“Let your instincts guide your steps … he’ll take you where you most love.” – Kilian Jornet
For several years I have maintained a simple website dedicated to recording and documenting Fastest Known Time (FKT) efforts on various trails, routes and mountains. “Fastest Known Time” essentially means the same thing as “Speed Record”, while acknowledging it is the fastest time that we know about, as some may have been forgotten or not reported. By making this information much easier to share, the Internet (with help from my site), has probably made possible the explosion of FKT-style efforts over the last few years.
2013 was huge for FKT attempts, and may represent the start of new era for this niche activity within the overall sport of mountain, ultra, and trail running. We now are now seeing elite runners make FKT efforts a central focus; they are putting as much effort into an FKT as they would for a race. This has, of course, resulted in some impressive times on some classic routes!
What follows, in no particular order, are my picks for the Top 10 FKTs of 2013. Links are all to pages on my FKT site, which will direct you to further information about these remarkable trips. What are YOUR top picks?
Presidential Traverse (NH)
Ben Nephew, 4h34m36s – 9/7/13
The Presidential Traverse is “a strenuous and sometimes dangerous trek over the Presidential Range of New Hampshire’s White Mountains… a string of summits in excess of 4,000 feet” (Wikipedia). The “Presi” is 18+ miles, and its difficulty is reflected in the FKT time, which works out to a stodgy 15 min/mile! This route has been hotly contested by Ben Nephew, Ryan Welts and Jan Welford over the last 4 years or so, with 6 new FKTs set in that time. Nephew’s current FKT beat Welford’s from 2 weeks earlier by just 53 seconds! Verification of both FKTs was by GPS.
Colorado Trail (CO)
Scott Jaime, 8d7h40m (supported) – 8/16-24/13
FKTs on the 486-mile CT go back to 1988, almost immediately after the trail was completed. It has been contested by such luminaries as Barkley finisher Jonathan Basham and by the legendary David Horton. This record is getting TOUGH: Jaime beat Paul Pomeroy’s 2008 time by less than 5 hours.
“Look around. How many people are here supporting one person’s project? You never have to ask anybody twice, they just come out and do something for this whole (ultrarunning) community. It’s an amazing community. And I feel very fortunate.” – Scott Jamie
Sage Canaday, 4h27m10s – 9/5/13
This is a fabulous trail run in the Elk Mountains near Aspen which circumnavigates the Maroon Bells, Colorado’s most scenic and recognizable mountains. I’ve called it the best 1-day run in the state. Previously the route had been tackled by the likes of Neal Beidleman, Anton Krupicka, Rickey Gates and even Lance Armstrong! Canaday is one of the best mountain/ultra runners in the world right now, and he gave this a 100% effort.
Grand Canyon Rim-Rim-Rim (AZ)
Rob Krar, 6h21m47s – 5/11/13
Running across the Big Ditch and back has been a test piece for ultrarunners for decades. Since 2007 this record has been held by Kyle Skaggs, Dave Mackey and Dakota Jones, and Anton Krupicka has also run a fast time. Krar smashed Dakota Jones’ 2011 FKT by over 30 minutes. Krar’s video shows him shocked at his own speedy time to the halfway mark on the North Rim.
“Alright, North Rim. Running time… Oh fuck! … 3:02!” – Rob Krar, checking his split at the North Rim
Colorado 14ers Thru-Hike (CO)
Junaid Dawud & Luke DeMuth, about 70 days (thru-hiker style) – summer 2013
Using the normal backpacking style of walking everywhere unsupported, this pair summitted all 55 “traditional” Colorado 14ers (plus the3 additional high points over 14,000’ which have become popular recently), while walking everything in between on trails and roads, covering a total of about 1,350 miles. While this is more of a “first” than a regular FKT, it is an instant classic! Star backpacker Andy Skurka called this the “Coolest thru-hike of the year.”
Wonderland Trail (WA) – Female
Darcy Africa & Krissy Moehl, 22h22m45s (supported) – 8/22-23/13
The Wonderland is an amazing, rugged 95-mile loop around Mt. Rainier. Two of ultrarunning’s top women, Africa and Moehl were able to put down the second fastest time ever run, and only about 90 minutes shy of Kyle Skaggs’ outstanding 2006 time. (Skaggs’ supported time is so fast that nearly every FKT attempt since has been “unsupported” – a different category.)
“Life doesn’t always give us opportunities to execute better than we’d hoped/planned/expected.” – Krissy Moehl
Pacific Crest Trail (CA/OR/WA)
Heather Anderson, 60d17h12m (thru-hiker style) – 6/8-8/7/13
The PCT is one of the “Big 3” National Scenic Trails. It runs 2,655 miles from Mexico to Canada, through the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, and over the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. Scott Williamson, who has hiked the PCT an astonishing 13 times, owned this record for several years. Yet Anderson, a relative unknown, crushed Williamson’s best time by nearly 4 days! This might be the greatest feat of lightweight backpacking ever: 44 miles a day for 61 days! While her overall PCT record was beaten 1 day later by Josh Garrett, Garrett’s trip was supported, while Anderson used pure thru-hiker (backpacking) style, and even walked to the off-trail resupply points instead of hitch-hiking (as was also done by Williamson.)
“My day starts at 5 am. I will walk all day at 3 mph, stopping only to get water, dump sand from my shoes or such. Each stop lasts but a few minutes. I walk until the miles pile up, until night falls and my headlamp comes out, until the aching in my feet and legs seems unbearable. The last miles I am stumbling, tripping. Finally, I pitch my tent on whatever surface is available. It may be flat, or not, or rock hard, but it is home for the next few hours. Inside I struggle to choke down a protein shake; my exhaustion overrides my hunger. I peel socks off from blistered, swollen feet. I crawl into my sleeping bag and prop my feet on my food bag. Pain, spasms, cramps, sharp cries that shoot along my nerves; my legs and feet make it hard for me to sleep. I clench my teeth against the jolts and wait for exhaustion to overcome me again.” – Heather Anderson
John Muir Trail (CA)
Hal Koerner & Mike Wolfe, 3d12h41m (supported) – 8/1-4/13
The JMT is one of the most iconic backpacking trails in the USA, if not the world. It runs 223 miles from Mt Whitney to Yosemite Valley, through some of the most remote and scenic country in the States. This was a strong effort by two of the country’s top ultrarunners. Still, there is room for improvement; they bettered Brett Maune’s 2009 unsupported record by only an hour 34 minutes. This is a tough distance, and the trail is harder than most people appreciate, making the JMT one of the uber-classics.
Te Araroa (New Zealand)
Jez Bragg, 53d9h1m (supported) – 12/12/12-2/2/13
Te Araroa is a 3000 km long route than runs the length of New Zealand. This route was opened in December 2011, but has already seen two FKT trips. Bragg, one of Britain’s top ultrarunners, set an excellent time using full support, including a camper, crew and pacers at times. He did the trip entirely self-powered, using a kayak for the 120-mile down river section on the North Island, the hazardous crossing of the Cook Straight between the two islands, and several other water sections. This was just an epic trip, which, while certainly arduous, sounds to me like the most fun FKT of the year!
Kilian Jornet, 2h52m2s – 8/21/13
Nothing needs to be said about the Matterhorn itself – it is one of the most beautiful and recognizable mountains on Earth! Jornet is the best mountain runner in the world right now, and has the sponsorships to do anything he wants. At just 26 years old, his resume is beyond impressive. He demolished Bruno Brunod’s seemingly impossible record of 3h14m44s (both men used the Lion Ridge route on the Italian side of the peak). Anything Jornet does is impressive, but this one is out of the park!
Please Comment below: Which of these trips inspires YOU?