In June, Trail Ambassador Rob Kelly participated for the second year in the Allegheny 100 Challenge. The A-100 Challenge is a fundraiser for the North Country Trail Allegheny Chapter. The idea is that in 50 hours, from 6 PM on Friday to 8 PM on Sunday, you attempt to complete 25, 50, 75, or 100 miles of the NCT in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania (which conveniently has 100 miles of NCT running through it). Each participant must be an unsupported backpacker, carrying all their gear, food, and water. Water is relatively plentiful in Eastern woodland streams. There are about 12,000 feet of vertical up/down over the course of the trail. Last year, Rob was able to complete the 50 mile option, so this year he decided to try for 75 miles.
In order to be successful, you basically have to hike fast enough for long enough to cover the mileage goal. Having the lightest load possible is critical, as is night-hiking by headlamp on Friday night, and maybe some headlamp hiking on Saturday night too. Rob pared his base weight to about 5 pounds plus food and water. He used an Ultralight Minimalist Daypack and LT4 trekking poles. For a shelter, he made a very light DIY tarp out of a large Gossamer Gear polychro ground sheet (see photo). This had edges folded over 3M double-side tape and strapping tape reinforcement of ridge line and tie outs.
This year’s A-100 was made more difficult by very wet trail conditions from heavy June rains in the days before the event, though there were only sprinkles during the event itself. Footwear quickly became waterlogged, leading to blisters and other foot problems for many participants. Rob wore Rocky Goretex socks over Smartwool liners in New Balance mesh trail runners, which helped keep his feet out of major trouble.
Rob’s game plan was to night hike till about 2 AM on the first night, then get up early and get beyond the 50-mile takeout by Saturday night, leaving the last 20-25 miles for Sunday. He ended up following this plan, completing about 52 miles by 8 PM on Saturday, and getting much needed rest overnight for the remaining miles, which he completed on Sunday.
Rob did not bring a stove, subsisting on a Snickers-heavy program of a ~200 calorie item every 1-2 hours on trail, which kept his energy level up and food prep time to nothing. He used a summer weight sleeping quilt and his groundcloth was a Dri Ducks poncho, which also served as rain gear. Rob tried not to carry too much water, using a Sawyer Squeeze Filter to camel up at stream crossings, and carrying a couple 20 oz beverage bottles of water at most.
Rob believes that most participants in this event do not do it for fun, but rather to set themselves a goal and see if they are up to the challenge. This was certainly his attitude. It’s good to stretch your limits once in awhile and see just what you are capable of.
This post was written by former Trail Ambassador Rob Kelly.