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!

Happy Mothers Day!

Mothers Day is May 8!  
Since there are now more female runners in the US than male – 21.8 vs 20.2 million – and 57% of race entries are women (!) – Mothers Day is more noteworthy than ever.  Obviously, mothers comprise only a percentage of these overall numbers, but we wondered:  What are the challenges?  Can you raise children and lower your race times at the same time?
For this very non-comprehensive survey, we asked Pam Smith and Sarah Lavender Smith (no relation!) their esteemed thoughts – – –
Now that's what I'm talkin' about ...

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about …

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Ultimate Direction welcomes new Ambassador

April 1, 2016
For Immediate Release
Boulder, CO –

Ultimate Direction, manufacturer of market-leading hydration systems, is pleased to announce the signing of a new Athlete, Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss, a Tribute from District 12, is the Winner of the 74th Hunger Games, plus an entire civil war, and is well known for her extreme endurance, toughness, and problem-solving, in addition to archery skills.

katniss-cover

“The Girl on Fire is the perfect addition to our Ambassador Team”, says Buzz Burrell, UD Brand Leader. “Along with Krissy Moehl, Nikki Kimball, Devon Yanko, Michele Yates, and others, we unquestionably field the strongest women’s team ever in the sport.”

Katniss-run“I really look forward to running with Katniss”, says Krissy, who along with Kilian Jornet is the only winner of both the Hardrock 100 and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. “I’m a little faster than she is, which I know is hard to believe, but she has backcountry skills that will really help me on my upcoming trips to the Sierra’s and Peru.”

“Roasted Squirrel is the next energy food”.

Scott Jurek, 7-time winner of the Western States 100 and supported FKT holder on the Appalachian Trail was more measured in his welcome. “While I admit red berries are not the ideal snack, due to complications stemming from certain and excruciating death, a more plant-based diet could probably enable The Mockingjay to achieve her true potential.”

Brian Metzler, Editor of Competitor Magazine and Founder of various other projects we can’t yet mention, believes the timing is perfect. “The Hunger Games have joined the IAAF, where their unparalleled record of horrific graft and profiteering were welcomed with open arms, and have petitioned for inclusion as an official Olympic Sport. Having a vicious fight to the death among young teenagers would be a lovely way to close out the Olympics, as it would bring the crucial Millennials demographic back in front of the TV, and be far more interesting than some boring road Marathon.”

“I look forward to doing a 3 minute video interview of her”, said Bryon Powell, co-owner of iRunFar.com, “as soon as she finishes in the top 3 of some race in Europe no one has heard of or can pronounce.”

“I’m not sure if she qualifies for ‘Ultra Runner of the Year’ voting”, noted Karl Hoagland, owner of Ultrarunning Magazine. “Her results seem to all have taken place in Panem, while we only include those from the United States”. Realizing this will set off the usual fire-storm of protests from ultra runners with too much time on their hands, Karl added, “But our committee of really old people who used to run will take a careful look and see what we can do. Or not.”

Despite the flurry of speculation taking place on social media forums, Ultimate Direction is declining to confirm when the new “KE Survival Vest” will hit the market, because as all their other product introductions have been late, they don’t want to catch more flak when this one probably arrives late as well.

Katniss Everdeen field-testing the KE Survival Vest prototype

Katniss Everdeen field-testing the KE Survival Vest prototype

I Love My PB

With Stephanie Ehret and Peter Bakwin

“I think we met while drinking whisky out of a bottle and wrestling on the couch. I accidentally poured some in Peters eye.”
“It stung.”

That was in the 10th grade – 37 years ago – and this ultra couple has been together ever since, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this last December.

Peter Bakwin is of course, the signature on the award-winning “PB Adventure Vest”. But he’s not on Facebook, ignores all social media, and never speaks of himself. So who is PB??

PB Garage

PnS 1

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The Quad Trek

“What a great trip! We didn’t get injured or lost!”

While Peter Bakwin enthusiastically agreed with this assessment, I noticed I was defining success not by how fast or far we went, the two usual objectives for runners, but by the fact we didn’t get hurt doing it.

So either I’m getting old, slow, and conservative – which I actually am – or the 5th class scrambling, elaborate route finding, and river crossings on this wilderness route contained enough risk that to have cruised it and enjoy every minute (except for the quicksand) was a worthy enough accomplishment.

Three full days in Canyonlands National Park, traversing all of its four Districts in one 85 mile loop – what’s there not to like?

Packraft PB

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Triple Trek pt2

10 o’clock at night, standing alone on the bank of the Colorado River in full flood stage.  Can I swim across?  Theoretically, yes.  Emotionally, no.  I conducted an inventory of my emotional reserves and made a rational decision:  I’m not going.  I measured, and my cajones weren’t big enough.

Span Bot

This trip I had brought a Space Blanket, so wrapped myself up in that and slept soundly, while learning that sleeping in a Space Blanket keeps you both remarkably warm and remarkably wet, becoming quickly soaked in your own perspiration.

Next morning I hiked upstream to allow for the fast current, eased myself into the brown water, and swam across with no incident, and without regretting the previous nights decision.  I busted butt up Red Lake Canyon (what lake?), across the various fins and valleys the Needles are renowned for, including the infamous Elephant Hill jeep road, reaching Squaw Flat Campground by mid-morning where I had a friend waiting for me with food supplies for the rest of the route.

Except instead of my friend, there was a note pinned to the campground sign which read: “You didn’t show up so I left.  Hope everything is OK.”

No food and 45 more miles to go wasn’t that OK. Kaput again. Busted.  Without further ado I put out my thumb and began the long hitchhike back to my car, pleased that I had extended the route, but also noticing that by failing at Spanish Bottom last year I got a direct boat ride back to the start, while failing at Squaw Flat meant it would take hours to hitch all the way around.  My second ride was pretty good though, peaceful because there was no radio in the car.  I asked why, and he explained he stole the car two days ago and had already sold the radio.

Tower

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Triple Trek

I pushed through the Tamarisk thicket on my hands and knees, being careful to avoid puncturing my air mattress, then waded out up to my waist in the cold, brown, swirling water, my shoes sticking in the mucky bottom, and while wearing a backpack, tried to get on my yellow inflatable mattress. It was an awkward moment. Peter and I had discussed practicing the technique in advance, but since Boulder had been cool and rainy, and we don’t like being cold, we skipped that part. So this was our first try – it was not going to be elegant no matter what – so nothing to do now but trust our plan, lunge up onto the mattress, and start paddling across the Green River.

We started as far upstream on Queen Anne Bottom as we could get, having first rappelled down a short cliff band, and were aiming for Millard Camp on the other side, after which the River pushed up against more cliffs, making an exit from the River impossible, and a much, much longer River trip probable.  I kept wondering how Peter was doing behind me, but never turned around – we really had to make that one exact spot – if he didn’t make it there was nothing I could do about it, and vice versa, so I looked toward my spot paddled for it. The Green was running 14,740 cfs, so I was “ferrying” – pointing myself slightly upstream in order to get as far across as possible while the strong current pushed us downriver. It was going to be close. The River turned left here and we were aiming for the right bank, so the water was moving much faster on this side – I paddled harder – hmm, really need to make this I thought, but the current was really strong now. A wedge of rock stuck out in the River, I figured there would be an eddy line behind it – yup, still 15’ from shore but the eddy line grabbed me just as I was being swept past the exit point – made it!

I scrambled onto the rocks, took off my pack, and looked for Peter. He was on the same line as me – he narrowly made the eddy line but recirculated twice before managing to get out, as his arm strength was too far gone.

Not too bad. Our plan worked. It was 10am on the first day of our planned 3 day, 100 mile trek in Canyonlands National Park.

16 River Gear

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Running is Changing!

We often hear how “the sport is changing”. Some people devote inordinate amounts of time lamenting these changes and wondering about the future.

I strongly believe in values – our values and vision drive our personal lives, our businesses, and then ultimately our individual lives translate into the state of our sport – these few and fundamental values do not change.

However, everything else does change. Constantly; like, all the time.

So we might as well get used to it – or better yet, embrace change, because the universe really doesn’t give a darn about what we like or don’t like.

So what does all that mean for the sport of running?

UTMB-2014

I ran my first X-C race in 1967. There were maybe 20,000 non-scholastic runners in the US back then. Fast forward to last year, when have 42 million runners just in the US, 516,000 of whom raced a Marathon.

This is massive growth in our sport, and I do not know what that means to you – you are the only person to decide that – but here’s how it effects me – – –

StephSince many more people are doing what I’m doing, I can now run with my friends instead of alone. What I love to do is understood in the workplace as well as at home, and I fit into society without a sideways glance (except maybe when I show up dirty and sweaty wearing skimpy shorts at the supermarket). And very unlike 48 years ago, I now see dozens of runners out there every day, no matter the weather, time of day or year. And every one I see makes me happy. Seeing people running is like seeing birds flying – something in my heart is lifted when I see a person breathing air, moving their body, exercising their beliefs, all from their own self-will.

42 million runners also means the big races charge big fees. One race has 50,000 participants (!), sometimes to gain entry you have to enter a lottery (!!), the winners of the World Marathon Majors win a $500,000 paycheck (!!!), and naturally with so much on the line, some people will extend their desire to excel by ingesting illegal substances, which will require an even larger expenditure of money to figure it all out.

That second part is unfortunate, I’d prefer it didn’t happen, but what does it mean to me? If I was trying to win 500,000 dollars it would mean a lot, but myself, along with the other 41,999,990 of you, do not have to be part of all that. We are having own experience, which we control ourselves.

IMGP0251The summer after that first race in 1967 I ran 10–20 miles every day. Wearing a cotton t-shirt, cotton gym shorts, cotton socks, and split leather shoes that weighed almost a pound. Each. My entire workout plan was to run down a road from my house until I got tired, then turn around and run back. I could not believe how much fun that was. I had no clue what the world was about, I had no bloody idea what I was going to do with my life, but somehow this had meaning, and I could hardly believe how happy I was.

So while the sport supposedly has changed, for me, not much else has! (Except for my knees and my mileage).

GRANARY CANYON Saturday

The following summer, on one of my scientifically crafted, “run in one direction until you get tired then turn around” workouts, I must have been fairly fit because I went 16 miles out before turning around. On the way back, about 1 1/2 miles from home, I suddenly found myself lying on the ground. I looked up confused and bewildered, and realized the 5” PeanutsSnoopyheight of the curb while crossing a side street was too much and I had collapsed. Since this was July in Michigan, and I never carried any food or water, in retrospect the outcome was to be expected.

At that time, there were maybe 2-3 Ultra-Marathons in the US; today there are 136 hundred mile races alone, along with 6.8 millions trail runners, and the 200 mile race is becoming the new high bar.

That is enormous growth just in ultra running. I’m not sure what this means either.

To me, running is running. Road, trail, ultra – I personally find kinship in all – and I have never thought going longer, like 100 miles, was at all better. I’ve been an active “ultra runner” for decades, mostly because I like going places I’ve never been before, and it simply takes time to get wherever that is.

If I could have dunked a basketball back then I’d probably never have taken up running. Or if any girls liked me. If I could surf the winter swell at Bonzai Pipeline I’d probably quit running right now. But this is my sport, and it’s as good now as it ever was, even if my knees aren’t.

The most impressive running I’ve ever seen was my 4 year old granddaughter, chasing after seagulls, barefoot in the sand and water on the beach at Lake Michigan. Totally fruitless endeavor, except for the joy. Running away from Sabertooth tigers was probably even more impressive, but we don’t see much of that anymore.

AidStationWhat we do see is ultra runners getting paid actual money. And all the big races require a hefty fee to enter a lottery, which at the original 100 miles race you have a 4.6% chance of being allowed to show up at the starting line. The “aid stations” are unbelievable – there’s more food at those tables than I eat at a regular meal – if the nation’s homeless people found out about this bonanza, ultra races would become even more crowded.

Interestingly, though I’m one of the people paying ultra runners to run, even I am not sure why I’m doing it. Maybe it has something to do with my long run back in 1968 – 32 miles with no water left an indelible impression so I want to promote everyone to carry water when running.

Chris-LauraOther than that, the whole “sponsorship” thing seems sort of pointless really – all runners are going to run whether they get paid or not, so why bother with “sponsorship”? So while some people decry these “changes to our sport”, I’m not seeing how it actually changes anything.

 

It’s like after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Some brilliant TV commentators were saying this would be the end of “Boston”, as runners would be to afraid to come back the next year.

Yeah, right.

Terrorists are stupid enough already, but if any of them thought they could destroy the human spirit with a little bomb, runners were the wrong group of people to target.

 

Sorry; after all this musing I’ve come up with no answers. I still have no clue what running means. This essay is stupid, totally pointless, and a failure.

But it just seems that if you do what you love, with respect, integrity, and joy, and myself and everyone else does the same thing … well, that IS our sport. We are our sport. We create it every time we go for a run.

I hope it’s a good one, and I hope to see you out there!

ClaireRun

What do YOU think?  Is the sport changing for better, or for worse, or is it time to not worry about it and just go?