Article: FKTOY NA 2020 - Winners Announced Pt 1

By Buzz Burrell on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 06:00am
Kaytlyn Gerbin, photo by Ryan Thrower


There were an insane 2,976 FKTs reviewed and verified in North America in 2020 (and 4-5 more are still being submitted every day!)  Every single one of them is a “winner,” but we had to crunch all that down to 37 Nominees.  Then 31 experienced people representing diverse genders, ages, and geography voted on which FKTs inspired them the most.  As an example of how hard (and wonderful) these choices were, 10 of the 17 nominated Women received 1st place votes, as did 9 of the Men, and all 37 of the Nominees received votes!  It was close - how close?  The ladies ended in an exact 3-way tie for 4th (and #1 and #2 were very close - see next week!)

Fortunately, democracy works great.  Our community selected the 5 most inspirational Female and Male FKTs of 2020.  What are they?  Below are the #5's, #4's, and #3's; and on January 8th, we will discover the #2 and #1 FKT of the Year winners for North America.  (And stay tuned - Europe is coming next!)


#5 Male 

Adam Kimble - Tahoe Rim Trail

Stats: 1 day 13 hr 12 min 15 secs; 170 miles, 26,913' Vertical Gain; Supported

Context:1hr 20 min faster than Kilian from 11 yrs ago on a slightly longer route.

Adam: Thanks to everyone who made this experience such an unforgettable one! Your love and support amazes me and I'm eternally grateful for it!

Voter: Could you imagine going into a record and the person you're looking to beat is Kilian Jornet?!

Tahoe Rim Trail

#4 Female (tie)

Alyssa Godesky - Adirondack 46 High Peaks

Stats: 3 days 16 hr 16 min; 160 miles; 67,412' Vertical Gain; Supported

Context: 2nd fastest overall; until last year would have been fastest.

Alyssa: I’m very surprised we seem to be the first to have done a “race” style FKT, it certainly added a fun element to the attempt.

Voters: I liked how Godesky raced it against Sarah Keyes. 
The logistics alone of this attempt are just insane.


#4 Female (tie)

Kaytlyn Gerbin - Wonderland Trail

Stats: 18 hr 41 min 54 secs; 93 miles; 24,000' Vertical Gain; Supported

Context: 3hr 37min faster than Jenn Shelton's 2015 time; 4th overall (6 days earlier would have been 2nd fastest).

Kaytlyn: Saw a bear, some deer, snake, frog, a bunch of marmots, and did some fancy footwork to avoid stepping on a chipmunk. Wildflowers are off the charts right now. A Wonderful Wonderland Wednesday.

Voters: Amazingly fast!! 
Not only did she crush the women's record, she threatened the men's as well.

Wonderland Trail FKTOY

#4 Female (tie)

Mikaela Osler - Colorado Trail

Stats: 10 days 12 hr 36 min; 485 miles; 90,000' Vertical Gain; Self-supported

Context: 4 days 2hr faster than the previous Self-Supported FKT; 26 hr slower than Supported.

MikaelaI felt bone-tired. I was very aware of how I swayed in the trail, how my eyes slipped out of focus and then shut.  When I sat down I felt myself fall asleep briefly and snapped myself out of it.

Voters: (Her) grit is even more amazing when you consider what the same effort took out Courtney Dauwalter.
Tough go and competitive time; way to push through challenges.

Colorado Trail FKTOY

#4 Male

David Ayala - Sierra High Route

Stats: 4 days 3 hr 36 min; 195 miles; 43,000' Vertical Gain; Unsupported

Context:13hr quicker than Leor Pantilat from 2016.

David: This High Route through the Sierras that Roper shared is a gift to, and treasure for, our particular slice of culture, both literally and in spirit. For me, it offered an elixir for potent experience, unavoidable excisive self-reflection, and necessary acute outward observation.

Voters: David continues to do great things with a minimalist's style, and this FKT showed the power of bunch of gels and a meditative flow state.
David's Sierra High Route attempt is my favorite kind of adventure; on and off trail for nearly 200 miles. 

Sierra High Route FKTOY

#3 Female

Sarah Hansel - Nolan's 14

Stats: 2 days 9 hr 43 min 34 secs; 100 miles; 42,000' Vertical Gain; Unsupported

Context: This Unsupported effort was the fastest female overall time beating Meghan Hicks' Supported time set in 2016 by 2 hours, until Megan went back 34 days later.  Only female to do it Unsupported.

Sarah: This line through the Sawatch has been haunting me for years. As a bit of an underdog coming from the East Coast, with little experience at altitude or in real mountains, it's been a huge challenge... I've made three previous attempts, all of which ended in failure.

Voters: Sarah's Unsupported Nolan's was my overall FKT until the battle ensued with Meghan and Sabrina.
A multi-year effort and finally got it; superb time especially for Unsupported.

Nolan's 14 FKTOY


#3 Male

Eric Gilbertson - Rocky Mountains Slam

Stats: 60 days 9 hr 20 min; 1,030 miles; 432,500' Vertical Gain; Supported

Context: No previous metric in existence for comparison. Also took FKTs for CO Centennials and Wyoming 13ers en route.

Eric: I originally planned a 2-month international mountaineering expedition, but had to cancel due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. So I decided to climb the Colorado 14ers, Wyoming 13ers, and Montana 12ers, then added the CO Centennials the day before departure.

Voters: Rocky Mountains Slam is as innovative as it is audacious.
I would give him FKTOY just for the WY 13ers, which he was only the 2nd person to complete in a season; few people will really comprehend what was accomplished here.

Rocky Mountain Slam FKTOY

Definitely listen to the accompanying PODCAST - hear the runners tell their stories in their own voices. (And find out what "Yogi'ing" is!)

Can you now guess who the #2 and #1 FKTOY might be?  We'd like to READ YOUR THOUGHTS posted below!


Voters' Overall Comments

How can I even compare these efforts? There's so much dedication and passion represented in this list--and off the list too!

I feel like I was forced to leave numerous legitimate FKT of the year candidate efforts off the top 5 ballot entirely this year. I've never struggled this much with the vote and it really is a toss up among the top 8 or so efforts this year as to who stands out the most and why. All in all, 2020 appears to be the hardest FKT of the year award to win to date.

I want to be like these women when I grow up. Impressive athletes and an impressive year of FKTs.

Honorable Mentions

There literally are 3,000 FKTs that qualify, but in keeping with our tradition, here are a few:

Peter Bakwin - Flatiron Classics Grid

(The Grid itself is not a listed route)

Stats: 516 routes, totaling about 2,500 pitches of technical climbing/scrambling, all done solo, Self-supported.

Context: Climbing all 53 (33 in summer) Flatiron Classic routes once per month through a calendar year (including winter).

Cody D Marett - "Quarantined In-Room Marathon"

Jeollabuk-do, Korea (USAF)

Stats: A little over 2,300 laps of my approximately 18 meter hotel room. 4:27:28. 26.2 miles.

Context: Quarantined currently and this is my only option to run.

Kristina Randrup created the amazing maps  - thank you!


No way Joey isn't #1. Too many good options for me to take a guess at #2.

Not to beat the Nolan's drum, but it's hard to imagine Sabrina not being in the top 2. I'll tentatively guess Kelly is #2 and Sabrina #1.

Thanks Dan; well-thought out guesses!  Fun!  We'll find out for sure 6am MST Friday ...