Sunday, August 11, 2013

FKT Records Fall at PCT, JMT, Appalachian Trail in Summer '13

There has been a lot of attention on Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts in the last few years, and the Summer of 2013 has been no exception. In the last few months, FKT records have fallen on three big trails - the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT), the John Muir Trail (JMT), and the Appalachian Trail (AT).

(Anish in the home stretch, some 20 lbs lighter)
Heather "Anish" Anderson from Bellingham, WA, set the self-supported* record for the 2,655-mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada earlier this week, completing the journey in 60 days, 17 hours, and 12 minutes. That's a solid 3+ days faster than the previous record of 64 days, 11 hours, and 19 minutes set by distance hiker Scott Williamson in 2011. You can still catch a lot of Anish's journey on her Facebook page, which she updated along the way.

Then a day later, Josh Garrett, a 30-year-old Santa Monica fitness instructor, completed the same PCT through hike in a supported* fashion in 59 days, 8 hours, 59 minutes. Both hikers averaged over 45 miles a day.

(Matt Kirk on the AT, photo courtesy of Matt Kirk)
Matt Kirk, a 32-year-old school teacher, set a new self-supported* FKT on the 2,185-mile-long Appalachian Trail and became the first to do it under 60 days with his finish of 58 days, 9 hours, 40 minutes. Kirk broke the 20-year-old record, set by Ward Leonard, of 60.5 days. (Jenn Pharr Davis still holds the supported* record of 46 days, 11 hours, 20 minutes that she set in 2011)

(Hal and Mike on the JMT)
North Face teammates Hal Koerner (Ashland, OR) and Mike Wolfe (Missoula, MT) teamed up to set a new supported* FKT for the 223-mile JMT that runs from Whitney Portal in Bishop, CA, to Happy Isles in Yosemite, CA, in 3 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes. The arduous course rarely goes below 8,000 feet, and is known for long sections of hot and exposed mountains. The new record beats Brett Muane's supported record of 3 days, 14 hours and 13 minutes, set in 2009, and Muane continues to hold the unsupported record stands at 3 days, 9 hours and 58 minutes (in one of the few cases where an unsupported record is faster than a supported one).

(Jenny Capel tackles the TRT)
Reno, NV's Jenny Capel beat the Women's record for circumnavigating the Tahoe Rim Trail a few weeks ago, completing the 165-mile high altitude tour in 53:39, beating Betsy Nye's record of 55:20.

Yassine Diboun and Brian Donnelly are out on the PCT Oregon section now to set a new unsupported record there, and there's probably a few more tackling the other stretches. Simply amazing what these guys are doing!

And no doubt, I'll be hearing the acronym-laded "did you hear MK set the FKT on the AT?" in ultra conversations to come... ;-)

- SD

* Here are the definitions of unsupported, supported, and self-supported per the FKT ProBoard:

Supported, self-supported, unsupported? What does it mean? 

Supported means you have a dedicated support team that meets you along the way to supply whatever you need. This generally allows for the fastest, lightest trips, and for an element of camaraderie and safety, since someone knows about where you are at all times. 

Self-supported means that you don't carry everything you need from the start, but you don't have dedicated, pre-arranged people helping you. This is commonly done a couple different ways: You might put out stashes of supplies for yourself prior to the trip, or you might just use what's out there, such as stores, begging from other trail users, etc. 

Unsupported means you have no external support of any kind. Typically, this means that you must carry all your supplies right from the start, except any water that can be obtained along the way from natural sources. This approach has also been termed "alpine style". The longest trip I'm aware of using this style is Coup's 20-day thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. For most people, carrying enough food for more than a few days to one week will be prohibitive. Unsupported also means unaccompanied!


  1. I believe Koerner and Wolfe were faster than Brett Maune's unsupported record, with the difference being that you quoted their time "car to car" and Maune's from the Whitney summit.

  2. Sixty days on the Pacific Crest Trail is amazing. I don't know if I could get to Yosemite in 60 days, let alone Canada.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. If you're going to claim "fraud", please sign your name. Thanks!

  4. Based on the FKT proboards definition, wouldn't Matt Kirk's AT thru-hike be "self-supported" not "unsupported"?

    1. I think you're right! Corrected, and I added the link you provided to the footnote. Thanks!

  5. Hi Scott, just to be exact, Heather Anderson's time on the PCT is self-supported as well (not unsupported). Unsupported would mean that she carried all supplies (besides water from start to finish and took no aid from anyone). She did take aid where it was given by folks but not preplanned aid and she went into towns to get packages and food. That's self-supported. You might refer to the Proboards FKT site for definitions in the future.

  6. Jeez these are amazing feats. How do they do it?

  7. Hey, Scott
    Just my opinion, but I don't believe you can compare the Koemer/Wolfe effort to Maune’s. I think most folks involved in endurance sports (ultra-running, long-distance backpacking etc.) would agree that a solo effort is more difficult than a duel or group effort. Think about running a 100 without a pacer vs. running with one and you get my point. Having a partner can lessen the mental strain and help push you when you are feeling physically and emotionally drained. I’m not taking anything away from Hal and Mike, I just think their record should be noted as a joint effort.

    What’s your thought?


    1. That's a really good point. And judging by Matt Kirk's photo, he brought his dog....that's definitely worth 12 hours right there!

      It's pretty tough to get an apples-to-apples comparison, short of "it's just me and I did everything". Check out the FKT ProBoard and there is plenty of discussion on the topic. Personally I find it all amazing...

  8. This is very interesting, thank you for sharing another aspect of the sport with us!

    If you are self-supported, can you meet up with company along the way if they are not providing anything as far as supplies, just companionship?

    I love that people are out there, accomplishing these amazing feats, just to do it! Because they can. That is what makes ultrarunning so awesome :)

  9. Fascinating and motivational. Thanks for posting on the topic, Scott!


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