Knowledge, Skills and the Pacific Crest Trail

Knowledge, Skills and the Pacific Crest Trail

RIN 7 Silva Type 1 Explorer

Silva Explorer compass circa 1974

A colleague and I, both keen walkers, were recently discussing what walk is on top of our to-do list. Remarkably both of us put the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in the United States of America at the top. However, this is not an excursion to be taken likely as it is a wild and scenic pathway from Mexico to Canada measuring 2,650 miles. As can be expected the terrain encountered between these borders is varied from the deserts of Southern California to mountain ranges that have the highest peaks of the contiguous United States (Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains). This variety then needs to be coupled with the PCT’s remoteness as one segment through the High Sierras has over 200 miles of trail without a single road crossing. Now let us put this into perspective Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk in northern England is 192 miles long and crosses loads of roads! Back to the PCT weather can be brutally hot with nothing more than an occasional Joshua tree for shade, cold in the mountains and rain is a possibility in the northern sections. The elevation ranges from just above sea level at the Columbia River to 13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass. Putting the time involved to do the PCT if you can complete around 18 miles per day it will take you five months!

Thinking about the PCT led me to consider knowledge and skills needed for such an endeavour. September 2015 marked my 25 years of teaching in Further Education. Throughout this period my main subjects were land navigation and expedition skills. I have taken groups out on lightweight camping trips to the mountains of Snowdonia, completed walks in the Peak District and locally in the South Nottinghamshire Wolds. In all these activities I have valued knowledge equally with skills. I can say that knowledge has enabled safe execution of a plan and the ability to be flexible when the need arises. With this experience I would like to place knowledge on an equal footing with both skills and creativity.


Lowe Alpine Attack 35-45 Litres

Unfortunately, Bloom places knowledge on the bottom rung on his Taxonomy of Learning.  By being creative, a higher level on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning, I could make a rucksack out of cartridge paper but realise with my knowledge of rucksacks that this wouldn’t be a good idea as it’s longevity is compromised by the material used. It certainly would be light but this is just one area to consider in rucksack design. Therefore, in this case, knowledge has stopped me investing my time and energy in a creative process that isn’t required. Application is a mid point in Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning and relates to putting knowledge into practical situations. This can be interpreted as skills acquisition.

Certainly in our education system we place skills at the heart of activity and have qualifications with titles like functional skills. My view, based on experience in the field, is that knowledge and skills plus we can also add creativity, run side by side and not as a hierarchical idea as they interact with each other on an equal footing.

skc-pct-pdfTaking knowledge and skills back to the PCT. I know from experience that the way to succeed in this venture is to carry a low a weight as possible so I can enjoy and not endure the undertaking. When planning a venture of this nature one has to utilise selecting skills in choosing what clothing and equipment to take but before doing so we need knowledge to ascertain what is available. We cannot have one without the other. Creativity, on my part, will come to the fore when an item of clothing or equipment malfunctions and I have to fashion a repair from duct tape and paracord. On another hand we have to thank companies like GossamerGear @GossamerGear and Nozipp @nozippbags who imbed creativity by taking conventional gear thinking into another phase of development by producing equipment that is lighter and innovative to aid our comfort. Without Twitter I would not have known of either of the two companies I have mentioned above and this would have compromised my selecting skills.

Bibliography – all accessed on Saturday 13th February 2016 Pacific Coast Trail official site provides overviews of the PCT lightweight equipment for thru-hiking routes like the PCT innovative sleeping bag design