. However- since we were the first to shine light on this story, because we respect the accomplishments of Meltzer, Anish, and those who came before them, and because people’s money was involved, we felt a responsibility to follow up with the facts.

Although it’s sad that this story has redirected the spotlight away from Karl’s incredible feat, I urge everyone in the community to drop this and move on.  Everyone who has engaged with this story has the opportunity to be the bigger person.  Please take it.

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Comments 71

  • Glenn Collins : Sep 20th

    What in the world does “FTK” stand for and furthermore. I am not impressed by record setters.

    • Mercedes : Sep 20th

      FKT = Fastest Known Time

    • TBR : Sep 21st

      Thanks for asking this obvious question … was driving me crazy.

      And the part that says it is not impossible … not so fast. Perhaps it is. I’m skeptical of a hike with such a tremendous leap in time.

      I also hate to see the AT be turned into a sporting event.

    • EZ : Sep 22nd

      What interests you or impresses you has nothing to do with what other people think.

  • GK Lott : Sep 20th

    Congratulations to Kaiha “Wild Card Ninja” Bertollini for any SOBO thru hike. That’s fantastic at any pace.

    • Erin Tuveson : Sep 20th

      Add to that her NoBo! She did a yo-yo hike!

      • Vanessa Sharman Best : Sep 21st

        Hey there friend:)I still ha e your postcard in my refrigerator:). Think of you often:)

    • Debra : Sep 23rd

      She didn’t do a yo-yo. She skipped many miles of trail NOBO and SOBO. If she actually hiked half the miles she claimed to have hiked I would be surprised.

  • Leigh jones : Sep 20th

    Are we supposed to dismiss the fact that she has been promoting the ‘fact’ that she’s hiking for charity and awareness, and taking donations for said charity that are actually going directly to her?
    Sure, she states that whatever is left from her trip will be donated, but she is often seen posting about being “broke”. I suppose buying beer, cigarettes, and acid (a claim made by several who met her on the trail) is more important that her so called ’cause’.
    I don’t want to discredit her, but so much doesn’t add up.

    • Erin Tuveson : Sep 20th

      Please be good enough to read the article all the way through and appreciate the last paragraph.
      Unless you witnessed this stuff please don’t create the rumors.
      If the trail saved her life then I’m happy with donating to her cause; hiking and sharing her story. Having met her and hearing her story in person, seeing her battle the PTSD while sitting amongst a group of friends, I am proud of her for sharing her story with others in hopes of helping them.

      • Leigh jones : Sep 20th

        …I did read it through. I would be happy with donating to her cause had it really existed. Using the crutch of ‘charity’ geared towards sexual assault survivors, and turning around to keep the funds for herself (which is based off her OWN words) and using it for things like drugs and alcohol is disgraceful and a total bad mark towards the thru hiker community. I’m not against it judgemental of people and their vices, but I am, however, against someone’s who lies to take advantage of people.

      • Vanessa Sharman Best : Sep 21st

        Well said! Plenty of people do things in the name of charity to bring awareness, while being upfront about the fact that donations are being used to support the endeavor. If people want to donate to such an endeavor, wonderful. If not, that’s cool too. A person does not necessarily need to create a full-on non-profit all the red tape conquered event, to do good in the world. And any “charity” (i.e. Various well known Cancer foundations) use a HIGH percentage of donations to manage the business end of said charity events.
        It is SO EASY to judge and critique another person.
        Maybe we need a “charity”hike geared toward compassion…

        • Vanessa Sharman Best : Sep 21st

          Oops- my previous post was in response to Erin…

  • Alberto : Sep 20th

    Summary of facts:
    No endurance record to speak of (years of hiking, etc)
    No ultramarathons, including multi-day experience.
    Smoker and drinker, taker of acid.
    Apparently shattered all AT records set by some pretty legendary humans.
    Donations go directly to her.

    Her attempt won’t be legitimized at all, at least by any sane person.

    • Erin Tuveson : Sep 20th

      What does the fact she smokes have to do with anything? I’d say 50+% of thru hikers are smokers and many of them pull crazy miles with a cig in their mouth while hiking uphill!
      Please be sure your facts are facts and not just rumor.

      • Alberto : Sep 21st

        EVERYTHING! Do you know what kind of endurance it takes to do something that she claims she did? Do you know how many years of experience it takes to build an aerobic base strong enough to endure 45+ days of going 50+ miles/day? Heck, have you ever done an ultramarathon? You are probably part of the population that hasn’t a clue about any of it. Study the topic. Do a little background digging on this Kaiha girl and you’ll find that she is a self-admitted smoker. And yes, any dang fool knows that smoking and endurance feats don’t go together!!!

        • Hunter : Sep 21st

          Id say it takes the same kind of endurance you are trained for in the military. As someone who was in the armed forces i am completely aware of this type of training. While doing a through hike may be the most challanging thing youve ever done it still doesnt even hold a candle to what the military puts you through. She most certainle did beat the record. I know because i followed her travels for a good portion of time an ran into her in new york as well as vermont.

          • Nonbeliever : Sep 21st

            That’s not proof. Try again…

          • Debra : Sep 23rd

            Bwahahaha “it doesn’t compare to what the military puts you through?” Really?

            I served and the hardest thing you have to do in basic training is a 20 mile ruck march overnight. And that’s just 1 day. Unless you serve in special forces you get nowhere near what it takes to do a regular thru hike never mind a near yo-yo as she claims while setting the FKT for self-supported SOBO.

            Give me a break! There is no way she hiked these miles. Yellow blazed? sure. but thru hiked? Nope. Not a chance. Record setting? Ha! Maybe for getting the most dupes to believe her fantastical tales!

  • Awesome : Sep 20th

    She’s a fake. Erin is a kool aid aficionado. She tells others not to rumor but spouts nonsense.

  • Chrissy mcvay : Sep 20th

    I can’t congratulate without seeing GPS record. However, completing trail is a feat in itself, even if she can’t prove record.

  • Lost and found : Sep 21st

    For Pete’s sake people can’t you be kind right after reading an article reminding you to be kind? I met her in the Kinsman Notch when she was still headed north and we talked for hours about her strategies and intentions and saw her again when she blazed south past me. I can confirm that tons of crazy fast hikers smoke cigarettes, and she used them to keep moving on ~3 hours of sleep a night. If you didn’t meet her, please just sit tight and be kind for a while until all those that did come forward and corroborate or deny her story. So far all those I know from the trail believe that she really was crazy enough to make it happen.

    • LumanWalters : Sep 21st

      Being kind doesn’t mean you have to be gullible.
      Asking for solid proof of extraordinary claims isn’t unkind. It’s called critical thinking.
      Geez no wonder the us is so religious.

  • je : Sep 21st

    It makes me absolutely insane that this is constantly wrapped in a woman-veteran-sexual assault survivor blanket. I am also in that group. If she did it, she did it and she screwed herself by not using GPS. If she faked it, she faked it in the name of a group of people that others tend to walk on eggshells around. I just want to see the math. And maybe we will never know the answer. It is fishy though. And it is driving me nuts.

  • Anonymous : Sep 21st

    Just for the sake of a thought experiment, let’s assume her FKT attempt was an intentional farce for spotlight. Let’s assume that she got rides and skipped hundreds of miles of trail. Is it the right thing to do like the author suggested and look past all that for the cause she is fighting for. Is her story still courageous, is her strength still admirable like the author suggests? I would say absolutely not! She is not only completely disrespecting any previous record holders, but the community as a whole. If this is a faked attempt, it is obvious that she thinks the community is ignorant enough to believe her. That is disrespectful in itself. How would Karl Metzler feel knowing that he put his heart and soul into his record, along with having a very supportive team, and $100,000, to know that his record was thought by some to only stand for 1 day because of a liar. That is not courageous, that is not admirable, that is PITIFUL. That is disingenuous to the whole trail community, and sexual assault victims that she is “fighting” for.

    Of course all of this was making assumptions of her falsifying information. The burden of proof relies on her and if she can prove she did it then courageous is a word to describe her.

  • Karen DrBrighteyes Smith : Sep 21st

    I personally believe her claim. I was part of her support in the GSMNP. I communicated via PM and FB with her the whole way thru but since I didn’t meet her at trail heads I cannot verify anything but the miles I supported from Davenport to Newfound which she did legitimately from 4AM Thursday 9/15 through 7:32PM Thursday 9/15. The attacks are unnecessary and hurtful to all of us, not to mention Kaiha. She needs the hiker community that saw/spoke/provided/support to come forward with the info that they have. If she got rides then I would expect that those who picked her up or dropped her off could supply that information with dates and approx times. Back off haters this is not needed here – just the facts and the info.

    • Anonymous : Sep 21st


    • LumanWalters : Sep 21st

      I was raised in a cult.
      I believed in my parents too for the same reasons you believe her but their beliefs had no proof.

    • Anonymous : Sep 29th

      Karen, your own account help show why her claim is impossible. The section you mention, Davenport to Newfound gap is 30 miles. It took her 15 hour and 23 min to cover that section. After getting through Virginia, she would have had to average mileage way more than that to get to Georgia in time. 30 miles in 15 hours is certainly doable, but it shows there aren’t enough hours in the day for her to have covered 50-70 miles a day in the last 9 days, which is what her own timeline suggests.

  • Andy D : Sep 21st

    This has already been discredited in a spreadsheet analysis on Whiteblaze. By using her own confirmed locations and corresponding daily mileage requirements it would have been necessary to average over 75 mpd for the last 8 days. The math just doesn’t make sense, and neither do the photos of a topless person wearing new shoes and too much body fat after hiking 36-75 mpd for 45 days.

    • Gaia the Womble : Sep 24th

      Wow. I don’t care where you stand on this issue, body shaming is absolutely unacceptable and inappropriate. It has no place in this conversation, or any conversation, ever, for that matter.

      • Charlotte : Sep 25th

        Discussion of body fat in this context is not body shaming. It is physiology, kinesiology, and science. The human body, when called upon to perform super human feats, such as move at the rate of more than 65 mpd for 9 days on limited calories (or more maybe, I can’t remember what was determined to be necessary to finish from her last known stop) responds in a predictable manner. After 45 days of continuos marathons on limited food and sleep, her physical condition could be expected to be a certain way, based on study of the human body, with minor differences for individual variances.

        Again- NOT body shaming.

  • Eusadore : Sep 21st

    GPS is a pretty costly barrier to entry.

    • LumanWalters : Sep 21st

      Not that bad. Her phone takes good pics. I don’t think 119 would be too hard to swing.


    • Steve : Sep 23rd

      It could be an APP like Viewranger with little to no cost. I track at least half my in-out hikes and all of my through or section hikes to gauge how I am doing and keep me on trail. Even if there was no cell coverage, this works as I used it in the most remote areas ! It would show the daily distances and average speeds so it would be easy to perform simple calcs based on speeds, elevation gains and loss to compare to see if the math makes sense.

      I have hiked hundreds of trail miles with this tracking and average 3.0+/-0.25 mph depending on the terrain, if I saw output that showed >4mph sustained , I would say that I was statistically outside my capability, and if I had several days of this, I would be very skeptical, especially at the end of a long hike! But if i jumped around, it would also show this on my track in either location or elevations…a dead giveaway or I turned it on for downhill sprints or off for difficult sections to improve my numbers.

      bottom Line is: If it seems too good to be true…

  • koye : Sep 21st

    I believe her. She talked to me about what she was doing on Facebook and would check in. When she told me her cause I wished her well and cheered her on. She set up a diary and did her best with what she had.

    calling her a phony or a fake based on some of the criteria presented is so troubling…particularly because it comes across as mean spirited.

    She hiked her arse off and now she is being smeared for it.

    For the people who think she needs a GPS to make legitimize her claims.


    and she will heal up…do it again and smoke all the previous records.

    • Nonbeliever : Sep 21st

      Your various Facebook contacts with Kaiha and your belief in her doesn’t give any credence to the unfounded claim she is making. I would hope you can understand that a hunch or feeling about a person doesn’t validate their accomplishments. My mom probably thinks I’m a great backpacker and ultra-runner, as far as she knows. This doesn’t give me any sort of legitimate status. I have to garner that through documented accomplishments according to a agreed-upon set of standards within the community. People – well trained people with decades of experience and ample documentation – have gone to great lengths in terms of training, organization, and providing proof, in order to achieve their goals and claim these records. Kaiha is absolutely expected to meet those same standards of documentation and proof, if she intends to garner notoriety and publicity for her so-called record hike. She hasn’t done so, and people are rightfully upset that she’s undermining the accomplishments of others who have actually worked for these records. In particular, one of them claimed a new record just 24 hours before her bogus claim. It’s disrespectful and selfish.

      Likewise, you should understand that she’s not being smeared for “hiking her arse off”. She’s being criticized and scrutinized for lying about something she has not actually accomplished. Karl Meltzer has more 100-mile race wins than anyone in the history of the sport, and he took three attempts over nearly a decade to finally get the record he actually set last week. Kaiha is being criticized for boldly claiming to have outdone Anish, Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer, and those who have held AT records in the past. If Kaiha wants to be recognized for hiking a lot over the last six months with some yellow-blazing in the process, she could’ve used those experiences to further her cause. She can’t, however, lie about setting two world-class records and expect people to take that lying down.

      “For the people who think she needs a GPS to make legitimize her claims.
      and she will heal up…do it again and smoke all the previous records.”

      Finally, it’s not on the community to supply her with the necessary tools to legitimately lay claim to the AT speed record(s). The standards for documentation and legitimacy are clearly posted if she fully intended to do this. If you think she will “smoke all the previous records”, you clearly have no clue what type of training, planning, and effort goes into such accomplishments.

  • Stephanie Dougherty : Sep 21st

    Wow- the amount of vile judgement is astounding on this thread…so much for trail community. As one of Kaiha’s best friends, and a follower of her impromptu journey, I can tell you that the last thing she’s looking for is accolades. SHE knows what she did, and luckily, the gallery of judges can’t take it from her. She was completely upfront about her desire to bring AWARENESS to the issue of sexual assault victims and misogyny, and that any donations were strictly to get her to the finish line. AGAIN, she was in it alone- she didn’t have an entourage supplying her with what she needed. Yep, she’s a regular woman- a veteran and survivor, but she’s also one of those insane people that would go out for a quick run and put 13 miles behind her, with little to no effort. It’s hilarious to me that there are so many opinions- questioning her motives, her methods, her LIFESTYLE? Really? I didn’t know that you had to be a sober ultra-athlete to hike! Instead of trying to find holes in her story, of which believe me- there are none, maybe try believing for just a second that this chick is a major badass who, for whatever insane reason I never understood, decided to smoke the AT on a whim…and then did it. I’m so grateful to know this woman, and I’m so grateful that she doesn’t reeeally give a shit who believes her- because we all WATCHED her do it. Maybe you could do better? But I doubt it. Also, if you’ve got the balls to tear someone down, at least have the balls to do it and then sign your name- there’s an awful lot of anonymous shit-talking.

    • Alberto : Sep 21st

      Stephanie, just because people are calling out an OBVIOUS fake claim doesn’t make them vile. This namby pamby generation has a hard time accepting criticism and takes it so personally. Anyone who knows anything about endurance feats knows just how incredibly difficult it is to do what she claims. Tell you what, sign up for a grueling, mountainous 50 mile ultramarathon and train up for it. Then do it. You don’t need to do it fast. Heck, take your time and take 16-18 hours to complete it. Then come back and tell us that this person you know can do THAT for 45+ days IN A ROW. People like me aren’t questioning her character or her history. I am quite put off by the people who are bringing her personal life into it, and it’s very very wrong. My issue is her claim to have done this endurance feat, not only beating two of the most legendary ultramarathon runners EVER, but with no experience and no proof. No shit talking here. I don’t know Kaiha so I won’t comment on her character. Just presenting the incredibly obvious truth that there is no way she did this, and is lying about it for some reason that none of us know and can only speculate.

    • LumanWalters : Sep 21st

      Last year. I hiked the whole thing 2 days faster than her. And I did it all stealth mode. I was pretending to be snake from metal gear solid the whole time so I snuck by people undetected. It’s true. Sorry Karl. Sarry Kaiha. The FKT belongs to me !

    • This Is It : Sep 21st

      Wow the SJW crowd is in full force for this one. MISOGYNY!! Haha! Misogyny my ass! Jennifer Pharr Davis, a former supported record holder and Anish, the current REAL unsupported record holder are both women who are beloved the the AT community because they are LEGIT BAD ASSES. Your friend is an obvious FARCE and we’re calling her out on her BS.

    • Kat Smith : Sep 21st

      Explain this to me then.

      From things she HERSELF posted on facebook, and people reaching out trying to verify this, we know:

      She finished day 9 in Andover (8 miles off trail?), an average of 28.5 miles per day. She then zero’d, spending the day smoking and drinking before averaging 50+ miles a day over the whites, arguably the hardest section of trail and at a pace far, far beyond what Karl, Scott, JPD or Anish managed. At Dalton she was then kicked out a hostel after another night drinking.

      Then the next 3 days she averaged 23.3 miles day, over a relatively easy section. Then averaged 60+ miles a day over the rocks in NJ/PA, including the hardest section of PA in one 40 hour/70 mile push.

      By the time she got to Pearisberg she’d averaged 43 miles a day, which forgetting everything else would of been believable. But then from there to the end she would of had to average 66 miles a day for 9 days. Arriving at Pearisberg at midnight, she was at the barn resturant in Atkins 40 hours later, and then in Damascus 75 miles and 23 hours later. And then still averaging 67 miles a day for 7 days from Damascus to the finish?

      • Ray : Sep 21st

        Kat Smith….I like the way you think. Many of her days are exact in distance. You cannot walk exact distances each day on the trail. Especially without GPS. And 7 days of at least 74 miles per day is humanly impossible. At 20 minutes a mile, that would equate to 75 miles in 24 hours. Take in account that she was leisurely smoking/drinking and taking pic after pic plus hiking….and stopping to eat…meet people. There’s no way possible she would be able to hold that pace for one day. Let alone 7 days in a row.

    • fusion : Sep 26th

      You’re just a plain jerk, and so is your friend. Telling bold lies and attempting to subvert the real efforts of real athletes is no way to bring “awareness” of sexual assault. You, her, and any of your friends that support this farce should be ashamed of yourselves.


  • R C : Sep 21st

    No way I did 3/4 of the trail. Way longer than that and I had no support and I am a long haul hiker.lost 46 lbs nothing fit nothing. If she wants to be famous let her do it and be monitored. All the luck.

  • LumanWalters : Sep 21st

    Her FKT will not be validated. if it’s validated, that just opens the door for anyone to make the claim with the same amount of flimsy evidence.

    There is an individual who has stated he gave her a ride from one part of the trail to a hostel. That hostel claims to have dropped her off a day or two later at a different section of the trail(50 miles down the trail).

    Just because she experienced something awful doesn’t mean people can’t point out the obvious flaws in her story. If you make some kind of a competing claim you have to have evidence for that claim. When I’m looking at two separate claims I am going to have to side with the claim which is backed up by more evidence.

    I commend her for her intention to help with victims. however, being a victim of sexual assault isn’t a firewall against skepticism.

  • Hunter : Sep 21st

    Theres no doubt in my mind that ninja broke the record. Her military training makes her more then capable. She may not have much thru-hiking experience but this is exactly what the military trains you for. I personal saw her in both new york and vermont busting more miles then i ever could and ive been carying a pack and hiking the country for 7years

    • Nonbeliever : Sep 21st

      How do you figure that military training somehow makes her more equipped for this then people who have been backpacking and/or ultra-running for decades? The people who ACTUALLY hold the records on America’s scenic trails have done specific training geared toward these goals, and some of them have failed – numerous times – before finally achieving those records. She wasn’t a navy seal – she had basic military training. That doesn’t automatically validate her as some ultra-endurance phenom. She’s got to earn it and verify it like everyone else…

    • Gary : Sep 21st

      People have come forward on WhiteBlaze who have validated that she did not complete a thru-hike. She skipped at least 54 miles of the trail.

    • RedBaron : Sep 22nd

      Zero sir. Big fat zero. I thru hiked NoBo in ’99 w/ a DD-214 along with other Vets, Army & Marines & there is Zero chance that anything ‘Lyin Ninja’ trained in service prepped her for multiple 46 mi days. Total BS.

    • Debra : Sep 23rd

      Haha military training! Next she’ll tell us she has been trained as a force recon ranger and that’s where she got her training. give me a freaking break. I served. There is no “military training” she would have been part of that would have come even close to this.

    • Boomhower : Jan 11th

      Sir, while I respect the fact that you have an opinion, I do not respect the opinion itself. It is naive. I went through Infantry School at Fort Benning in 2001. I served for several years in the in the Army National Guard doing three deployments as both Infantry (11B) and a Calvary Scout (19D). Both of these jobs are very physically demanding. But in no way did that prepare me to actually accomplish an FKT. Her claim is a hoax. Also, she never served in Combat Arms which is exponentially harder than Support. In Outside Magazine she claims “They basically taught us how to go for a 15-mile run after you’ve eaten a burger and smoked a couple of cigarettes. And then they made us do it all over again,”. There is no way that any Commander would ever do that. He or she would get relieved of command after the first one died of a heat stroke. I had sadistic SOB for a Captain in Iraq in 2003. And even he wasn’t that stupid.

  • Kat : Sep 21st

    Someone’s done the math. It does not at all add up- she may have been out there but couldn’t have been walking. Looks like yellowblazing.

    From HER OWN POSTS on facebook, and people reaching out trying to verify this, we know:

    She finished day 9 in Andover (8 miles off trail?), an average of 28.5 miles per day. She then zero’d, spending the day smoking and drinking before averaging 50+ miles a day over the whites, arguably the hardest section of trail and at a pace far, far beyond what Karl, Scott, JPD or Anish managed. At Dalton she was then kicked out a hostel after another night drinking.

    Then the next 3 days she averaged 23.3 miles day, over a relatively easy section. Then averaged 60+ miles a day over the rocks in NJ/PA, including the hardest section of PA in one 40 hour/70 mile push.

    By the time she got to Pearisberg she’d averaged 43 miles a day, which forgetting everything else would of been believable. But then from there to the end she would of had to average 66 miles a day for 9 days. Arriving at Pearisberg at midnight, she was at the barn resturant in Atkins 40 hours later, and then in Damascus 75 miles and 23 hours later. And then still averaging 67 miles a day for 7 days from Damascus to the finish?

  • Ray : Sep 21st

    Karl went through 19 pairs of Hoka’s. She was gifted just 4 pairs. Yet when you look at her end pic, her shoes look brand new. That alone tells me NO. Secondly….No. Third….No.

  • JJ : Sep 22nd

    This whole thing has now been discredited on White Blaze. There is a person who picked her up from Swift Run Gap and gave her a lift to Waynesboro, and has dated photo proof, where she stayed that night at the Stanimals Hostel. The hostel owner then shuttled her to Rock Fish gap the following morning. That is 45.5miles of trail yellow blazed and discredits her “I hiked every mile”. If she did it once can you really believe she didn’t do it at any other time? https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/120840-Kaiha-Bertollini-Real-FKT/page10

    Neither of these people even realized at the time she was attempting a FKT and have no reason to lie.

  • Pete : Sep 22nd

    WRT the last paragraph, “what she has been through” seems mute, if she didn’t really do it at all. And we seem to lack the proof.

    Also, this was by NO means a “hike” & therefore belongs on NO hiking board. It was a “run” or it was a “race”. She ran & happened to be in the woods. That does not make it a hike. People do Mud runs” all the time, which also go through the woods. But we don’t then call THEM a “mud hike”, now do we! No, we refer to it as a “mud RUN”, or even a race. Instead, this belongs on a “running board” or a “race board”, but NOT here!

    • Shana McPhereson : Sep 22nd

      You have to remember we’re dealing with a super human here. She walked, remember? Only someone who could withstand the vigorous and deadly workouts issued in basic training could maintain a constant speed of 8mph.

  • Shana McPhereson : Sep 22nd

    I really want to believe her. It would be such a great feat for women everywhere, but I too found her blog post that someone shared above. Where’s her kid? Why is there no history of her serving? Nothing, absolutely nothing, aside from her being on the trail, adds up in any of her stories.

  • Scruffy McGee : Sep 22nd

    Rosie Ruiz called…

  • Gary : Sep 22nd

    Zack…that small section you mention is 250 miles.

  • Clarity The Movie Star : Sep 28th

    Input on Kaiha’s timeline

    On Aug 29 my son and I stayed at the Iron Masters Mansion Hostel with another hiker Brightside. At 9:05 p.m. Kaiha arrived to stay the night. She started laundry shortly thereafter then went upstairs.

    At around 10:30p.m. I went into the room and she was still up doing something on her phone.

    We all had breakfast together the next morning at 7 a.m. at the Iron Masters Mansion Hostel.

    My son and I left the Iron Masters Mansion at 9 a.m. When we got to the General store next door Kaiha was there eating. We talked for a brief minute and at 9:11a.m. my son and I pushed on to start hiking on the trail. Kaiha was still there when we left.

  • Morning Glory : Oct 3rd

    All this just makes me very sad. I’ll be honest and own the fact that I’m dubious of her claim but I’ll leave it at that. No good ever comes from mudslinging. We are a trail family and like it or not folks, we all need each other. We need each other to maintain and protect the trails we love so much and we often need each other when we’re out there, at times when we least expect it.

    I’m a section hiker, so I’ll probably end up with the record for the SKT (slowest known time) but my inspiration comes from all of you in the trail community, whether it be someone like Anish (she is amazing) or a cautionary tail like Kaiha’s.
    We live, we learn and we hike our OWN hike.

    • kalihiker : Oct 5th

      What the trail community really wants is for Kaiha to join the rest of them in humility by admitting this wasn’t a legitimate FKT claim. A simple “after thinking things through, I believe I worked hard but I cant claim an FKT” would fix the whole thing up. The trail community and those calling Kaiha out would rather have a drink and a laugh with her about this whole thing than banish her from the community. Perhaps age or some other hangup is preventing that, but leaving people hanging by announcing that hard evidence is coming leaves only her to blame.

      • Miss America : Oct 7th

        So very true

  • Steve Adams : Nov 21st

    I’ve just read this thoughtful article by Zach, along with the visceral and demeaning responses that speak poorly of many in this community. I first became aware of Kaiha’s story a few months ago, when I saw her heart-rending video of her reaction to being insulted by a guy at a shelter. I noticed that the post, on Facebook, was littered with comments by women, all of which were supportive of her (she hadn’t finished or claimed her SOBO record at that point). As a guy in his 60s, who had hiked the trail in 2014, I wanted to add my support and posted my own comment. Kaiha probably never saw it, but I wanted to record that this current, rather topical, habit of not believing what women say wasn’t universal among men.
    Fast forward several weeks and I heard about her claimed record. By this time, I had started a podcast and was rapidly accumulating interesting guests to interview. For me, Kaiha was a natural to at least ask. I started to read some of the hateful comments and wanted the chance to ask Kaiha to give her side of the story. When she accepted my invitation, I started to investigate this FKT thing more closely and researched as much as I was able to. What I got from Kaiha was an articulate tellling of her story, with her clear statement that she had complied with the rules as written. Did she do this? I don’t know. However, a young woman, who has certainly been on a long, difficult journey, definitely claims that she did it. The podcast won’t be out for another two weeks and I hope that people give Kaiha a hearing and then make up their minds. For me, until proven otherwise, I believe her.

    • KC : Jan 21st

      Hi Steve,
      First of all Congratulations on your “14 thru-hike!
      But mostly my comment is to you for your response (not the believing vs. disbelieving Kaiha’s story but) about the “habit of not believing what women say” overall in our culture. I won’t elaborate more – the fragile egos of men and fear of women occasionally getting the upper hand – just wanted to say “thanks” for your refreshing perspective from someone who might otherwise be considered an “entitled old white man”. 🙂

  • The Truth : Jan 21st


    You’re a mysogonistic twat and you’re no journalist. Just because you couldn’t hike the Trail any faster than a retiree three times your age doesn’t give you the right to question the veracity of this woman’s claim. Billie Beartrap’s claim to have picked her up at Swift Run Gap instead of Rockfish Gap has not and cannot be independently verified. That you’ve accepted his version of events makes manifest your sexist, mysogonistic, and entitled bias.

    It’s clear you made up your mind without an appraisal of the facts. Shame on you for that and shame on you for trying to direct web traffic to your site by assaulting her accomplishment. Talk about appropriation.

    What’s wrong with you bro?

  • CHRIS H. : Nov 22nd

    As it looks 50 plus miles per day is dooable, while supported over flat ground by trained atheletes.

    This is difficult to comprehend, that a previously untrained (as far as a marathon goes or any other long distance event), hiker male or female of any age accomplished 50+ miles on average unsupported.


    “The Appalachian Trail’s 2,189 miles, thru-hikers gain and lose over 464,464 ft., or more than 89 miles”

    So we are not talking about flat ground any longer.

    I live on an island where each February there is a 100 miler individual event, it has 26,000+ feet of elevation gain over some fairly gnarly terrain. The record is a 19:39:24. This is a supported event with runners carrying a minimal amount of gear with a few warming tents.

    For an untrained athelete to have accomplished a better time than a supported untramarathon athelete is on its face rather dubious.

    The rules are prety clear, you have to donthe hike on your own two feet. Yellow blazing invalidates this attempt if you are someone who reads critically and uses ligical deduction.

    If the hiker managed to do this with a GPS then there would not be a debate. As far as I can see she invalidated her claim to a FKT because she actually yellowblazed a good two days of hiking.

    There was also the mention that previous to her claim the next fastest time was something like 9 additional days slower than hers, or 54 days and a few more hours.

    This means she went about 20% faster on average than the then record holder who did use a gps recording device and who had years of experience.

    In the world of competitive sports, specifically distance events a similar record breaker comes to mind, but her attempt was recorded and there were witnesses to her treck across the entire trip. Her name is Lael Wilcox, and she mountain biked the CDT SOBO prety much cold turkey after riding her bike to the northern terminus from ANCHORAGE ALASKA. Folks that was 2100+ miles. Then she did the CDT length in 17days 1 hour and 51 minutes. She literally crushed the record.

    My point is there are hidden super atheletes, one of them is a woman who before she tackled the CDT was pretty much an unknown athelete.

    I wish that K.B. had used a GPS to record the feat, then there would be little debate.
    Is it possible she actually did it? Yes, but she herself admits to a yellowblaze ride, that pretty much invalidates the claim.

    Is she an awesome athelete? No doubt yes. Does she have a legitimate claim to the record? Not technically if you follow the rules all others have suck with.

    My final thoughts are these, why did she not use a GPS, and why do we not believe it is possible? It still leaves the possibility that it is possible, but her yellowblaze ride in a vehicle broke one of what all others would consider to be a fairly obvious rule: you hike the trail, you do not hitch-hike and count it as your own effort. So, at best she comes in as holder of the second FKT if you add a ray or two to her time, and was still technically unsupported. That is still very impressive, bra or no bra.

    • Erin Donahue : May 24th

      I met “Wild card Ninja” in twenty sixteen in Gorham Nh. She was picked up by an alleged former Thru current worker at the hostel I was staying at by the name of “Mello Yellow”. He picked her up from trail though nothing is said about rides etc for all intent and purposes. She stayed at the hostel for two days which I can confirm as an eyewitness. Was driven around town etc supplies and such which again is ab gray area. But lying or cheating for anyone isn’t hiking the only difference is she lied about something that people can make actual money off. Thru speed hiking is hiking on nothing more than a literal trail bo time for friends family even beyond a quick picture just trudging ahead. Warren Doylie I would allege ruined hiking the appalachian trail at any speed with his prodigy “Odessa” a trail name so on the nose as beibg overly pretentious it’s laughable. She didn’t thru once or twice and YES smoking drinking and “dropping acid” will have severely negative effects on anyone let alone people hiking at any speed or distance.

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