The Ultimate Direction Dirty 30

Miles and Miles of AMAZING SINGLE-TRACK TRAILS

Ultimate Direction Dirty 30

Imagine yourself running on single-track trails through aspen groves, lush green meadows, and thick pine forests. After navigating up steep rocky ridges your reward is a majestic view of snow-capped mountains as the Continental Divide is practically within reach. No need to imagine: The Ultimate Direction Dirty 30—and all the sweat, grit, and dirt—can be yours for the taking.

Jason Schlarb competing at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Jason Schlarb competing at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Held in beautiful Golden Gate State Park on June 3, Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 has two distances to tantalize and challenge any trail runner. The 50K course has over 7,250 feet of climbing and 7,250 feet of descent between 7,500 feet and 9,500 feet of elevation. The 12-mile route includes 2,500 feet of climbing and descending with stunning views.

The start of the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

The start of the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Race Director, Megan Finnesy, makes sure runners are taken care of from start to finishline; no detail is missed in the planning and organizing of the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30. A sample of what runners can expect:

* Course: Well-marked and maintained with fun, energetic course marshals.

* Volunteers: Top-notch support and encouragement by all race personnel.

* Aid Stations: Stocked with runners’ favorite endurance foods and beverages.

* After Party: Held in a beautiful mountain park setting with a stream to soak weary legs. A hot meal off the grill, beer, live music, and massage make it a perfect end to a well-earned day.

Aid crew having fun at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Aid crew having fun at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30.

Dirty 30 is in its 9th year and fills up quickly with runners from overall Colorado and across the United States, as well as attracting international entrants. Brian Metzler, founding editor of Trail Runner Magazine and former editor of Competitor Magazine gives the popular race high praise:

“The Dirty 30 50K has emerged as one of the best trail races in Colorado. It is an authentic mountain ultra that’s known for a challenging course, superb aid station support, high-quality tech shirts and a great post-race party. Megan has proven herself as a race director with a conscience, always looking out for the runners’ best interests while delivering consistent quality in everything she does.”

Dirty 30 offers $4,800 in cash prizes for the top five male and female overall finishers. Fun awards are also given out to the “bloodiest” finisher, the runner “who traveled the furthest,” and the “lowlander” (those coming from below 2,000 feet elevation). Special attention is given to SISU’s (those running Dirty 30 as their first ultra) and 360 Club members ( those finishing under 360 minutes).

Yummy yum! Aid station treats!

Yummy yum! Aid station treats!

Finnesy’s goal has always been to create a top-notch experience for the runners, while giving back to the race community—and she has certainly delivered. The Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 has raised an impressive $40,000 for local nonprofits. Gilpin County High School Athletics has been the beneficiary for the last five years and has helped pay for athlete uniforms, equipment, and scholarships for students to attend sport camps. Attending Ultimate Direction Dirty 30’s happy hours at Runners High in Golden (or joining via Facebook Live if you can’t make it) provides a great opportunity to learn more about the race, get helpful tips from race veterans, and connect with the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 community. The informative panel discussions make it an evening not to be missed. Save the date for the upcoming happy hours:

* February 22: Running your first Ultra – hear directly from SISUs

* March 29: Nutrition for Ultrarunning – sports nutrition specialist

* May 10: Running your Best Dirty 30 – meet the elites and 5+ year D30 finishers

Kick off your summer with Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 — the experience will provide you with momentum that should last throughout your 2017 racing season. Registration is now open.

Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 Race Details:

* Date: June 3, 2017, 50k – 6 and 7 a.m., 12-miler, 10:00 a.m. * Location: – Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Black Hawk, CO – 1 hour west of downtown Denver, CO * Race Details: www.dirty30.org

FKT of the Year!

What was the coolest Fastest Known Time of 2016??

We compiled a list of nominees, recruited 21 experienced people to figure it all out, they voted, and the results are in!  Results with more info are also up at Ultrarunning.com, and all award photos are courtesy Ultrarunning Magazine.

Appropriately, there was no run-away winner – instead, the voting was close, as the voters valued different traits and qualities. Their comments were as perceptive and interesting as the FKT’s were amazing and laudable, so let’s see what runners did and also what the voters thought – – –

FEMALE FKTOY

#5 Joelle Vaught – Trans Zion, May 20

JoelleThis sweet set of trails totals 48 miles crossing beautiful Zion National Park, border to border. Joelle’s time of 8:26:09 bettered that of Krissy Moehl as well as Bethany Lewis before her.

Voters’ comments:

“Great time on a classic route, but only 6 minutes faster than previous FKT.”

“She put down a solid time besting Krissy’s stout time, and made my final vote because this route is more competitive than many others.”

“Joelle and Gina (Mt. Whitney FKT) did marvelously speedy routes on treasured paths, but those are too short to reward as the top picks.”

#4 Sue Johnston – 4,000ers Calendar Grid, January 1–December 26

SueThis is a mind-bending effort by possibly the foremost female adventure-runner of her generation (Hardrock 100 wins, JMT record, and more), but many people may have never even have heard of Sue. The “Grid” is to summit all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot summits during every month. Seventeen people have a Lifetime Grid. Sue was the first to attempt a Calendar Year Grid. She reported hiking 3,159 miles and climbing 993,970 feet of vertical over 205 days (totaling 1,001,830′ for the year).

Voter’s comments:

“Never been done before…and for good reason…it’s sick!”

“Amazing but too contrived. An FKT for gridding? I’m not ready for that.”

“This is the kind of project that redefines what people think is possible, which is exactly what FKTs are all about. My head just about exploded when I heard about this. There can’t be that many people who have run/hiked 1 million vertical feet in a year, much less on tough mountains in (frequently) horrible weather.”

#3 Meghan Hicks – Nolan’s 14, September 9-11

MeghanFred Vance’s concept of “How many 14ers is it possible to climb in one shot?” has gone from obscurity to relative fame, as multiple attempts are now made every year. The Sawatch Range in Colorado has 14 summits over 14,000’ high somewhat lined up in a row, with few trails, continuous rough terrain, navigation challenges, and of course, serious vert. The cut-off time to ascend and descend all 14 is 60 hours. Meghan was the 17th finisher and first woman to tag all 14 peaks over the roughly 100-mile route in that time (Anna Frost and Missy Govney earlier had reached the 14th summit within that time but paused on top).  Meghan’s effort was Supported and she completed it in 59 hours, 36 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“I would rate this higher, but she was with another person, which helped with logistics.”

“She was actually the first woman to do this route and set the actual women’s FKT, but she got practically no recognition.”

“Like Joe Grant [see below], Meghan deserves incredible kudos but the 14er craze is hard for a Californian to understand.”

“Commendable obsession and planning. A very important benchmark for Nolan’s.”

#2 Amber Monforte – John Muir Trail, Unsupported, July 22-26

AmberThe JMT is one of the world’s best long trails, as it crosses many Wilderness Areas and a couple of National Parks but no roads for its entire 223 miles, starting from the highest mountain in the Lower 48 and finishing in the iconic Yosemite Valley. Amber’s 4 day, 1 hour, 13 minute performance would have been the overall record 17 years ago. This is one of the most contested long trail routes, and the first solid Unsupported attempt time by a Woman.

Voters’ comments:

“It’s cool to see more women finally targeting these things. Amber’s JMT seems particularly noteworthy. Almost going sub-4 days unsupported is stout!”

“Close to the supported time and nearly under 4 days.”

“JMT seems like an ultimate FKT test and it’s about time a gal knocked it out unsupported – hoping for more attempts on this one in the future.”

“The JMT holds a mythical place in my heart.”

“An excellent time on one of the premier routes, done in a very pure style.”

#1 Heather Anderson – Arizona Trail, Self-Supported, October 7-27

Anish“Anish” now holds the Overall Self-Supported (backpacker style) records for the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the AZT. She stands alone (and ahead of all men too) in her specialty, with her AZT being two days faster than the Men’s Self-Supported FKT, and was on track to be the quickest AZT ever until Michael Versteeg set a faster (Supported) time a few days previous.  Anderson covered the 800 mile route in 19 days, 17 hours and 9 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“If she didn’t hold the other FKT’s I might have ranked the AZT lower, but she has serious FKT cred.”

“It’s the longest distance on the ballot (Female) and it is an overall FKT – plus it is only right that she win the inaugural award.”

“I based my #1 picks on the FKTs that were long AND with minimal or no support. Although there are FKTs on the list that are incredibly impressive, I prioritized remote/mountain based FKTs where commitment, risk, and skills are all required to succeed, not simply physical and mental strength.”

Honorable Mention:  Gina Lucrezi, Mt Whitney, CA, highest mountain in the lower 48 states, August 10. Lucrezi ascended and descended the peak, covering 22 miles and 6,000 feet of vert, in 5 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds for an Unsupported FKT.

FEMALE SUMMARY

Thru-hiking, with a long a tradition in the ultra-community, was honored here, earning the #1 and #2 spots (separated by a small margin in the voting). Historically, vastly more FKT efforts have been attempted by Males than Females. This is possibly due to external factors rather than intrinsic gender-based characteristics. The outstanding Women’s FKTs listed above are examples that their ability is certainly equal to Men’s, and their participation is likely to increase.

 

MALE FKTOY

#5 Nick Elson – Grand Traverse, August 13

NickIn a surprise result, as this route is better known to climbers than to runners, voters recognized Nick’s bold achievement, which is a clear sign that “hybrid” activities are an accepted and important part of FKT’s – people increasingly find the boundaries between sports unnecessary and not representative of how they see ultra-recreation. The Grand Traverse consists of the 10 Teton summits clearly visible from Jenny Lake. Legendary alpinists have contested this FKT for decades, including Alex Lowe; for the previous 15 years Rolando Garibotti held the FKT at 6:49. The North Ridge of the Grand Teton, the hardest section with a 5.8 grade, is done free-solo. There is 12,000 feet of vert in about 17 miles. Elson took almost 20 minutes of the record, completing it in 6:30:49.

Voters’ comments:

“I love that the previous records were held by luminaries such as Rolo and Alex – real alpinists.”

“Nick has the overall win for me since this route is so iconic and combines not only running but risky climbing”.

“Broke a time of two absolutely legendary alpinists.”

“Remarkable fusion of climbing/scrambling/aerobic skills.”

“There’s a reason this FKT hadn’t been challenged. You can die.”

#4 Leor Pantilat – Sierra High Route, August 6-10

LeorThe man who knows the Sierra’s better than anyone now has the FKT on both the John Muir Trail and the much harder and higher SHR, which roughly parallels it. This is its first “serious” effort, taking a huge three days off the previous time. This terrific route sees a tiny fraction of attention compared to the JMT, probably because it requires much more navigation and ability in order to move efficiently on the extensive 3rd class terrain. Pantilat covered the 195 mile route Unsupported in 4 days, 16 hours, 21 minutes.

Voters comments:

“There’s not enough data on this route: not established enough to know how great it is.”

“Leor is second for his Sierra High Route since this route requires a ton of planning and navigation, plus it’s unsupported.”

“Leor’s record is the closest to an ideal in FKT: difficult, rare, and fast, and would have been my top choice in other years.”

“The AZT and SHR records may be strong, but only time will tell.”

#3 Karl Melzer – Appalachian Trail, August 3-September 18

KarlThe original long trail, both in terms of when it was established (1932) and its long FKT history (first thru-hiked with great publicity in 1948). No route has this history, which includes David Horton, Pete Palmer, Andrew Thompson, Jen Pharr-Davis, and Scott Jurek. This was the Speedgoat’s third try and he took about 9 hours off Jurek’s time from the previous year. Demonstrating classic FKT ethos, Karl supported Scott on his attempt, then Scott returned the favor. Meltzer covered the 2,189 miles from North to South in 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes.

Voters comments:

“What struck me most of all is Karl took three attempts, showing tenacity and grit, and not giving up.  Also the bar had been raised higher by Jurek the previous year”.

“The amount of pure effort Karl put into this over several years demands recognition and appreciation.”

“Pete and Karl are a tossup because they are so similar with time spent moving daily, but the AT is much tougher logistically – Karl had to carry more gear between longer sections without crew support, while running on a road requires almost nothing except maybe a water bottle.”

“Happy for Karl since he had been gunning for the AT FKT for years. But it seems like last year’s news, especially considering the incremental improvement in time.”

“Karl’s AT FKT would win most years, but I dinged him (and Walmsley) because those routes are a bit rote by now.”

#2 Jim Walmsley – Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, October 4

JimThe best ultrarunner in the US knocked this one out of the Park 😉 and was recognized for it. Records have been kept on this uber-route for decades, recently including Anton Krupicka, Dave Mackey, and Dakota Jones, with Jim taking 25 minutes off Rob Krar’s 2013 time. In the process he blazed South-North Rim in 2:46 which is a one-way FKT itself, even though it was done in the much harder direction.  Walmsely covered the 42.2 miles in 5:55:20.

Voters Comments:

“He took a ridiculous amount of time off an FKT from two of the best trail runners in the nation. Mind blowing.”

“R2R2R (and R2R) – Walmsley crushed this one, pure and simple.”

“Both Walmsley’s and Kostelnick’s runs are actual runs and real bar raisers. Like, seriously crazy shit, both of them. But, neither are very creative which lowers my interest level a great deal.”

“His time on a super competitive course is blazing fast, but it didn’t require as much planning as the others.”

#1 Pete Kostelnick – Trans America, September 12-October 24

PetePete’s prodigious effort was the clear winner in the inaugural FKTOY voting. The Trans-Am has a longer history than many realize, going way back to the “Bunion Derby” days of the 1920’s. Pete broke a 36-year-old FKT by a whopping 4 days, including taking a ‘zero’ day, averaging over 72 miles per day for 6 weeks. Kostelnick covered the 3,067 miles in 42 days, 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Voters’ comments:

“72 miles/day for 6 weeks!! Very tough record to even attempt due to the time required.”

“The planning of something like a Transcon earns him big points.”

“Unreal performance, taking 4 days off the record, averaging 72 miles per day and even with a day off. However, there have been few attempts by legitimate runners.”

“Near 40-year-old record broken, smashed … oh, and 3,000+ miles!”

“Audacity of it plus a 36 year record.”

“More than 250 people have run the TransAm and this guy has the record by 4 days. Incredible.  Anyone who has done multiday knows that doing 72mpd for even several days is huge.”

“The sheer length and difficulty overcomes my natural inclination to reward Karl’s feat, which is almost equally admirable.”

“Pete cut major time off the old record and the MPD is staggering. Plus, he brought honor back to this record after a cheater was exposed earlier in the year.”

Honorable Mention: Joe Grant, all 57 Colorado 14ers, Self-Supported and Self Propelled.  Starting and finishing at his house, he rode his bike to each trailhead, then climbed them all, with no outside support. Grant completed the roughly 400 miles of hiking/running and 1,100 miles of biking in 31 days, 8 hours and 33 minutes.

MALE SUMMARY

The results make sense, yet could not have been guessed in advance. Voters really balanced their opinions, going for an endurance feat on a route that dozens of people have fallen to their death on; an excellent though seldom traveled route through our most populous state; a record on the most historic thru-hike in the world; the fastest run by the fastest guy in the country; and finally one person who embodied the classic ultrarunning values: thorough planning and preparation, methodical execution, and superhuman perseverance.

The results may also show interesting shifts in FKT values: Karl Meltzer is an extremely well-liked person, the AT is very well known, and his clearly is a fantastic achievement – but maybe there has been some “AT overload” and people are looking for what’s next. Life is about what’s next, and FKT’s embody that.

OVERALL SUMMARY

AnishThe voters were of different genders, ages, and parts of the country, and this group process clearly yielded the best result (no voter voted all 10 results all correctly). Our community of participants created this inaugural FKTOY, not publicists or profiteers.  With FKT’s being discussed all over the world by major media, it was important to establish something credible coming out of our community itself.

Next year the FKTOY will be back, with a bigger list and process, all designed to showcase the cool things people are doing and inspire ourselves.

YOUR Comments are requested below!

What is the best Fastest Known Time of 2016?

The “FKT” has arrived!  Runners all over the world now understand and use the term, and may expend more effort going for a Fastest Known Time than in a regular race.

So the time has come for a “Fastest Known Time of The Year” Award!  Following the long-standing Ultra Runner of the Year (“UROY”) awards that have recognized and celebrated the sport’s best since 1981, the FKTOY award will recognize the top FKT by a Female and by a Male. The purpose is to learn, appreciate, and be inspired by the accomplishments of others. No one actually wins anything – just the respect of their peers.

So a list of top candidates was created by Peter Bakwin from his FKT site, then a group of 21 experienced runners were recruited to vote … and after much deliberation, their votes decided it!  It was an amazing process.  The winners will be announced next week in Ultrarunning Magazine and on this blog, along with brief comments from the Voters as to why each was valued (Hint: they ALL were incredible, but two more so than the others :-)

So here is the list of candidates and what they did.  What do YOU think about these routes?  Which do YOU think should be the inaugural FKTOY?  Please post your Comments below.

FEMALE (all in chronological order)

Joelle Vaught – 5/20; Trans Zion; 48 mi; 8h, 26m, 9s – Sweet route crossing Zion NP on trails; previous FKT’s by Krissy Moehl and Bethany Lewis.

Amber Monforte – 7/22-26; John Muir Trail Unsupported; 222 mi; 4d, 1h, 13m – One of the mostly hotly-contested long trail routes. Only 5h 13m slower than Sue J’s 2007 Supported record.

Gina Lucrezi – 8/10; Mt Whitney (car-car); 22 mi; 5h, 29m, 22s – 6,000′ vert in 11mi to highest point in lower 48 states; first known attempt by a Woman.

Heather Anderson – 10/7-27; Arizona Trail Self-Supported; 800 mi; 19d, 17h, 9m – “Anish” now holds the Overall Self-Supported records for the AT, PCT, and the AZT.

Meghan Hicks – 9/9-11; Nolan’s 14; 100 mi; 59h, 36m – Open Course tagging 14 14ers; few trails, lots of navigation, tons of vert. Supported.

Sue Johnston – 1/1-12/26; 4000ers Calendar Grid; 3,159 mi; one year – All 48 New Hampshire 4,000′ summits every month for a year. Reported 3,159 mi, 993,970′ vert for the project (1,001,830′ for the year!), and hiking 205 days.
Yikes!  Stout stuff!  What about the guys?
MALE
Ryan Ghelfi – 7/6; Mt Shasta Ascent; 1h, 37m, 5s – This used to be an actual race. Ryan beat FKT’s by Rickey Gates, and John Muir from 1874!
Uli Steidl – 7/26; Mt Rainier (car-car); 4h, 24m, 30s – Bettered Willie Benegas 2008 time. This is the Runners Record; there are separate records for Skiers (which is faster).
Leor Pantilat – 8/6-10; Sierra High Route Unsupported; 195 mi; 4d, 16h, 21m – Technically difficult for most runners so few attempts have been made; this took 3 days off the previous FKT. Roughly paralleing the JMT but above it, mostly off-trail, with 3rd Class sections and navigation.
Nick Elson – 8/13; Grand Traverse; 17 mi; 6h, 30m, 49s – Legendary alpinist Alex Lowe had this FKT, then Rolo Garibotti at 6h, 49m for 15 years. 10 Teton summits, 12,000′ vert, climbing up to 5.8 grade, free solo.
Joe Grant – 7/26-8/26; Colorado 14ers Self-Powered, Self Supported; 400 mi; 31d, 8h, 33m – 3+ days faster than Justin Simoni from previous year. Start/Finish at his house, hike/run 400mi, bike 1,100mi, climb 57 14ers, no Support.
Karl Meltzer – 8/3-9/18; Appalachian Trail Supported; 2,189 mi; 45d, 22h, 38m – Speedgoat’s 3rd try took about 9 hrs off Jurek’s time from previous year. This is the original long trail, featuring David Horton, Pete Palmer, Andrew Thompson, Jen Pharr-Davis, Scott Jurek, and countless before.
Jim Walmsley – 10/4; Grand Canyon R2R2R; 42.2 mi; 5h, 55m, 20s – Took 25m off Rob Krar’s 2013. Super classic route. Blazing 2h 46m S-N to begin, which is an R2R FKT going in the slowest direction.
Pete Kostelnick – 9/12-10/24; Trans America; 3,067 mi; 42d, 6h, 30m – Goes way back to the “Bunion Derby” days of the 1920’s Broke 36 year old FKT by 4 days. 72mi/day for 6 weeks.
Incredible!  How does one choose between these?  The Voters were allowed to vote for up to 5, ranking them accordingly, then the scores were added up.  Find out what happened next week, and let us know what YOU think now by posting your Comment.
Leor

The Longs Peak Project (LPP)

By Peter Bakwin

Living in Boulder, as I have for most of my life, can be strange. Nearly everyone here, young and old alike, is insanely fit. Everyone has set some outlandish running or climbing goal for themselves, something to keep the sense of adventure alive and to expand their skills and experience. I myself have set many, and even achieved some, and this has been a lot of fun and very satisfying. These days, now that I’m receiving mailings from the AARP, I don’t go in all that much for goals or “projects”, preferring just to enjoy time out in mountains and on the trails without any particular aim. But, once in a while something still resonates inside my soul, a spark of an idea will come and I feel compelled to follow. This is intensely personal – I don’t care about setting marks, only about doing things that ignite my flame of curiosity and enthusiasm. Such has been the Longs Peak Project (LPP).

May-KC-1

Photo Courtesy: Kendrick Callaway

The LPP was envisioned by local legend Bill Briggs. It’s a simple idea: climb Longs Peak, Colorado’s northernmost (and best!) 14er, by a different route each month for a year. It’s also a remarkable idea: How many mountains even have 12 worthwhile, unique routes? Longs has dozens, but many or most of them are on the Diamond and those are hard rock climbing – not something I’m going to do. I’m an avid scrambler, but not much of a real rock climber – I quickly lose interest when the gear comes out. Briggs never quite completed the LPP, but Bill Wright did it in 2008, and then repeated it in 2015 with Charlie Nuttelman. The local Boulder newspaper had a nice write-up on Bill & Charlie’s 2015 LPP.

Though I’m a Longs Peak enthusiast, I stumbled into the LPP sort of by accident. I had climbed Keplinger’s Coulior with Bill, Charlie and several of their friends in December, the final climb of their successful LPP.  Then in early January my friend Tina Lewis wanted to attempt a rare winter Longs Peak Duathlon (cycling round-trip to the TH from Boulder). That sounded totally miserable to me, but I agreed to meet her at the TH and do the hiking part with her. When we got back to the TH at 8PM it was already so cold that I considered trying to talk her out of cycling back down the canyon, but I held my tongue and she did it! Now I had 2 tough winter months out of the way – heck, might as well just finish off the other 10 months!

I know Longs Peak (14,259′) really well, and I’ve notched about 80 ascents. I just love this mountain, which is less than a 1 hour drive (or about 3 hours by bike) from my home. It’s big, dramatic, complex, austere. Knowledge and experience on the mountain is key for the LPP – you want to know when a route is going to be in good shape, and you want to go when conditions are good. This avoids epics, which I don’t enjoy. Being mostly retired really helps. Weather can be a serious issue – especially nearly incessant wind in the winter months (our first attempt in February was defeated by wind so intense you literally could not stand up), and frequent snow (leading to difficult and often dangerous conditions) in spring. You want study the weather and be ready to go when it’s good. Despite careful planning, we got blown out of the Boulderfield (at 12,500′) in February, crushed by wind again while trying to rappel off the Beaver (a 14,000+ subsidiary summit SE of Longs) in March, had sloppy, dangerous snow conditions on Broadway (a remarkable narrow ledge that crosses the dramatic East Face) during our first attempt at the Notch Couloir in May, and got rained out of an attempt at Mary’s Ledges in September (successfully climbed the following day). Both planning and flexibility (and determination) are key!

Longs Peak is one of the most frequently climbed 14ers in the state, and certainly one of the most climbed summits in Rocky Mountain National Park. The vast majority of all ascents are made via the standard Keyhole Route, which itself isn’t easy – it’s 15 miles round trip, with 5000′ of elevation gain, and sustained Class 3 scrambling above 13,000′. Even this standard route is rarely climbed in winter. I actually didn’t ascend the Keyhole Route during my LPP, though I did all parts of it on other ascents, and descended that way a couple of times. As part of this project I did 3 routes that were new to me: Alexander’s Chimney (Aug), Mary’s Ledges (Sep) and Van Diver’s West Wall (Oct). The latter was particularly rewarding, as it turned out to be an excellent, easy scramble (5.2), and I was unable to find a single mention of it on the entire Internet! (There was just a cursory mention in Rossiter’s RMNP guidebook.) I did many “bonus” climbs – 20 successful summits in 12 months – scouting out routes and conditions, doing some big traverses, and just enjoying this remarkable alpine playground as much as I could. I even got in another “project” – a traverse of RMNP’s huge Wild Basin, a 29-mile day with 14,000′ of elevation gain linking up 15 high summits (including Longs). This one had never been done, but had been on my “to do” list for several years.

PB Chasm View

Since I started in December 2015, the final climb of the Project was November 2016. I’d carefully saved the standard North Face (“Cables”, 5.4) route for November, figuring I could get up that in most conditions. I’d failed to consider that this time of year the North Face gets NO sun at all, so the snow stays cold and doesn’t consolidate very fast. On 11/3 Kendrick Callaway and I encountered somewhat tricky conditions, with crappy sugar snow on top of the slabs, with very little ice, which made for some insecure climbing. But we managed to wriggle our way up safely. Once on the summit we were able to thaw our frozen hands and feet in delightful sunshine and no wind. What a great finish to an amazing year on Longs!

Here’s a nice pic of Longs – you can see Lamb’s Slide, Broadway, the Notch Couloir, Kieners and the North Face – plus a description of the easy routes with photos.

News item: Justin Simoni has upped the ante on the the LPP, and is attempting each ascent completely self-powered from Boulder, using a bike to reach the various trailheads (the LPP “officially” requires a least one climb from each of the 3 main THs). So far Justin has completed ascents in August, September and October. (Editors Note: Justin abandoned his self-powered LPP in December, as biking up to the trailhead, sleeping in light bivy gear, summiting, then riding back, all in sub-zero temps was impractical).

Here’s the list of my 20 ascents for December 2015 – November 2016. The ascents I’m counting as part of the LPP are asterisked. Links to Trip Reports are given where available.

*Dec06 Keplingers Couloir, 12h40m, Bill Wright, Charlie Nuttelman & 5 others.  A long (16 miles RT, with 6000′ of gain) ascent from the south, which was first climbed in 1868 by John Wesley Powell. Moderate snow, cold & windy on the summit.

Bill Wright & Peter Bakwin struggling against wind and cold near the summit on 12/6/2015. Photo by Charlie Nuttelman.

Bill Wright & Peter Bakwin struggling against wind and cold near the summit on 12/6/2015. Photo by Charlie Nuttelman.

*Jan04 Loft – Keyhole, ??h, Tina Lewis.  Moderate snow and some Class 3 scrambling. We got a late start and didn’t get back to the TH until well after dark.

Tina Lewis ascending the Loft Route, 1/6/2016. Photo by Peter Bakwin.

Tina Lewis ascending the Loft Route, 1/6/2016. Photo by Peter Bakwin.

*Feb17 NW Couloir – N Face, 8h16m, Kendrick Callaway.  Snow & ice covered Class 4 scrambling with a short section of 5.2, climbed in Kahtoola Microspikes.

*Feb21 NW Couloir – N Face + MLW, 7h46m, Kendrick Callaway & Cordis Hall.  Repeated the route from 4 days previous so Cordis could come along, and added Mt Lady Washington (13,281′).

*Mar03 Flying Dutchman – Clark’s Arrow – N Face, 11h10m, Kendrick Callaway.  Moderate snow with a tricky 50′ “mixed” headwall.

*Apr09 Trough from Black Lake, 6h47m, Kendrick Callaway.  From the Glacier Gorge TH, easy snow. Carried snowshoes but didn’t need them.

Peter Bakwin at Mills Lake in Glacier Gorge, 4/9/2016. Photo by Kendrick Callaway.

Peter Bakwin at Mills Lake in Glacier Gorge, 4/9/2016. Photo by Kendrick Callaway.

May06 North Face – Keyhole, 6h15m, solo.  Moderate to steep snow. A quick outing to ensure I had something in case the rest of May went to shit weather-wise.

May21 Lambs Slide, Clark’s Arrow – N Face, 9h15m, Kendrick Callaway & Justin Simoni.  Moderate snow. Was an attempt at the Notch Couloir, but the snow became too soft and unsafe.

Peter Bakwin crossing Broadway with Justin Simoni on lead, 5/28/2016. Photo by Kendrick Callaway.

Peter Bakwin crossing Broadway with Justin Simoni on lead, 5/28/2016. Photo by Kendrick Callaway.

*May28 Notch Couloir, Homestretch – N Face, 14h55m, Kendrick Callaway & Justin Simoni, Steep snow. A true & serious alpine route.

Jun16 Kieners – N Face, 5h34m, solo. Moderate snow, scrambling to 5.4. Longs’ classic mountaineer’s route which is a beautiful tour of the dramatic East Face.

*Jun20 Kieners – N Face via duathlon from Boulder, 10h29m, solo.  The duathlon adds 44 miles of cycling each way, and is a long-time Boulder endurance classic.

Jun26 Skyline Traverse (Keyhole Ridge – Stepladder – Gorrell’s – Loft Couloir), 6h11m, solo (long break on summit). Sustained, exposed scrambling to 5.5. This is probably my favorite link-up on the mountain!

*Jul09 Rossiter’s “A Walk in the Park” (clockwise), 10h53m, Kendrick Callaway.  A long outing with tons of fun scrambling to 5.5, circumnavigates the Glacier Gorge drainage, climbing Half Mtn, Storm Pk, Longs Pk, Pagoda Mtn, Chief’s Head, McHenry’s Pk, Powell Pk and Thatchtop Mtn.

Jul26 Skyline Traverse, 5h50m, Buzz Burrell

Jul29 Wild Basin Traverse (Longs from SE Longs via Gorrell’s & Stepladder), 16h20m, solo.  Traverses the huge Wild Basin drainage, 29 miles with 14,000′ of elevation gain. This link-up had never been completed (though I came close 2 years ago).

*Aug13 Alexander’s Chimney – Stepladder – N Face, 8h42m, Buzz Burrell. An East Face route that goes at 5.5. Made (in)famous by Anton Krupicka in the film “In the High Country” 

*Sep05 Mary’s Ledges + Southwest Ridge – N Face, 8h50m, Kendrick Callaway. A route on the North Face that has one long pitch of 5.6, and a bunch of easier climbing.

Sep28 Van Diver’s West Wall – N Face, 5h46m, solo.  Amazing 5.2 route on the West Face that I’ve never heard of anyone else climbing!

*Oct01 Van Diver’s West Wall – N Face, 5h46m, Justin Simoni.  Justin and I snuck in this repeat of the route I scouted 3 days earlier in great, warm, dry weather. That night the West Face got plastered with snow!

*Nov03 North Face up & down, 7h48m, Kendrick Callaway.  Loose, sugar snow on steep slabs. My 12th time descending the North Face this year!

Frost and Fire – A Quandary Adventure

by Brandon Yonke

As the new year approached, I knew I wanted to start the year up in thin air. I had freshly acquired a zero degree sleeping bag that needed to be  broken in; my urge to be in the mountains remains regardless of the how minuscule the temperature is. A drive to Breckenridge for a day of skiing doubled as an opportunity to summit Quandary, and I decided to take it. After a day of taking lifts to the top, and skiing down, I drove to the Quandary trailhead to switch it up in the morning; hike up, run down.

I arrived about 7:30pm after finally finding a gas station that hesitantly agreed to let me bum a refill of my 3 gallon water jug- an act which I had received some peculiar looks for. Later, as I stood in the trailhead parking lot, dividing  the water up into bottles, I chatted with a couple of skiiers who had just returned from the summit. Conditions sounded to be good, as reported online, though the clear night sky would surely be dropping the temperature.

I laid out a sleeping pad, blanket, and bag across my trunk in anticipation of a cold night, and tried to fall asleep much earlier than normal.
All night long, it was either me sweating, or the water bottles I was sleeping with… but never at the same time. I started off abnormally warm and layered down to get comfortable. Then around midnight, I was too cold and layered back up, while at the same time my water bottles began sweating. Either I kept them to the side in my sleeping bag and tried not to touch them, or I would have no liquid water. It was an uncomfortable night trying to find creative sleeping positions inside of a mummy bag while my breath crystallized to every surface of my vehicle.

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Prime mountain real estate.

At 5am I woke up with windows completely frosted over; even the interior plastics had frost on them. I was happy to see my water was still liquid. With it, I washed down an icy Clif bar and rock solid cranberries for breakfast. I added some Tailwind mix to my water, and a pinch of salt to aid in keeping the water from freezing on my trip to the summit.

With this being my first dead-of-winter 14er attempt, I was indecisive about what to pack/wear for layering. I’m one to normally opt for light-and-fast pack preferences, so I went through the options what seemed like a hundred times. I’d be wearing the Altra Neoshell trail shoes and some mid-high gaiters, a choice many times lighter than boots. What benefit I gain from weight, I lose in warmth with that option, so I wore two pairs of wool socks, one medium and one light weight. I used similar strategy with tights, wearing an ultralight pair underneath my medium weight Goretex tights. On top, I had a LS compression, LS quarter zip, and puffy jacket. I packed along my Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket and snow pants… just in case the weather got away.

After checking that I had my keys a dozen times (I locked them in the Jeep a few weeks ago with the engine on… it’s an expensive lesson you don’t forget) I shut the door, turned on my headlamp, and wandered into the forest. I couldn’t get over how many stars were out that morning, compared to the lackluster metro Denver area sky. I stopped at the trailhead sign, and on the ground beside it, traced “Yonke 5:30am 1/2/17” into the snow with my shoes. Passing the Quandary Peak: East Ridge sign, I felt a tranquility come over me. I was right where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I love to do; following a headlamp-lit trail into the sky while the rest of the world is still.

I switchbacked my way through the forest as the sky shone through the towering evergreens around me. I quickly realized I had made the terrible winter mountaineering mistake of layering too warm. I dressed down to just my compression top, and shed my goretex tights. I paused for a couple of minutes to let my temperature catch up with me, and continued upward. Within minutes, I was heating up again and could feel sweat cooling my legs. I then became that guy standing in the forest with just my drawers on. Finally, after slowing down a bit and getting my layers right, I stopped perspiring and gradually layered back into a comfortable-cool.

As I emerged from treeline, I could see the silhouette of Mt. Silverheels and the surrounding range behind me. The range was a black outline on a dull purple canvas, changing its hue with each passing moment. Light “phantom” snow streaked through my headlamp beam, even with a sky void of clouds.

I topped out the false summit and continued on toward the saddle, where the trail turned to wind blown rock as a result of the consistent wind. The slope ahead of me started to glow a dull red. Behind, the sun was just about to rise in a fiery lightshow. Looking toward the sunrise and down the mountain, the only contrast I saw against the snow were the trees below. Nothing else moved. I was the only person on the mountain, an increasingly rare claim, especially on mountains more proximate to municipalities. Even the Quandary goats were residing elsewhere; having decided to give up their post as king of the hill.

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Daybreak from about 12,700ft, on the windblown ridge of Quandary Peak.

The skies were clear until about ten minutes past sunrise when the snow rolled in. The hastily moving clouds shot right over the summit, enshrouding it in a grey mass. The wind picked up noticeably, and was picking up little bits of the snow pack with it. I was quickly reminded I had lowered the mask of my balaclava earlier. The blowing snow stung my bare skin and I pulled the mask up to cover back up again.

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About 5 minutes after sunrise as the clouds came in.

The path to the top remained defined and packed the whole way to the top, with minimal snow coverage and visible cairns for the likely-unnecessary reassurance. I gained elevation with relative ease. Microspikes were not necessary, but they provided just enough additional traction to move with a bit more of a powerful step.

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Heading up. 

In the final hundred feet, I was fully in the clouds. The snow system was still moving fast over the peak, and bringing the wind along with it. I tagged the top and had a look at what little there was to see. The Tenmile range continued in its jagged manner toward Breckenridge, disappearing a couple hundred yards out. It was near identical views as my last summit here about two months prior- limited sight, foggy/cloudy, and colder than average. I turned and walked the frosted, wind blown rocks of the summit back to the snow packed slope and began my descent.

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Coming down, the clouds gave way to a bit a clarity, and the sun shone through in streaks for a few minutes. I didn’t see anybody else until about a mile before the trailhead- a couple of hikers snowshoeing their way upward. We exchanged a few words on trail condition as I tried to break up the ice in my water bottles to no avail. I chewed on a chucky, ice-shardy mouthful of Tailwind as we parted ways, looking forward to finding some liquid water back at my vehicle.

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Sun peeking through the clouds on the way down.

The trail from treeline was straightforward, and again I layered down once out of the wind. Turning around and looking up, the summit was still in the clouds, hiding in its mystery, while snow fell gently in partial sun here. I emerged from the trail not long after, erasing my “sign in” from the snow on my way out. The weather had generally cooperated, with its moments of wind and cold.

I chugged down some frigid, but liquid water back at my Jeep at the expense of a moment of brain freeze. I sat on the rear bumper, steam coming from my body, staring back up at the summit. Beside me, I Jetboiled some instant coffee to keep starting the day right (ha). Despite the almost sleepless night and undeniable cold, all was good. I wouldn’t want it any other way than to experience sunrise on a silent mountain. I’ll look forward to next time; maybe the goats will decide to rendezvous too.

 

Aire Libre – Oaxaca Mexico

Aire Libre’s second great adventure, chronologically named AL-02: Sierra Norte de Oaxaca, took place in the heart of the Sierra Norte (North Sierra) in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The Sierra is also home to the Pueblos Mancomunados (Commonwealth of Villages), which is a circuit of 8 small towns that live within a shared communal system and also in close political and economic proximity. We passed through 6 of these communities.

On the first day, we departed Benito Juárez heading towards our first destination: La Nevería. We ran on a wide path with a general downward slope and after 12 kilometers or so we were entering the town limits.

 

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We then moved in the direction of the third pueblo, called Latuvi and situated on top of a group of hills blessed with a privileged location right in the middle of the great valley surrounded by the Sierra Norte mountains. The trails we followed between La Nevería and Latuvi were amongst the most beautiful and fascinating we experienced during our whole journey. The variety of sights is hard to believe and is due naturally to the constant altitude change.

From Latuvi we were to depart for San Miguel Amatlán. The trail took us through the Canyon of the Phantom Trees (Cañón de los Árboles Fantasmas), a place that truly does justice to its mystic name. At 18 kilometers and including some steep uphill sections, this was the longest and toughest leg of the day.

 

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Upon arrival at San Miguel Amatlán, we stopped there to spend the night in one of the eco-tourism centers operated by Sierra Norte Expediciones.

We suspected that the second day would be the most difficult, being that it would practically a whole day of running uphill until we reached the highest point of all of our journey. We climbed around 1,300 meters (4,265 ft) as we ran another wide path of around 30 kilometers, all the way to San Isidro Llano Grande, which stands on top of the mountain at roughly 3,000 meters (9,840 ft) above sea level. The forest community greeted us with more rain, fog and cold wind.

 

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On the third day, we started towards our next goal: Cuajimoloyas, which is the most populous Pueblo Mancomunado, with around 800 inhabitants.

We set out once again into the trails, which luckily now took us on a downhill slope, and we then reached a well-known trail known was La Cucharilla. This fascinating section of the forest proved to the most enjoyable single track of our adventure.

After exiting the trailhead, we continued through sunflower fields up the foothills of another nearby mountain, until we again reached the town of Latuvi. We had our last break there, along with our last AL-02 meal.

Our last 15 kilometers would be especially challenging, as we would be closing the adventure with another 600-700 meter ascent (1900-2300 ft) that separated us from the well-known view point where we departed from in Benito Juárez. The same hanging bridge which marked our starting point awaited us for the grand finale of this epic journey.

 

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The Pueblos Mancomunados represented an avalanche of emotions and sensorial stimuli. The people of these communities opened their hearts and their homes to us, genuinely offering the warmest of hospitality. The views around them made our hearts sing and moved our souls with their combination of raw beauty with absolute simplicity. We profoundly and strongly recommend that you visit this circuit the next time you’re in the mood for a holiday mixing Nature with some physical activity.

Check out the trip video to get a better look at the adventure. Click here!

The Nolans 14 – Nick Pedatella

“I’ve scouted the whole route except for the North side of La Plata, but that should be easy enough since it is all trail”

Some 40+ hours later as I was enjoying a midnight walk along the banks of Lake Creek – which is more of a river than a creek – my comment to Meghan Hicks as we started our respective Nolan’s 14 journeys seemed rather laughable. Clearly I had underestimated the difficulty of the challenge, especially in terms of nighttime navigation while at altitude and sleep deprived. After descending a rather questionable scree slope from the the summit of La Plata I was rather frustrated with my inability to find what is reportedly one of the best sections of trail along the entire route. However, my immediate concern was figuring out how to reach my crew at the La Plata trailhead who were probably wondering where I was since I should have arrived a few hours ago.

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My descent route off of La Plata. Not even close to the real trail. Photo: 14ers.com

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Training While Traveling: by Heidi Kumm

When June rolled around I was excited for my summer gig, a job that had me road tripping around the Western US with the #yourlead van for three months. I was going to run all the trails + pile on the miles. With two big races scheduled for my fall I figured I would have no problem getting in my training. Little did I know how hard it is to fit running in with traveling!

Heidi headed out on the trail.

Heidi headed out on the trail.

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Wild Bruce Chase vs. The Bruce Trail: FKT

by: Chantal Warriner

18 Women from Ontario, Canada with One Goal

901.5 km / 563 Miles (with detours at time of relay)

Wild Bruce Chase logo

The Bruce Trail was built in the year 1960 and is known as Canada’s oldest trail. It also happens to be Canada’s longest marked footpath and provides access to the magnificent Niagara Escarpment. It is entirely built and maintained by volunteers who share a dream to secure the continuous conservation corridor that stretches along the escarpment from Tobermory to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The trail attracts thousands of outdoor enthusiasts every year. It’s only logical that these hikers and runners would want to set end to end records. Isn’t that human nature?! There are men’s/women’s solo records, ladies team records and coed team records. Not forgetting the many others who share bragging rights.

On May 5th, 2016, a friend of mine emailed me about this “once in a lifetime opportunity to set a Bruce Trail ladies relay record”. The email was very motivating. It stated things like “YOU could be a Bruce Trail Record holder!; Are you in? Will you break the record with us??” How could anyone say no to that, right?!. Needless to say, the team was built and runners committed very quickly.

The fastest known time (FKT) for the ladies relay we were trying to break was reported at 5 days, 17 hours and 56 minutes. Our team, named Wild Bruce Chase, was hungry to break the record. The organizer of the event, Erin Dasher, Ontario’s 5 Peaks Race Director, had tirelessly planned and meticulously detailed the logistics of the end to end continuous relay event.

With almost 70 legs ranging from 5 to 15 miles, each runner spent hours researching their routes and maps in order to efficiently run the terrain and perform exchanges without a hitch. Team members also ran group and route specific training runs to prepare. This preparation, in addition to fitness and generous resources highly influenced the outcome of this richly rewarding adventure.

Less than two short months later, we began on July 1st, 2016. There’s something to be said about beginning such an epic attempt on our national Canadian holiday ­ Canada Day. We were feeling patriotic, confident but also nervous to see how the long weekend was going to be executed. If you’re picturing a beautiful morning of blue skies, birds tweeting and a big orange sun cresting the horizon, you couldn’t be more wrong. Our relay began at 5 am on July 1st, but the 1st of our 18 courageous ladies started the relay and 400m into the leg, it began to treacherously downpour! We began the 563 Mile Fastest Known Time attempt and our runner couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of her. Great!! It got real, real fast!! Gulp.

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Unsupported Longs Peak Triathlon FKT

IMG_8429On Tuesday, Stefan Griebel and I completed an unsupported Longs Peak Triathlon—biking 40mi from Boulder to Longs Peak, running the 5mi up to the base of the Diamond, climbing the seven-pitch Casual Route, continuing to the summit, running back down to the trailhead, and biking back to Boulder—in 9h06m. It was deeply rewarding, and super fun. I have a few thoughts on this.

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