© Heather Anderson
Unless you have a keen interest in thru-hiking, you might have missed the news that last year, Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson completed America’s Triple Crown of thru-hiking within in a single calendar year. That’s hiking the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail, the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail and the 3100-mile Continental Divide. It’s the third time Heather has completed the Triple, and the first time it’s been done by a woman within a single calendar year.
Heather, who goes by the trail name of ‘Anish’, also holds the outright self-supported Fastest Known Time record for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which saw her hike an average of 44 miles a day for just over 60 days, often rising at 4am to start her hike and not finishing until gone midnight. Although known for her incredible hiking accolades, Heather has also completed six 100-mile trail races including the renowned Western States 100.
For an insight into Heather’s record-breaking PCT FKT record I’d highly recommend reading her book, Thirst – 2600 MILES TO HOME, which documents her journey, including near-death experiences and mountain lion encounters. In the meantime, here’s a quick Q&A with Heather.
Your book, Thirst, launched this year. Was stepping back into Anish’s shoes a happy, cathartic process or was it quite emotional?
It was a good experience. The hardest part was only telling the personal development up until the end of that hike and not everything I’ve learned since.
Last year you became the first woman to complete America’s Triple Crown in a calendar year. What shape was your body in by the time you’d finished?
My body was fine. Mostly I was just tired.
What’s the mental process like when you finish a huge hike and are no longer on the trail every day – is there a big period of adjustment and mental recovery so to speak?
There’s always a period of adjustment and depression as you cope with the transition. Depending on the hike these periods are sometimes short and sometimes they take months. It’s important to sit with the loss and process it.
How did you approach the enormity of your FKT thru-hike distances without feeling overwhelmed?
Once I was on trail it was relatively easy to compartmentalise and focus only on the next water/food/town, etc. Anytime I began to think about the whole [distance] it would be completely overwhelming.
During your PCT FKT record, it seemed like you overcame a lot of self-doubt. Is it fair to say that with each hike you’ve grown in confidence and got to know yourself better?
You’ve said that your achievements have been 90% mental. What do you think made you stick it out where others quit?
I was born stubborn! I also never even start things unless I’m willing to see it through and am fully committed.
You’ve run several 100-milers and have lined up for the likes of Western Stages and The Barkley Marathon. How do they compare with the demands of your thru hikes? And will we see you running more ultras?
They’re just different. They’re harder for a short time, but over in a day. I hope to run more since I’ve missed it. But I don’t know that I’ll do many races or keep doing long mountain runs for fun.
What’s the greatest life lesson your thru-hikes have taught you?
To accept myself and others.
What are your thru-hiking bare essentials?
Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack, Montbell down hugger sleeping bag, Gossamer Gear tent and nightlite pad.
Are you sponsored by anyone right now?
Not in the traditional sense. I’ve never received true sponsorships, but I’ve been well supported in my endeavours by a few companies that supply my gear needs.