Skyrunning: Heeding the Call

5-time Zegama champ Kilian Jornet high on the mountain. Credit: SalernoPhoto.

Last weekend I was standing around in the pouring 45F rain in the town square of Zegama in the Basque Country of northern Spain.  Montana mountain runner Mike Wolfe had just crossed the finish threshold of the Zegama-Aizkorri SkyMarathon in 14th place as the top American and was still visibly amped up about the weather, the course, his race. “I was passing people like crazy on the climbs, and I consider myself comfortable on technical trails, but these guys just go nuts on the downhills.  I’ve never seen people run downhill like that before!”  Hearing that from such an accomplished mountain athlete as Mike helped me realize the true gap that currently exists between long distance mountain races in the U.S. versus those in Europe. Continue reading

Knowing When to Quit – Part Two

After my 2010 attempt people asked me if I was going to give it another go. I always said, “Nope. Too hard. I don’t see how I can do it better.” So, why one year later, was I sitting alone on top of Gemini Peak in a total friggin’ whiteout at midnight?

Navigating this terrain at night is really hard – it’s all above timberline, and of course, there is no trail of any kind. But navigating in 20’ visibility by looking at a tiny arrow on your GPS which supposedly is pointing to the next summit SUCKS. Fortunately, before I reached Dyer Mountain the fog had largely lifted and I was back on track.

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Knowing When To Quit

(Editors Note:  Peter Bakwin conceives and attempts the Mosquito Tenmile Traverse – the longest and highest ridge in the lower states – 38 miles continuously above timberline).

My head was spinning as I sat on the summit of Fletcher Mountain just after noon on July 24, 2010. Was it the 13,951’ elevation? Or, was it the fact that I’d just gone straight through the night, spending the last 16.5 hours traversing some of the roughest terrain imaginable, without ever dipping below 13,000’, summiting 21 high peaks in the process? Either way, though not quite 2/3 through my attempt to traverse the longest, highest ridge in the conterminous USA, I was simply whupped.

And stunned. Frankly, after years of doing 100 mile ultras, 200 mile adventure runs, and big peaks all over the world, I didn’t think this was going to be all that hard. Heck, it’s just 38 miles from Weston Pass (near Fairplay, Colorado) to Frisco. Sure, the 27 miles from Weston Peak to Peak 10 is entirely above 13K, and yeah, sure, there are a total of 34 named peaks (two 14ers, 24 13ers, and eight 12ers) along the way. But, anyway, how hard can 38 miles be?

Pretty frickin’ hard, it turns out.

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Excerpt from Running Times; ‘Trail Magic” by Buzz Burrell

“We arrived 35 minutes before the start of the race; perfect timing. I got out of the car, and told my friend, “Make sure you leave it unlocked; I’m going to warm up a bit, then come back here and drop my sweats”. We were at the Moab Red Hot, a point-point trail race; she was going to drive the car around and meet me at the finish. The 55k started, and since trail races aren’t like big city marathons, I could see and even speak briefly with my friends, as they trotted away from the parking lot, up into the amazing slick rock country, up into another world. My race, the 33k, was going to start 30 minutes after the 55k. I jogged around another 10 minutes, then went back to the car.

Except it wasn’t there.

My friend apparently did not know there were two races with two start times; figured the race had started, she drove off. Hmm. You know how before a race you get everything you need laid out, exactly, perfectly, down to the last little detail? Well, I had done that, and it was all right there in the car, which was no longer here.

Not good. But after the reality sunk in, I actually wasn’t that disturbed. This wasn’t like the time I was car camping alone in winter, got up at Midnight to relieve myself, and while standing naked in the snow, accidentally locked myself out of the car. This wasn’t like the time I was alone in Kathmandu, and leaving my pack unattended while taking a shower, was robbed of every last rupee. This wasn’t like the time I went for a run on the beach in Costa Rica, and coming back to the car, found it broken into and my passport and money gone.

Well, this was sort of like that last one, but regardless, it was probably better that this happened to me than to someone else. Because with 10 minutes before the race start, I engaged my inestimable charm and good looks – or maybe trail runners are just really nice people – and borrowed one gel, obtained some Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), and stashed my warm-ups in a friends drop-bag.

And with that, we were off. I was the only one not carrying a waist pack – i.e., no water – but I really feel at home in the desert, so it was OK.  Those who want perfect order better stick to the roads.”  Read the rest of the story at

Projects in the Works @UD HQ

Being a Boulder based company brings many benefits; besides being able to loose yourself in nature on a lunch run, we are also surrounded by exceptional athletic talent.  Ultimate Direction is lucky enough to have nabbed Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka and Peter Bakwin’s expert advice on hydration gear.

Tony, Scott and Peter have been working hard on a new project we have brewing up! These 3 athletes are getting to work with the design team to create their dream hydration packs. Each bringing a particular specialty to the table.

Stay tuned for more updates from UD headquarters.

Trans Zion: How Not To Hydrate

Last weekend I went to Utah to do Trans-Zion, one of the classic trail runs in the country. Traversing Zion National Park from one end to the other, all on beautiful trails, and with it’s optimal season (March-May) coming before the classic mountain routes are snow-free, this 44 mile route is now run by dozens of people every spring, even though it was first run less than 10 years ago.

I’d run every trail in the Park, but had never done Trans-Zion. That’s because the required car shuttle is huge, and none of my girlfriends ever liked me enough to drive around and pick me up.

Then I met Jared Campbell, who does T-Z like it’s his normal weekend run, and since he’s such a nice guy, his girlfriend (now wife) Mindy readily volunteers to drive the car around.

I realized if I was a nicer person I could have done this route years ago. OK, Lesson learned. I would learn a few more before this day was over.

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