Trio to hike mountains 'because they're there' 2003 2003

Three local men say they’ll be retired and over the hill in eight months. Actually, with any luck, they’ll be over a whole chain of hills and mountains.

The trio plan to hike the Appalachian Trail, a 3,400-kilometre footpath that runs along the famous mountain range in the eastern United States.

Gordon Warnica, Ross Mitchell and Malcolm Pain expect to spend about six months traversing the forest trail, which begins in Georgia and winds up in Maine, reaching peaks of more than 1,800 metres along the way.

“This is an adventure,” Warnica said yesterday. The 57-year-old engineer will retire just before the men set out in late March. “There are about 3,000 to 5,000 people every year who set out to do it, and about 300 or 400 who manage to successfully complete it.” The three men have been running together for more than 15 years. Between the three of them, they also hike, run marathons and do marathon canoeing. Pain, 65, a retired naval officer, said he’s wanted to make the hike since his brother did it eight years ago. “It’s very hard to explain to someone who’s not athletic what the challenge is to it,” he said yesterday. “I gave up trying years ago.” There are towns and small shelters along the trail. However, the trio will also be camping, and will need a full compliment of supplies, including a tent, a stove, a water filter, fuel, sleeping bags and pots. Each man will carry about 20 kilograms on his back.

“Food is a big thing,” Warnica said. “It’s extremely difficult to carry on your back as many calories as you think you’re going to burn.” Mitchell, a 56-year-old civil servant, said he’s looking forward to stepping away from the concerns of urban life. “I’m looking forward to getting back to some very basic things in life, so that we can take some complications out of our existance,” he said. “Just walking, eating and sleeping and enjoying the scenery will be the things that excite me most.” The men said leaving their families behind for six months will be difficult. They plan to stay in contact via e-mail.

Warnica said some people immediately understand the appeal of the hike, while others don’t. “Most guys are envious, and most women say, ‘But gee, you’re leaving your wife behind.’” “When you climb a hill, and you get to look around ... you suddenly realize why people do climb mountains. Maybe the answer is, because they’re there, but the sense of accomplishment is pretty rare.” Pain said he’s already thinking about the group’s next adventure — a possible marathon canoe trek in Lake Winnipeg. However, he didn’t want to talk about it within earshot of his family. “We’ll talk about it on the trail,” he said with a laugh.