Billy ‘Wahoo’ Meredith arrived at Springer Mountain on December 22, 2023. It was the second time the 29-year-old from Marietta, Ga., stood at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Unlike the first time here, which marked the start of his 2019 thru-hike, this was the end of his trek for not just a second AT finish, but also for the Calendar Year Triple Crown.
It’s something fewer than 20 people have done prior. It combines thru-hiking the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails all in a calendar year. That’s nearly 8,000 miles of hiking, and Meredith did it in 234 days, 9 hours, 55 minutes, and 16 seconds in 2023. For context, that bested both the official men’s self-supported record of 252 days and 12 hours set by Jeff Garmire in 2016 and the unofficial men’s record of 236 days set by Cam Honan in 2012.
GearJunkie caught up with Meredith after he finished his epic trek (and got some rest first) to understand why he did it, how he was able to average roughly 31 miles a day while flipping trails, with almost no zero days.
A Successful, Speedy Triple Crown: Q&A With Billy ‘Wahoo’ Meredith
GJ: What’s your background in endurance efforts like this?
Billy Meredith: So, in 2019, I did my first true thru-hike when I hiked the Appalachian Trail with a buddy. It took us about 150 days. After that, I just started getting into the ultrarunning scene; I did a 50-miler in December 2020 and a 100-miler in March 2021. Then, my buddy and I wanted to do the Pacific Crest Trail. We started that in 2021 and got through Washington and Oregon, roughly a thousand miles in. But that year was insane with wildfires in California. So I got off-trail and did the Colorado Trail later that year.
Overall, I’d thru-hiked roughly 5,000 miles prior to this one. I had also done most of the Pinhoti Trail, the full Arizona Trail, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, Benton MacKaye Trail, and a few others.
What compelled you to go after the legendary Calendar Year Triple Crown record?
Meredith: The first time I heard about it was at a hotel bar in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, while hiking the AT. There was a sign up there congratulating Heather “Anish” Anderson on her calendar year triple crown because she had finished in 2018. I had just learned that the PCT and CDT existed prior to hopping on the AT. A lady at the bar explained what it was to us, and it blew my mind that that was even possible. It took us 150 days to do just the AT. How could someone do all three in a year?
When I finished the AT, I had no plans to hike the AT again. I wanted to hike new trails.
When I was thinking about doing the PCT and CDT, I thought I should just do the Triple Crown. I couldn’t shake the idea of trying it. Ultrarunning kept showing me I could do more and more, and so I thought, why not go for the FKT? I jumped on the Arizona Trail in October 2022 to see how fast I could go on my own. I averaged 29 miles a day. Six months later, I started the Triple Crown.
When you started, you had planned to hike the trails consecutively, but that changed. How did you adapt along the way?
Meredith: Only a few people have ever hiked the trails continuously without flipping. Most people flip between trails six or more times to hit the ideal weather windows. I didn’t plan to, but when I got the Sierras around Tehachapi, it was still covered in snow after record snowfall last year.
I opted to flip to the CDT and caught a flight to Tucson, a Greyhound bus to Lordsburg, New Mexico, and a ride from someone from the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, and started hiking from the southern terminus in late May, which made for a blazing-hot first 100 miles. When I got to Colorado on June 6, I found snow again, so I flipped to the northern terminus in Montana and hiked southbound from there.
I finished the CDT in mid-August, flipped back to the PCT. Doing these flips meant I was alone a lot because I was kind of in a bubble. When I flipped to the northern terminus of the CDT, I was laying the first footprints through some passes in Montana. I got rained on for 23 of my 25 days in Montana, which is apparently normal up there.
When I flipped back to the PCT, most hikers were already up in Oregon on their hikes. I caught up to some people at the end of October. Then I got on a plane on October 13 to Maine where the southbounders were long gone.
When you got to the final section of the AT, you had about 71 days to complete roughly 2,190 miles. Was the record ever out of reach, in your mind?
Meredith: I had strategically set Georgia as my finish because I’m from there. The AT is physically the toughest, and I had gone from snow on the PCT to flooding in Maine. Some northbounder on the AT told me they skipped the Hundred-Mile Wilderness because you couldn’t cross some of the rivers without swimming.
But, the motivation I had was seeing my tracker and watching the dot get closer and closer to Georgia knowing I had a ride waiting for me there. Even on 18-mile days to start through Maine and New Hampshire with rain, floods, snow, and ice, I was still in a great mood. The holidays were also a great motivator. If I broke the FKT, I’d be home for the holidays.
You’re not the first to do the Calendar Year Triple Crown. Though, you are now the fastest. What kept you going every day?
Meredith: Battling through the conditions and weather above treeline on the PCT and the CDT was really challenging, especially for days on end. So, I did reach a couple of points where I considered seriously quitting, which would’ve been in Montana. I took a double zero in Montana and a day on a stretch in Oregon. I just got myself feeling good again, and rested up the legs.
What got me up was I just enjoy being in nature, being outside. I mean it is hard, but when I thru-hike, the hiking part is my favorite part. I know that sounds kind of silly. A lot of people like stopping in towns or just hanging out in camp with friends and doing smaller days. I actually like the walking part. I like walking at sunrise; I like walking at sunset. That’s the most beautiful time of day — during those golden hours.
You reach Springer Mountain after 234 days, 9 hours, 55 minutes, and 16 seconds on trail. Tell us about that moment.
Meredith: It was kind of funny because I finished at night around 8:30 p.m. and I let out a big holler, like a big “WOO!” I turned around and had no idea that there were a bunch of tents like 20 feet behind me — all asleep. I actually got a message the next day from someone on Instagram saying they were camped on Springer Mountain that night and heard me yell when I finished and congratulated me. It felt so surreal.
For your Triple Crown, you didn’t bring a stove with you. What did you eat?
Meredith: A lot of junk. My diet kind of reverted back to being an 8-year-old. I was eating Uncrustables … it’s kind of hard to mess up a PBJ, and they’re super easy to just eat on the move. A lot of Snickers bars in the mornings, muffins, or even Pop-Tarts. Had ice cream a lot. I was super nervous about getting a cavity actually, and just went to the dentist 2 days ago and I was cleared.
At convenience stores, I’d get a V8 or a protein shake. Those were two musts for me because I knew I probably wasn’t getting enough protein and not any veggies. Toward the last third of my trip, I started getting Laird Hamilton’s Daily Greens packets and add those to my water just so I was getting vegetables. I could tell I was nutrient-deficient and just not feeling quite right.
My least favorite part of the trip was the diet.
And of course, since this is GearJunkie, we had to ask about the gear.
Billy ‘Wahoo’ Meredith’s Calendar Triple Crown Gear List
- Long Sleeve: Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Long Sleeve
- Sun Hoody: Kuhl Engineered Hoody
- Midlayer: Pa’lante Grid Fleece Hoody
- Fleece: Patagonia Grid Fleece
- Jacket 1: Big Agnes Danvers Insulated Pullover (carried entire trip)
- Jacket 2: Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket (added on AT)
- Rain Jacket 1: Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket
- Rain Jacket 2: Arc’teryx Beta Jacket
- Shorts: All Day Running Co x BOA Collab Track Stripe Shorts
- Tights 1: Patagonia Capilene Midnight Baselayer Bottoms
- Tights 2: Under Armour HeatGear Leggings
- Rain Pants: Marmot PreCip Eco Pants
- Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 14 and 16 (went through 15 pairs, switching out every 2 weeks)
- Socks: Darn Tough
- Pack 1: Pa’lante Desert Pack 19-inch Eggplant Gridstop (used for first quarter of trip)
- Pack 2: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 55 Pack (Swapped in for additional food bag and bear spray)
- Tent 1: Big Agnes Fly Creek (used to start, and then switched to cowboy camping/shelters)
- Tent 2: Zpacks Plex Solo (used only when rainy or buggy)
- Sleeping Pad 1: Big Agnes Zoom UL Insulated Air Chamber Sleeping Pad
- Sleeping Pad 2: NEMO Switchback
- Sleeping Bag 1: Big Agnes 20-Degree Torch Light
- Sleeping Bag 2: REI Magma 10-degree Sleeping Bag (used on Appalachian Trail)
- Quilt: Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20-Degree Quilt (added after cold nights)
- Hat: All Day Running Co. Team Hat
- Power Bank 1: RAVPower 20,000mAh Power Bank
- Power Bank 2: INIU Portable Charger 20,000mAh
- Headphones: Apple Wired EarPods
- Walter Filter: Katadyn BeFree 1.0L Water Filter Bottle
- Mittens: REI Co-op Gauntlet GTX Mittens 2.0
- Headlamp: Petzl Headlamp
- Trekking Poles 1: Gossamer Gear Trekking Poles (accidentally snapped when he fell in Wyoming)
- Trekking Poles 2: TSL Tour Carbon 3