Following Ralph and Allen’s JMT FKT attempt
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Jul 31, 2015 at 8:23 am #2218287Cameron MBPL Member
@cameronm-aka-backstrokeLocale: Los Angeles
Although Ralph's SPOT just threw out a position seemingly a bit off-trail, he most certainly must be headed for Bishop Pass, so he has at least 12 miles and a 3,200' climb ahead to the top, and then down the hill. Along the way, the porch of the Le Conte ranger station is a good place to hunker down if he is hurt and the weather is unfavorable. On the other hand, Allen appears very close to the road at Agnew Meadows.Jul 31, 2015 at 9:05 am #2218295
It's about 21.6 miles from Muir Pass to South Lake, with 3.6k feet of climbing and 5.8k feet of descent. Looks like Ralph got started around 6:00AM today; in good health, that's probably a 6.5 hour hike for Ralph.
Ralph got to Muir Pass in 34:32 (at the latest–likely a little earlier). That's 96 miles with 25,000 feet of climbing in under 36 hours. Depending on when he actually got to Muir Pass, he was pretty darn close to Leor's time. Regardless of outcome, that's a damn impressive hike!
Same goes for Allen–he really got moving on that last day.
Extremely impressive (bordering on inhuman) demonstration of athleticism. Bravo to both of them, and bravo to the current FKT holder, Andrew Bentz, who will hold on to that record for a while longer (presumably, until Ralph and/or Allen heal a bit, forget about all the suffering, and have another go at it!)
I look forward to hearing from both of them.Jul 31, 2015 at 9:40 am #2218301Aaron SorensenBPL Member
@awsorensenLocale: South of Forester Pass
Allen pulled a Ralph.
Just turned around at Shadow Lake, (about 5 miles before Ralph did on his last attempt).
Now Ralph's spot is working great. Looks like he has turned around as well.Jul 31, 2015 at 10:41 am #2218315Ryan SmithBPL Member
@violentgreenLocale: East TN
Bummer. Good effort guys.
RyanJul 31, 2015 at 11:22 am #2218326Scott BentzBPL Member
@scottbentzLocale: Southern California
"(presumably, until Ralph and/or Allen heal a bit, forget about all the suffering, and have another go at it!)"
I mentioned that to Andrew this morning in a text as to how Ralph went out again so fast. When I wrote "I would hate to do two fast attempts like that so close together."
Andrew just responded, "Yeah, sounds painful".
My longest day on the JMT was 27 miles. I wasn't worth much the next day and only hiked about 12 miles and was glad to stop. It's incredible how these guys can put the miles on. It is so brutal.
It's been fun to follow. Nice job to all. Can't wait to hear the trip reports.Jul 31, 2015 at 1:28 pm #2218345
> "I would hate to do two fast attempts like that so close together."
That's what separates Ralph from mortals like me (okay, so maybe a little bit of fitness and athleticism, too).
Allen's okay–no injuries of note. In fact, he left his SPOT on, and I'm pretty sure I know what he's up to right now–it's well deserved:
Once Ralph gets to Bishop, hopefully we'll hear from him.Jul 31, 2015 at 2:23 pm #2218351Mike MBPL Member
Extremely solid efforts by both gentlemen; big hats off!
Just shows you what an incredible undertaking this is and what a incredible achievement is to hold such a recordJul 31, 2015 at 3:12 pm #2218359Bob MoulderBPL Member
@bobmny10562Locale: Westchester County, NY
Looks as if Ralph waited a while at the South Lake parking lot but has got a ride and is on the way to Bishop.
Incredible effort by any measure! I couldn't keep up with these guys for 10 minutes!Jul 31, 2015 at 3:54 pm #2218369
Sorry to see these efforts end. This FKT is tough! Enough people have gone after the JMT, and their documentation has been so good, that by now people know pretty much exactly the splits they need to achieve it. I imagine you push yourself until you either crack completely or it just becomes clear you can't keep the required pace. Each effort adds to the knowledge base from which one can draw for the next attempt. In this sense an FKT is the culmination of the efforts of many, and the result of "failures". I look forward to the reports from Allen & Ralph! Good on you guys!
Also: MANY thanks to Adam for making this so easy to follow!Jul 31, 2015 at 6:06 pm #2218384Ito JakuchuBPL Member
Much respect to Ralph and Allen for the huge performance.
And Adam thanks again for the updates and superb graph nerding.
I've not followed external resources but was curious since both Ralph and Allen had to bail so close together (in time), if it was the weather that did it?Jul 31, 2015 at 6:27 pm #2218390
No, it wasn't–weather wasn't great, but as far as I know, it wasn't a factor.
Allen bailed due to sleep deprivation, and being unable to find (and stay on) the trail–continually getting lost on the last night, etc.
Ralph had respiratory problems, again. He felt great through Mather, but it came on going up Muir.
Those are just the quickest versions–I'm sure in the next few days, they'll fill us in with the gory details.
Agreed, much respect!Aug 1, 2015 at 9:43 am #2218430
yes, respect for both Allen and Ralph for giving it a try.
I don't know anything about Allen's credentials, i.e. what he has done in the past on the trails. would be nice to know something about his past efforts on various things.
I pretty much suspected Ralph's second effort was doomed from the start but kept my mouth shut till it was over. Ralph is a strong hard pushing guy, but a second attempt only 2 weeks after the first, and with medical issues ? Ralph wait until you are back to 100% so you can really give it your all. good effort though.Aug 1, 2015 at 3:22 pm #2218479
I got home around 1am last night, wow what a whirlwind trip that was. I'll start with the end, and there will likely be more to follow later.
I was doing pretty well up to Red's Meadow. I thought I had a good shot to beat Andrew's time if I could stay awake or maybe get an hour of sleep somewhere along the way. I actually ran down quite a bit of the trail from deer creek to reds, excited to get there in about 63 hours and feeling pretty good, considering. I had done Reds to HI in about 18 hours at night so I was thinking if I could hold it together for 18-19 more hours I would finish in 81-82 hours for the FKT.
My first night I got about 2 hours of sleep (3.5 hrs rest but had a hard time sleeping, still the rest helped a lot and I felt pretty good in the morning). The second day was hot and tough, but I managed to stay pretty close to on schedule to MTR. I think I made up some time in the evening when it cooled off but I haven't looked at the data yet.
The second night I woke up ready to go after only one hour of sleep, and had a pretty good day. I started to feel pretty tired by the end of the third day but was hoping I could push through the night. I still felt reasonably strong physically, able to power up the hills and even run down some of them. My feet and knees were getting pretty sore, I was managing borderline hamstring cramping off and on from Forester on, but hydration, electrolytes, ibuprofen and some occasional stretching seemed to keep all the aches and pains from getting too bad. I was determined to finish and the physical stuff never got so bad that it would have stopped me. I remember thinking that as long as I could stay awake I could keep going fast enough, and had only a few smaller climbs to go.
Then I started getting obsessed with a weird taste/smell I had been noticing, probably caffeine from all the clif shot blocks I had been eating. I started thinking I needed to stop taking in caffeine, worrying and obsessing about some imaginary toxic effect it might have on me, and also thinking If I did try to take a quick nap I would not be able to sleep if I was too wired. So I stopped the caffeine before Reds which was probably a mistake. At the bridge I stopped to stretch, drink, eat, and decide what to do next. I had a power bar and some recoverite, drank a bunch of water and started up the hill for the final push through the night. At this point I still thought i was going to finish in 81-82 hours.
Then the effects of lack of sleep hit pretty hard and pretty suddenly. My balance had been a bit off, and started getting worse. Nothing too bad, but I had to be careful not to fall off the trail when it was steep. Time slowed down, every 50 feet of elevation seemed to take forever even though I felt like I was still pushing fast up the hills. I forgot to fill up with water at the next creek crossing and ran out; the next water source never appeared and I started feeling dehydrated. I had no map and no idea where my next water would be, could not remember anything except that Shadow lake should be coming up at some point, and Garnet after that. I just needed to get to Garnet and the trail would come back into focus. But Shadow lake refused to appear and without Shadow there could be no Garnet. I kept turning on the high beam on my headlamp to see if there was a lake through the trees; there never was. Only more trees, or a meadow, nothing familiar.
I tried to eat a hammer bar since it was one of the few things I had left with no caffeine, and could only eat a few bites of it with no water to wash it down. I finally got to a lake and went off the trail 40 feet or so to the shore to fill up, but for some reason when I got there I decided the water quality was suspect and didn't take any water. (Note – I had not worried about, filtered, or treated water once on the whole trip so this didn't make much sense). I kept going, and got more thirsty, occasionally coughing up bits of the hammer bar.
The next time I got to water it seemed like 30 minutes to an hour later and when I got there I was horrified to realize it was the SAME LAKE and I was convinced I was seeing my own footprints in the mud by the shore. I had somehow just made a complete circle around the lake and was back where I started. At least at the time I was completely convinced that is what happened – I'm actually not at all sure now. I was distraught, horrified, could feel the FKT slipping through my fingers. This time I filled up both bottles, went back to the trail, and could not remember which way I had come from. Not that it mattered much since I was going in circles anyway. I picked a direction and walked faster. I kept coming to sections of trail that looked eerily familiar, like I had just been there a few minutes ago, I couldn't figure out if it all just looked the same or I was going the wrong way.
I think I turned around once or twice, but I'm not really sure – it's kind of all a blur. I kept hoping to get to shadow lake or some landmark that would let me know I was on the right track, but it never happened. I couldn't remember any other lakes besides Garnet and Thousand Island, or really anything about the trail before Garnet. It was all just a big blank in my head even though I'd done it twice in the last month, and once in the dark, and probably 5 or 6 times all together. I couldn't get my bearings and had no idea which direction I was heading or if I was even on the right trail anymore. I was losing time fast and convinced I was going the wrong way but couldn't figure out which was the right way. I went back and forth a few times and couldn't decide which way was forward. This was around midnight; I was feeling so lost and disoriented that I finally decided I needed to stop and wait till dawn to get my bearings, which would clearly mean no FKT. This was disappointing to say the least but I felt it would be foolish to continue and get even more lost. In hindsight I probably should have kept going, it appears I was actually on the trail, but at the time I had no idea where I was.
It had been cloudy all night, and as soon as I stopped to rest it started sprinkling, so I pulled out my mylar bivy and got in; it was warm enough that I didn't even pull out my sleeping bag at first. I spent a few hours there on the ridge, eventually getting into my sleeping bag, not sleeping much but dozing off for a bit here and there. It rained lightly off and on all night, sprinkles mostly. My head was under a fallen tree and my body/sleeping bag were in the bivy so I stayed pretty dry.
Occasionally the coyotes would go nuts – I guess when the full moon came out of the clouds and it stopped raining for a bit they thought that was pretty cool. The whole night was pretty surreal. I remember waking up a few times and wondering why my knees were on fire and would not go out. At some point it hit me that I had been taking ibuprofen every 6 hours for the last 3 days, but forgot to take the last dose before laying down.
I swallowed 3 more ibuprofen, the knees went back to a dull smolder, rain pattered softly on the mylar, the coyotes howled like hyenas, and I waited for dawn to reveal the extent of my folly.
In the morning I guessed which way was back towards Reds, walked down the trail a bit, found a guy with a map who had been camped there all night (I never saw his tent in the dark although I must have walked right by it at least once) and figured out I had been on the trail all along, near Rosalie Lake, but was still pretty disoriented. It took about 2 hours to walk out past Shadow Lake to Agnew Meadows, during which it sprinkled off and on.
At Agnew there were at least a hundred high school girls in matching cross country outfits, getting ready to go run some trails. They all seemed pretty excited about it, so I didn't have the heart to tell them it was a bad idea and would inevitably lead to all sorts of pain and suffering. As they milled around waiting for their leader or whoever to take charge, I noticed that their shirts all said the same thing on the back:
"PUSH HARDER"Aug 1, 2015 at 3:53 pm #2218482Mike MBPL Member
Dude- that is an incredible (incredibly painful) story! I'm glad you made it out safe, not glad you didn't get that FKT you worked so hard for- there will be another day.
Push Harder- that's too funny, if they only knew I'm sure they would have given you a shirt :)
MikeAug 1, 2015 at 10:30 pm #2218514
Allen! No GPS???!!!Aug 2, 2015 at 8:03 am #2218550
I did not take a GPS, although If I were to try this again I probably would take one. I actually do not own a GPS aside from a Suunto GPS watch. The battery on the watch will only last about 1 day using GPS so I opted to just use an altimeter watch instead. I thought I knew the trails well enough to go without a GPS or map, but clearly this was my biggest mistake. I think if I had had a GPS I would have avoided the navigation error at Rae Lakes which would have saved me around 45 minutes on day 1, and then I would have been able to re-orient myself and keep going on the last night. It likely would have made all the difference. So yes, I'm kicking myself for not bringing either one. I was really focused on keeping the weight down, but I guess I went into "stupid light" territory this time.
I may be crazy but I'm actually starting to seriously consider another try. My feet are sore and swollen, knees are sore, I'm neurologically a bit slow and tired, but otherwise I'm pretty much fine and feel like I could go again at the next full moon or possibly sooner. I'm not sure I will, but there are a few things I'd change if I did try again. It was pretty tough to bail due to mental mistakes rather than physical limitations, and I feel like I could do significantly better on the next attempt by learning from the mistakes I made on this one. We'll see though – even before this one I was swearing that this would be my last try.Aug 2, 2015 at 8:44 am #2218553
Well, you certainly reminded me of Flyin' Brian's attempt to break my FKT in 2003. Brian was supported & had a pacer, but both were so sleep deprived that neither could find the route on the last night, costing Brian the record. These days I wouldn't consider going without a GPS enabled smart phone!Aug 2, 2015 at 9:31 am #2218560
OK, after reading through this whole thread, I feel like I should add a few comments:
1. Thanks to all of you who followed along and posted encouraging and positive comments, and especially to Adam for the charts and graphs etc. It really does help me stay motivated just knowing that this is happening when I'm out there and that you guys are getting excited about it! This is actually the biggest reason that I brought the spot (also so my wife can follow along!), although having the data for verification is nice too.
2. My spot is a gen2, I got it for free, and it clearly does not always work very well. This is likely due to a combination of user error and poor design as well as spotty sattelite coverage. I do not have a good way to attach it to the top of my pack, so I have been keeping it in the big mesh pocket on the back (UD Fastpack 20). This is clearly not ideal but I haven't figured out a better place for it so far that does not interfere with something else. I also did not realize that you have to reset it every 24 hours, so I didn't do that. Oops! I did reset the tracking once or twice when I looked at it and realized that the tracking button was no longer flashing. I should probably upgrade to the gen3 and figure out a way to attach it to the top of my pack so it works better next time.
3. My "Credentials", since Art asked:
I am 42, with about 20 years of extensive and varied experience climbing, hiking, mountaineering, backpacking etc. I've run (only!) 2 organized 50K races but for the last 2-3 years have been focusing pretty seriously on training for the JMT. I have 2 prior attempts at the JMT FKT, in 2013 and 2014, although both were pretty half-cocked and doomed from the start. More on that later. This year I was much more prepared, better trained, etc. I have done a number of 40-50+ mile days in the sierras, as well as a self-supported 50 mile run with 10K feet of up and down (in marin a couple months ago, took around 12 hours). This past March I also did a Grand Canyon Double Crossing, which took about 12:45 for around 48 miles going down the South Kaibab, up to the north rim, and back up the Bright Angel. These are a few highlights, but I have been running and hiking quite a bit and track most of it on Strava using a GPS watch. In 2014 I did about 1000 miles and for 2015 I'm pretty close to 1000 miles with 150k feet of elevation gain. Not huge numbers by pro standards but I'm getting some training in.
I first hiked "most" of the JMT in 2011 with my wife (TM to Kearsarge/Onion Valley). At the time we were doing about 20 miles per day which was pretty easy for me and pretty tough for her. There was a lot of snow that year as well, which was no big deal for me as I've done a decent amount of alpine climbing, snow hiking etc, but she had a hard time with it as she had never done anything like that before. Anyway, we only had 10 days for that trip and had to bail at Kearsarge pass, but I went back and finished the Kearsarge to Whitney section a few weeks later in 2 days. After that I decided to do the whole JMT in under 7 days, which I did in 2012 (6 days 18 hours from HI to Whitney summit). This was with one resupply at MTR, stove, tarp shelter, 4-6 hours sleep per night, minimal hiking in the dark, etc. Not super fast but a good pace and I had fun. My Trip report from this trip is posted here:
Inspired by Leor's blog and some posts on this site, I did the Rae Lakes Loop in day in August 2013. I think it took around 12:15 or so with some dawdling here and there as well as some stomach issues from poor food choices. After this I started thinking I might have a shot at the JMT FKT. I got kind of obsessed with it and planned it out as best I could, and then the week before I was supposed to start the Federal Government shut down. I ended up going for it anyway, got as far as Dollar Lake but that was it (bailed at Kearsarge pass). It was in October, which was really too late – colder weather, shorter days etc. I was also not fit enough, my pack was too heavy, etc. This trip made me realize that I still had a lot to learn and needed to train a lot more if I was going to have a real shot at the FKT.
In 2014 I had a better plan, better fitness/training, but after a job change in June and getting married in July I was barely able to squeeze in another attempt at the JMT. I knew I was not really ready but went for it anyway with a marginal forecast, basically treating it as a trial run/training trip which might turn into a real FKT attempt if everything went well. Of course it didn't, and I ended up bailing at Bishop Pass in a full on rain/snow/hail storm. I believe I was about 1.5 hours behind Brett's time at the Bishop Pass junction when I decided to bail as the weather was clearly not looking good. I did post about this attempt on this site after the fact, but did not bring a spot as I thought they worked poorly and were unnecessary weight and hassle. After this trip, both Leor and Andrew raised the bar significantly so I had more training to do.
This past winter I left my job and have been taking some time off from work, which has left me a lot more time to train and plan. As a result I was able to put in a lot more mileage both running and hiking this year, and was able to spend a lot more time training on the actual JMT and rehearsing each segment of the trail, as well as hanging out with Ralph and discussing various aspects of strategy, etc – all of which helped immensely.
All of this has made me realize how impressive it is that Brett did what he did while working full time and pretty much figuring it all out as he went along. Andrew's time is amazing as well, but he did have the advantage of hiking the PCT all summer for training, and no job/family commitments to worry about.
I'm super impressed with Ralph's pace on his latest attempt as well – it is really a bummer that he got sick again and it sounds like this may be his achilles heel as far as the JMT is concerned. It has been a lot of fun getting to know him and training with him, I think it helped me immensely and the fact that I got as far as I did is at least partly due to Ralph's help with both training and strategy.Aug 2, 2015 at 9:51 am #2218563
thanks for the detailed account.
hope you are not seriously considering another go at it soon.
it takes multiple weeks to get back to 100% after an effort like that.Aug 2, 2015 at 10:10 am #2218566Aaron SorensenBPL Member
@awsorensenLocale: South of Forester Pass
But, he's in really god shape right now.Aug 2, 2015 at 10:22 am #2218570
as far as recovery goes,
the muscles get back to normal fairly quickly barring injury.
the connective tissue takes a while longer.
but the thing most ignore is the endocrine system.
this can take quite a long time to recover from serious stress.Aug 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm #2218578
Aaron, that is definitely the best compliment I've had in quite a while, thanks!!! :)
Art, the soonest I would realistically go again is end of august around the next full moon. That ought to be enough time to recover, right? BTW, have you done stuff like this before? What is your background/experience level? Feel free to pm me if you prefer.Aug 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm #2218585
late August is borderline recovery time after going 170 miles at a fast pace.
you won't be 100%.
PM sent Re. other stuff.Aug 2, 2015 at 7:31 pm #2218642
This thread is sorely lacking in pictures so I thought I'd post up a couple. Ralph just stopped by for dinner on his way to the airport in SF. We don't look too beat up considering…it is amazing what a few days of rest can do.Aug 3, 2015 at 2:14 pm #2218790Ito JakuchuBPL Member
I see an Ambit Peak there and you were talking about a GPS watch, but still: Who's who?
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