Numbers. part 3.

A Hiking post.

The Fletcher/Matron number.

Training Tuesday’s : it’s a numbers game.

While i was walking this week i was mentally playing around with some kind of scoring system or mathematical model to compare my progress with what i will have to do in the High Sierra mountains and my minor brain-wave comes from comments that Colin Fletcher made in the combined Fletcher/Rawlins book The Complete Walker IV.                 If you think that a measurement/scoring system for hiking is a bit odd then hey !…i’m an ex ICU nurse who likes ‘numbers’ and it’s not too dissimilar to what i used to calculate for a long weights training session in terms of reps x sets for total weight of metal moved around.


The relevant comment from the Fletcher/Rawlins ‘Complete Walker’ comes in the food section, which i’ll be referring to more and more and where Fletcher uses US military guidelines for calculating the amount of fuel/calories a soldier was said to need to carry load over distance and within that equation is a multiplier for terrain….that makes sense as it takes a lot more energy and therefore fuel to carry a 50 Lb pack over mountainous terrain than it does to carry it on the flat.
My modified ‘Fletcher model’ for training then is to take load and distance, multiply those together and then multiply the result by a ‘terrain factor‘ : for example x 1 for flat walking , 1.5 for mixed/light terrain including easy hills, x 2 for steady ascents and x 3 for steep switchback ascents and canyon grade scrambling.

Right now for example that gives me (for my long walk today) 10 miles x 8 Kg = 80 and then multiplied by my local terrain factor of 1.5 for a total ‘Fletcher/Matron number of 120 for today’s effort. At some point in the High Sierra section those numbers could be 12 miles with 17 Kg load and a terrain factor of 2-2.5, lets say a total Fletcher/Matron hiking number of 510…..that i think demonstrates how far i have to go with my fitness training right now !
That might be a crude way of looking at the problem except that it does demonstrate to me why it was such a total shock to my system when i first went out there and tried to go from being a fairly low distance and easy terrain hiker to a full-on load carrying mountain goat.
Here, i can obviously add more distance easily enough and do that with more load, finding difficult enough terrain is a problem in that there’s nothing around here that would give me the long ascents i will have to do in the High Sierra although the south-west coast path can give long days of sharp ups and downs and is a surprisingly useful training ground especially if we also get some hot weather.
A couple of weeks ago i was thinking that maybe iv’e started my training regime too early and that i would have peak too soon… i’m not sure that i can get fit enough but it will be fun ( sometimes) trying.
This morning i had a bit of a moment when i realised that my mathematical model was wrong , but still a quite good start to give me an idea of measurable progress. My mistake is that i haven’t allowed for the fact that the heaviest item that i carry over the trail is in fact my own weight so iv’e since altered the Fletcher/Matron hiking equation to this : where the Fletcher-Matron number (FM) = Total weight (includes body weight , pack and water) x Distance x Terrain factor. The result is of course a lot larger number so iv’e also decided to divide the result by 10. If i could write out mathematical notation here it would look something like FM = TW x D x T/10.
So today i walked at an all up weight of 102 Kg for 5 miles over moderate terrain ( factor of 1.5) to give me a Fletcher/Matron number of 76.5. Tomorrow’s planned route of 12 miles works out at an FM number of 185 …..a couple of those and i’m somewhere near where i need to be.
However…when i noted this morning’s walk and it’s ‘FM’ number of 76.5 that was only my first session of the day : the first of 3…..the total FM number is actually cumulative for all of my hiking sessions during the day and also do remember that the much higher number for a long day/full carry over high mountain terrain is also a cumulative number for what will most likely be done over 2 or 3 stages during that day.
A theoretical maximum distance and load carry over High Sierra terrain would be around 336, which is still a lot higher !……am i a numbers nerd or what ?


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