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I am planning to go on a trail (Cleveland Way trail in the UK, moderate level, if this helps). The official guide recommends spending 9 days on this trail, but I only have 7 days. Is it reasonable to walk ~30-35 km/day for the first two days and then ~20km for the rest of the 5 days for a normal, healthy person?

I searched Google and found many people also finished their first two-day trip like this. Usually, without heavy bags I can walk ~20km a day in multi-day trails (no longer than one week) with no problem at all, but I am unsure whether I can make 30+ km per day, particularly considering there will be another 5-day trip afterwards.

I have places to stay each day, so my backpack is not too heavy, just like a daypack and a few clothes.

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    This depends completely on what you're physically used to, how many hours a day you're happy to spend walking, how often you stop, how fast you hike, and how many hours of daylight you have per day. 35 km is definitely something some people do. – Ben Crowell Jul 29 at 1:49
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    I would have said if you are used to doing 20k/day for a week then you should be able to train for 30km+ days without much problem. You could probably just do it without any further training, but it may test your mental endurance. If you want it to be fun, get some long hikes in beforehand. – aucuparia Jul 29 at 8:03
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    I am no expert but if you have no experience walking 35km in a day, that sounds a terrible idea. Do you time to train before the trip? If you figure out that the challenge is too high for you after you started the trip, do you have an easy way to give up? What is your plan B? – Taladris Jul 29 at 13:50
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    There are people hiking twice that on a day, so, it depends. A lot. Some people would break down after 2-3 days of your proposed speed. Quite a lot of them won't finish the route I'm sure. – Mast Jul 29 at 19:09
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    I mean, I used to run that much when I was preparing for a marathon. Of course it's possible. The real question you need to ask is "Am I able to do this?". And honestly, if you've never done that before, you probably aren't. – Davor Jul 29 at 21:03
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Your planned hike sounds like it's within your physical capabilities. It will really come down to mental, rather than physical constraints. Do you enjoy challenging yourself, pushing through an unpleasant physical experience for the triumph of coming out the other side victorious? Or do you prefer taking a leisurely pace so you can enjoy the countryside, to "stop and smell the roses," as it were?

If you can do 20km every day for a multi-day trip, you can definitely push yourself to do 30-35km for a single day. The real challenge is whether you can do that two days in a row, followed by another 5 days of normal pace, without any rest days. It might be possible, but will you still have an enjoyable holiday?

I recommend doing a test. On your next day off, hike for 35km with the same pack you plan to bring on your holiday. See how you feel the next day. Are you exhausted? How do your feet and walking muscles feel? Consider whether you could do the same hike again. Let the answers to those questions guide your decisions about your holiday.

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    Not sure if doing the longer days at the start is a good idea. What if your feet are full on blisters and your muscles hurt at the start of day three? Better have that happen at the end, IMO. – JollyJoker Jul 29 at 12:51
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    Of course, taking extra care on comfortable shoes and clothes will help a lot. I've done a 40km+ day on a 4-days hike and I was fine, except from terrible blisters from the shoes. If the path is not really technical, consider trail running shoes – clabacchio Jul 29 at 15:23
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    There is at least one walking event (marching, traditionally) where they do 4 days of 40 km, (although shorter distances are available, people in the military all do the full distance.) So it is well possible. But there are a lot of people dropping out on day 2 and 3. That one is Nijmegen, the Netherlands. – Willeke Jul 31 at 16:01
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    @Willeke While the title question is phrased as a hypothetical, the actual question the OP is asking is whether they, a specific person, can achieve this pace on a specific trail. If you read the whole body of their question, they actually answered the title question already ("I searched Google and found many ppl also finished their first two-day trip like this.") – csk Jul 31 at 19:08
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To add to @csk's answer. It looks from the elevation profile that the Cleveland Way trail is fairly flat at one end. If possible I would aim to do the flatter end as the longer walking days rather than doing this over the hilly end, especially if you are not certain of your ability to walk such distances. From the linked page it looks like the hilly end is the Helmsley end. However the guides recommend starting at this end and walking clock-wise so as to be walking with the prevailing winds rather than against. Also for consideration the page has this to say under the "How hard is it?" tab:

The route is challenging in places, especially the coastal sections, which adds to the overall experience

I don't know if this refers to the difficulty of navigation or difficulty of actual walking - walking along a sandy or shingle beach is much more difficult than walking on a firm grass or gravel trail, and more energy sapping than walking up-hill in my experience. Any good trail description should give you some idea of the challenges of each section, and I believe these will be available from the National Trust Walks shop page

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    And the first day is almost all up-hill. I walked that section (first 3 days) myself some 25 years ago and I remember it as fairly easy going (no really steep parts), but still not something I would like to do for more than 25 km a day. – Tonny Jul 29 at 11:46
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On short (5-6 day) walks I can do about 26 miles a day as an average. For longer walks (months) I divide this by two, as a shorter daily distance is easier to sustain over a long period, mentally and physically. You need to find out your personal statistics for this. 40k in a day is certainly doable, but few walkers could do that day-on-day for a long time. Even with cautious planning you can make mistakes on a long walk (getting lost, reading the map wrongly) and end up walking 30-40k in a day. As these accidents will happen to the best of us, it's comforting to know that 30k+ on occasional days is not a problem. My pack weighs 10 kilos, including tent, mattress, sleeping bag and stove, but excluding water. It's another skill to get your pack down to that. By 'long walks' I mean multi-week walks like the Camino de Santiago or Appalachian Trail.

Should say when I did my longest walks I was 60 and had COPD. So no great athlete.

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You may be overthinking this. You are not going to carry much luggage (I suppose). You are hiking in England, so the next village is not going to be far away. You will have cell phone coverage along the way. You will probably always have the option of just taking a taxi if you do not feel like hiking one morning. You are a normal and healthy person and you are used to hiking 20 kilometers several days in a row.

30km+ can be quite unpleasant if the weather is not nice, but otherwise it is just a matter of time. Get up early.

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  • "30km+ can be quite unpleasant if the weather is not nice", agreed, especially into the wind! – chasly - supports Monica Jul 29 at 17:39
  • "You will have cell phone coverage along the way." You can't rely on that. When I bought my first phone I thought "this will be good where there are no public phones" - but in those places there was no signal either. – Weather Vane Jul 29 at 19:18
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Definitely not - and you shouldn't be considering a solo walk either

That distance is achievable, on the flat or very easy terrain, at a decent level of fitness and body conditioning. Typically you'd hit an appropriate level of fitness and conditioning to do this around day 4 of a trip. The first two days are always hard though, as your body acclimates. No competent walker would consider starting on two long days, unless they were already well in shape.

Those first two days are not on the flat though. They're going over the North York Moors, with plenty of height gain and rough ground. Some people could manage it still - but if you have to ask the question, you certainly aren't one of those people.

So as far as your ideas for route planning go, you have a definite no there, for starters.

Then we hit your plans for solo walking. To summarise the situation for you, we have

  • a solo walker
  • without having previously done any long-distance walking
  • without the map reading skills to spot height gain
  • without knowledge of how height gain affects route planning
  • not especially fit
  • attempting a distance beyond fitness level
  • In unfamiliar country
  • without essential survival equipment
  • without appropriate food and clothing
  • in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak

I may have missed some points on the list, but I hope I've got the message across. You are quite literally an accidental statistic waiting to happen, a living (for now!) checklist of all the ways anyone can screw up on the hills. You would not only be risking your own life, but the lives of the mountain rescue team if any of these numerous risks turn into an incident, which is way more likely with all these factors in play.

Just don't.

By all means do go walking. But if you're going to go walking solo, with your level of experience, go somewhere safe where you can guarantee plenty of other people around you. The Lakes or the Peak District are great choices for this. Get your experience somewhere where you can make mistakes and still be safe.

There's no reason you couldn't think about this plan in a couple of years time. You might even be able to train to prepare yourself for a hard first couple of days. Right now though, please don't do this.

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    I'm not sure why you think the OP has no experience with distance - they explicitly mentioned doing multi-day hikes in the post. Fitness, skill and solo-or-not are all debatable from the post though. Like you I am concerned about the level of gear being carried and experience in the terrain/conditions. – bob1 Jul 30 at 22:17
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    While this answer may sound a bit alarmist I think it holds some valuable cautionary advice which I think the OP should be reading (and can then dismiss at their own risk). – fgysin reinstate Monica Aug 11 at 7:00
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Gear!

Footwear

When I walked Offa's Dyke from the South to North coasts of Wales (with no advance training - I was younger then), I started with walking boots. By day 3 or four I was getting blisters. After that I changed to trainers (not sure what they're called in other countries - sneakers?) and completed the whole thing with no further problems. This included wading through mud 6" thick and climbing over the Black Mountains.

Emergency equipment

I don't know your trail but we got caught in thick, freezing cold mist on top of the mountains even though it was sunny in the valleys. We got lost and didn't use a compass for fear of falling off a cliff. Luckily we had good waterproofs and those silvery thermal blankets to wrap up in - they are very light. We just waited it out even though we were probably only 5 miles from a village. Yorkshire moors? Definitely have the right equipment. It can be very changeable there. Don't rely 100% on mobile phones as there may be radio 'shadows' from the hills. Check your signal. A good electronic satellite-based location finder is handy although keep switched off most of the time as they are battery hungry.

In the rain the moors can get boggy and the going can be much slower then than when dry. Allow for this.

We stayed in Bed and Breakfasts but didn't decide ahead how long a given day should be. We walked until tired and then phoned ahead to the next B&B - never had a problem. At the start, 15 miles was good going. By the end we were doing up to 30 miles because of increased fitness.

Different trail but weather makes a lot of difference over the wilder bits. For the rocky parts, best to go back to boots for ankle support, but then have soft boot soles to prevent sliding when wet.


P.S. Sorry - forgot to convert to kilometers.

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    My experience with shoes or boots is opposite to yours. Just to warn the OP, this experience does not necessarily generalise (there are several questions on this site about small shoes vs. big boots). And I can easily do a week of hiking on my Garmin GPS/Glonass/Galileo receiver. – gerrit Jul 30 at 10:06
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    @gerrit - Yes, I was glad to have taken both types of footwear. As I said said in my final sentence, best to have both. Good to hear that battery life has improved since my hiking days! – chasly - supports Monica Jul 30 at 10:50
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    As an addendum, I should say that I can make it a week only under optimal conditions: use the "expedition mode" available on some models, and get the longest-lasting AA batteries money can buy (almost as expensive as rechargeables, but not rechargeable, but still worth it on a seriously remote expedition). – gerrit Jul 30 at 20:22
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I agree with another poster in that it sounds like it is within your capability. I used to do steep mountainous terrain with a heavy backpack 25ks per day and have to sleep in a tent. What you have to keep in mind is things could go downhill really fast, like blisters and chafing ruining your day. Chafing was a real problem for me so I used to take a bucket of vasoline with me to deal with it. I suggest you do to, along with other useful medical supplies like eye drops, pain meds, bandages, antiseptic etc

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    Fellrunners in Scotland can go downhill really fast :) – gerrit Jul 30 at 12:04
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In my late 40s (5 years ago) I trained myself up from daily dog-walking (approx 5km per day) to walking The Ridgeway (140km) with my dog in 4 days. I did this by extending my walks to about 8km, while building up the weight I was carrying. I also wore all the kit that I would be wearing for the event itself. I did longer walks at the weekend, but nothing more than about 16km.

So after 2 months, I was ready and was carrying 19kg on my daily walks, made up of 2-litre bottles of tap water wrapped in towels to stop them squeaking.

For relative comparison, I'm 6'2", 14-15 stone (90-95kg ish), and relatively healthy. I was doing the walk for charity, which gave me an extra drive and motivation that may have pushed me a bit beyond what I should have done.

My daily splits were approximately 36km, 28km, 48km, 30km (due to a bit of bad planning regarding the 3rd day). Fortunately, I only camped out on the first night, as halfway was my home and the 3rd night it was raining so heavily that a delightful pub landlady let us sleep on the floor of the bar, rather than camp in the garden as planned.

I tried to start my days around 8am, walk till about 11, then eat and rest for 30-40 minutes. Then walk again till 2pm, a shorter rest and snack, then finish it off. On day 3 of the above it all went wrong because I overslept and mis-measured the distance, doing the last 2 hours in the dark and the last hour of that in lashing rain. Thank goodness for a border collie's nose leading the way on at least one occasion in the dark.

I ended up carrying about 15kg, which included things I didn't use, and more water than I needed. I also had food, drink and bedding for my dog too. So, I reckon that with some preparation and common sense you should be able to meet your challenge.

The Ridgeway is a pretty tame walk, and well signposted, so very little in the way of hiking knowledge was needed. It stays close to civilisation, and even passes through a few towns where water bottles can be topped up etc. So bear in mind that The Cleveland Way is a bit more challenging, and make sure you are logistically prepared with GPS, first aid etc as others have advised.

Incidentally, I did The Ridgeway again the following year in two days for a different charity. I was a wreck at the end of that, and don't recommend it to anyone!

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