Aside from the tattered hem on his shirt and the quintessential hiker beard, you might never suspect that Andrew “Crash” Sherry has spent the better part of the past 18 months hiking.
Originally from just outside of Melbourne, Australia, Crash is 29 and an engineer by trade. After thru-hiking the PCT in 99 days, Crash moved to London where he worked as a contractor for the local government. Then Brexit happened. The government laid off its contract employees, including Crash.
He took to the mountains to wait out the turmoil. That summer of 2016, he hiked over 1,000 miles through the Alps of Switzerland, Italy, and France. During the winter that same year, he traversed some 380 miles of the Scottish Highlands, during which time he only saw the sun twice.
Somewhere in between the glaciers of Switzerland and the knife-edge ridgelines of Scotland, Crash resolved to keep hiking so far as his savings could support him. Over the course of the past 10 months, he’s thru-hiked the PCT, the Wonderland Trail, the Sierra High Route, the Hayduke Trail, and the Arizona Trail. He’s now attempting the Triple Crown in a year, starting with a winter thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
I caught up with him outside of Damascus, Va., just three weeks into his hike to see how he was faring in the record cold temperatures (and to deliver some much-needed gloves).
Discovering The Triple Crown
Probably a decade ago, I literally stumbled upon the Triple Crown Wikipedia page and I was like, what dumbasses would do this? Now I’m doing it.
My First PCT Thru-hike
There was definitely a learning curve. I was a good walker, but not a good hiker. I remember there was a 40-odd-mile waterless stretch, and I was hiking with the minimum amount of water. I ended up hiding out in a cave all day to not sweat. I learned a helluva lot. One of the biggest things was just learning to do it day after day after day. When I finished the PCT, I didn’t think I would ever do another thru-hike again. I was so tired.
Five people died on the PCT last year. It went from being one of the highest snow years to being 110 degrees in the valley. The heat wave coincided with peak snowmelt, and there are three rivers that you have to ford. I had to walk upriver from about 6,000 feet in elevation to over 10,000 feet to find places to pass. It took me 12 hours to do six trail miles that day. I didn’t have enough food. So I turned around, which was the hardest decision of my life. I knew it was the right decision, because there were three bigger rivers coming up which I didn’t want to get trapped between. I took about two weeks off, and when I went back, it wasn’t a problem at all to cross the rivers. But then in Oregon, fires erupted everywhere. I was in constant smoke.
The Hardest Hiking Of My Life
The Hayduke Trail (an 812-mile trail in southern Utah and northern Arizona) is off-route scrambling down into canyons and up and out of gullies. Water is scarce. But it’s so beautiful. It could go from a fairly boring dirt road to these huge canyons with some of the best sandstone walls I’ve ever seen in my life. Then the next minute I’d be along the Escalante River pushing through brush so thick it would slow me to a half-mile an hour. I would walk in the river and wade through it until my feet got too numb, then back in the brush till my feet warmed up.
The A.T. in winter
I started within a week of Christmas, just after a massive storm dropped off 10-12 inches, so there was a fair amount of snow and ice up on Springer Mountain. In the first three weeks I’ve gone through three storms, including one of the coldest arctic fronts the country has had in a long time.
I was on Clingmans Dome in the Smokies on Christmas Day. It was -10 degrees. I had a frozen beard. An inch of snow had fallen the night before, all of the water sources had frozen up, but it was like a little magic wonderland that I had to myself. I didn’t see anyone up there that day. I couldn’t have asked for anything better really.
The worst is yet to come
Knowing that more cold and snow await farther north, I got downtrodden for a couple of days mentally. I can’t snowshoe for 1,200 miles. That’s just unfeasible for me at least. I started questioning why I was out here, until I just realized like, who cares? Just hike a day at a time and if you’re not enjoying it, get off. So yeah, I’ve started enjoying it more since then.
Would I hike professionally if the opportunity presented itself? Bloody oath I would! I could not think of anything better than being reimbursed financially for following my passion.