Training for the A.T.

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Only half of those who start the 2,175-mile A.T. trek make it to Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., and only half of those reach Katahdin. Most never even make it out of Georgia.

Randy Motz and Georgia Harris celebrate the completion of their thru-hike atop Mount Katadin, Maine.
Randy Motz and Georgia Harris celebrate the completion of their thru-hike atop Mount Katadin, Maine.

Randy Motz and his wife, Georgia Harris, spent five years preparing themselves physically, mentally, and financially for their 2006 thru-hike. They trained, tested gear, trained, tested more gear, and trained some more.

“We thought we were prepared. After two weeks on the trail, we were beat up,” Motz says. “It’s much tougher physically than you can ever imagine.”

Motz and other thru-hikers insist there is no good way to train for an A.T. thru-hike, other than thru-hiking the A.T.

“You’re never physically ready until you get out there and do it,” says Motz.
If you want to get a taste for how brutal an A.T. thru hike can be, try hiking the Georgia section. Over 75 miles of the A.T. stretch through the Chattahoochee National Forest, most of which hovers around 3,000 feet in elevation, but there are several steep climbs and descents thrown in to test the mettle of newbie hikers, including the one-mile, 850-foot climb up Blood Mountain that sends most would-be thru-hikers home.

A.T. By the Numbers

  • $5,000: Average amount of money thru-hikers spend, including gear. That’s about $2.30 a mile.
  • 40,000: Approximate number of white blazes lining the path.
  • 4 million: Number of people who set foot on the A.T. every year.
  • 5 million: Number of steps (on average) it takes to walk the A.T.
  • 2,000: Number of those people who attempt to thru-hike the A.T. each year.
  • 500: Approximate number of people who make it the entire way.

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