A FORMER milkman from Kendal has completed almost 8,000 gruelling miles across the US to achieve the prestigious ‘Triple Crown of Hiking’.
Jim Bispham has battled extreme weather conditions, injuries and local wildlife to complete the last of the three major US long-distance hiking trails.
Semi-retired Jim started the Appalachian Trail on March 12 and finished on July 17, his 60th birthday, after walking and climbing more than 2,100 miles with a backpack.
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He had previously hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2008 and the Continental Divide Trail in 2011/12.
The total length of the three trails is about 7,900 miles and a total of 22 states are visited if all the trails are completed.
“I’d say the Appalachian Trail has been the toughest so far, physically because the further along the trail I got it was more climbing than walking – the ground was so steep,” said Jim.
For four months he walked for around 20-25 miles a day, going into towns every few days to resupply with food.
He said the ‘most satisfying day’ was climbing Mount Rogers in Virginia.
“I did 28 miles that day in the snow and when I arrived at the top the shelter was frozen – the temperature at night dropped to about -12 degrees.”
Meanwhile Jim’s low point was injuring his ankle in New Hampshire with 300 miles to go. He visited a doctor and was able to carry on.
He added that the Continental Divide Trail was the ‘hardest trail, mentally’ as the lack of development meant, “you could walk for days without seeing a proper path or a sign.
“I got swept out in a river on that one as well, and had a close encounter with a grizzly bear at one point.”
On why he took on the challenge, Jim said: “It’s the satisfaction of putting yourself up against the elements and succeeding.
“When it’s just you with nature it’s very satisfying and it makes you appreciate what you have at home - lying in a comfy bed, having clean clothes, a shower and a freshly-cooked meal are things you normally take for granted.”
As of October 2013, 194 walkers have received the Triple Crown Award from the American Long Distance Hikers’ Association.
Length: 2,184 miles
Location: Eastern United States between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Sights: Appalachian Mountains
Hazards: American black bear, ticks, mosquitoes, yellowjackets, biting flies, steep grades, limited water, diarrhoea from water, poison ivy, venomous snakes
Continental Divide Trail
Length: 3,100 miles
Location: The Rocky Mountains, passing through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Sights: Continental Divide
Hazards: Hypothermia, lightning, avalanche, dehydration, bears, mountain lions
Pacific Crest Trail
Length: 2,663 miles
Location: California, Oregon, Washington, USA, British Columbia, Canada
Sights: Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range
Hazards: Severe weather, dehydration, wildlife