Timothy Olson is close to finishing and establishing a new FKT on the Pacific Crest Trail! This is the most public FKT of the season - and some gigantic wildfires are raging nearby - what’s a runner to do??
This is an important question. Timothy has been running great, and his crew has been great as well, working proactively with us for solutions. Climate change is real - heat, drought, and fires may be the new normal out west - so let’s take a deep dive into what Timothy is doing, as it is very educational and sets a good example of FKTs to come.
- Fastest Known Time requires people to do each and every FKT Route exactly as described, simply so everyone competes on a level playing field.
- People watch PCT efforts very closely, and purists insist it must be done exactly as described or it doesn’t count.
- However, trails themselves change, so we spend time and effort to update many of our Routes as they evolve.
- The PCT is a huge example of this - it is possible, maybe likely, that the PCT might never be done again as it once was described; it will always be re-routed.
- We don’t want to eliminate the PCT - it is one of the Premier Routes - so for the major routes (not every route) we will adapt each season to what is appropriate for that year.
Thus, runners must follow these overarching principals:
- Respect official Closures (btw, this includes Tribal land as well as wildfire closures).
- Follow official re-routes (if they exist).
- As much as possible, re-routes should be about the same distance and elevation change as the original route.
- If the re-route is only slightly shorter or longer, live with it.
- If it is significantly shorter or longer, we might establish a Variation; such as the "PCT 2022”.
- Be transparent, and document what you did.
- For 2021, Timothy will be doing the same distance and vertical gain as the original, so there will be no Variation.
Example: Timothy/Lionshead Fire Closure:
- Timothy did a re-route a few weeks ago, with this method:
- The re-route was not practical; it consists of long, unpleasant road miles; thru-hikers are basically hitch-hiking around it.
- Therefore, he ran up to the southern boundary of the closure, then turned around and ran back out still on the PCT the nearest trailhead, was picked up and driven around, then did another out/back on the northern boundary.
- This added an additional 23 out/back miles, the Closure is about 22 miles, so it’s a wash, plus he has to sit in the car for 3 hours to get around.
- Bob Loomis is the Crew Chief; he wrote an excellent report; scroll to the bottom of the Comments section: https://fastestknowntime.com/route/pacific-crest-trail-ca-or-wa
PCT Final Finish
- As of this writing, Timothy is 90mi from the finish, is a little less than a day ahead of FKT pace, and moving well, so a new FKT is close.
- And more big fires! The Cedar Creek Fire (one example) is 11% contained and is not expected to be contained until October 31.
- And the Canadian border is closed, so he can’t be picked up at the border regardless.
- An out-back run to/from the border would be needed, which was their intention.
- However, this is a remote area, there are massive fires nearby, mandatory evacuations have been ordered, so it is risky and stupid to do an out-back just to tag the border.
- The solution:
- Prior to reaching the actual border, turn around and run back along the Trail, to the last accessible pickup point
- This will equal the same number of miles of the full PCT, on the same trail, with the same elevation gain
- (UPDATE: Timothy and crew decided he could go to the border, so this option was not needed - it was reported he completed the PCT at the Northern Terminus at 10:48pm PDT July 22).
Alex Bond, Regional Editor:
- The nearest town to both Rainy and Harts Passes is Mazama, it's a very popular one for resupply. I know two families who live there and both are evacuating. The fires up there are threatening and the authorities don't think they can put it out with human power, they're waiting however many weeks for fall rain to come. No cars will be driving up to Harts Pass anytime soon.
- It sounds like the Canadian border is likely to open to vaccinated Americans in mid-August, but I don't know if they're going to reopen their PCT crossing entry permit program. It's still shut down for the rest of 2021 according to the website.
- I don't see how any thru-hikers could pull off the actual trail this year without doing that 120 miles from Rainy to the border and back unsupported. I think the overwhelming majority of people will have to call it short; you'd have to be very motivated to make it work.
Not very satisfying to not go to the border, but probably the most reasonable option under the circumstances. Looks like distances between Rainy Pass & Harts Pass, and Harts Pass and the North Terminus are nearly identical (within 0.25 miles), and the vertical gain is also very close (slightly more climbing and slightly less descending if they yo-yo Rainy-Harts vs. running Harts-NT).
As you can see, we work hard to make it work for you!
And we applaud Bob and Timothy’s whole crew for being transparent and proactive, and safely guiding him to the Finish.
And we (almost - soon - hopefully!) congratulate Timothy on a great adventure!!