Route: Colorado Trail (CO)

Location
Colorado, US
Description
The Colorado Trail (CT) runs 500 miles from Denver to Durango. It travels through some of the most spectacular country in Colorado, through 6 wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges. The CT was first conceived in 1974, but was not completed until the late 1980's.

Summary of supported FKT progression for the full Colorado Trail:
1988 Dale Garland, Dave LaFranboise, John McAward, John Wolgamott about 17d (W-E, Collegiate East)
1999 Buzz Burrell 11d16h13m (E-W, Collegiate East)
2003 Betsy Kalmeyer 9d10h52m (E-W, Collegiate East)
2003 Hal Koerner 9d10h19m (E-W, Collegiate East)
2006 Jonathan Basham 8d13h28m (E-W, Collegiate East)
2008 Paul Pomeroy 8d12h14m5s (W-E, Collegiate East)   
2013 Scott Jamie 8d7h40m (W-E, Collegiate East)
2017 Bryan Williams 8d0h30m (W-E, Collegiate West)

 

Summary of unsupported FKT progression for the full Colorado Trail:

2004 Demetri "Coup" Coupounas about 20d
2006 Paul Pomeroy 14d9h30m 
2012 Shawn Forry 10d19h5m (E-W)
2016 John Zahorian 9d12h32m (E-W)

 


The first speed record on the Colorado Trail happened in 1988, almost immediately after the trail was completed -- so soon that the route was hard to follow in many spots. Dale Garland, Dave LaFranboise, John McAward and John Wolgamott ran from Durango to Denver in about 17 days.

Buzz Burrell & Peter Bakwin hit the CT back in 1999. They started the eastern end (Waterton Canyon) because it meant they could sleep at home in Boulder the night before the start, and because most backpackers go east to west. Bakwin got injured after 7 days and had to stop. Burrell went on to lower the record to 11d16h13m.

In 2003, Betsy Kalmeyer smashed Burrell's record, running 9d10h52m. Betsy's time was beaten just 3 days later and by only a few minutes by Hal Koerner, 9d10h19m (shows the advantage of knowing the existing record!) Both Kalmeyer and Koerner ran east to west.

Jonathan Basham ran 8d13h28m (east to west) in July 14-22, 2006, supported by AT-record-holder Andrew Thompson. Basham's daily splits are here.

The La Sportiva Adventure Running blog has some great information about Paul Pomeroy's CT record, which I'll quote extensively here:

"Paul Pomeroy of Lyons, Colorado just broke Jonathan Basham’s Colorado Trail Record. Paul went 'under the radar' by choice; almost no one knew he was even on the Trail. 'I did it entirely for personal reasons', he notes. 'I didn’t want to talk it up. I wanted to do it'. Paul is well-known in local running circles as an outstanding athlete, with a great wit and sense of honor. Fortunately he is also gracious and articulate, and generously shared a few words with me about his recent trip:

It was definitely arduous. That’s an understatement. It just about finished me off. Let me just say I’m not looking to repeat this anytime soon. Getting toward Denver the heat became a problem. My feet were swollen and my shin hurt, but decided to go for broke and pay the price after. I taped it up, took some Advil, and did 74 miles the last day. I left at 1 AM and reached Waterton (the northern terminous) at 12:15 AM the next night. That was on about 1 hour of sleep to begin with. I basically made a last desperate burst to Waterton, looking at my watch the whole way.

Paul clocked 8 days, 12 hrs, 14 mins, 5 seconds, bettering the previous mark by about one and a quarter hours. The record is tight! Paul shared more interesting thoughts:

I could only move so fast. So its how long can you keep moving? It’s like nothing else I’ve ever done. A sleep deprivation thing. Sometimes I couldn’t walk a straight line, sometimes my eyes couldn’t focus. 18-20 hours a day ... it’s hard to believe a person can keep it going ... not real high on the fun factor, that’s for sure. My crew was great; obviously it was a team effort. It was my wife Suzanne, my mother, and my son Ethan was along too. We only had a couple of missteps; cost maybe 2 hours total. We had a pop-up camper which was essential.

Towards the end of his CT run, in a very unusual twist, Paul met Sam Thompson running the other direction with the same intention:

I was surprised to meet Sam on the Trail, going the other way. There’s only a one month period when you can do these things, so I thought I’d do it now and maybe have the Record for one year. While I’m not exactly going to root for him to break my record, I’m not against him either ... he’s a nice guy, and I set out to do a certain thing, and I did it, so I’m happy. Someone will always be faster … I thought it was possible to do this in 8 days flat, and I couldn’t do that ... someone else probably can, if they can run more. When Jonathan did it he was 29; that’s a good age ... I’m 47, and I don’t know if I have another one of these left in me. I emailed him my time, so he would know. That’s only fair; I knew Basham’s time, and went for it, so he should know mine."

Sam Thompson's trip began July 25, 2008, at Waterton Canyon, and was recorded daily in a blog. The blog reports the decision to quit as follows:
It was a heartbreaking decision, but Sam and Kirsten very wisely decided to pull out with 70 miles to go. Essentially, logistics and the inaccessibility of the trail is what mattered in the end, not Sam's ability to keep going. Here's what happened: Earlier in day 8, Kirsten and one of the photographers tried to forge a creek, but the engine flooded, rendering the Jeep inoperable (it had to be towed away). Because the crew couldn't reach Sam's checkpoint, he kept going while drinking water from the creek / river and eating the food he had left. Meanwhile, Kirsten and the photographer hitchhiked into Silverton, met up with Kirsten's parents, and somehow made it to the next checkpoint. When Sam arrived at the checkpoint, a decision had to be made. The crew couldn't find a local marathoner on such short notice to accompany Sam on the nighttime leg of day 8 (there are actually quite a few ultramarathoners in Silverton), so the two options were:
a) For Sam to tackle the trail at night by himself
b) To call it.
Although nobody doubted that Sam could physically keep going until the end, safety had to be the biggest concern. Badly fatigued (yet still determined, persistent, and able), Sam would have taken a huge risk to keep going without some assurance that the crew could make it to the next checkpoint. Further, without a running partner to help Sam navigate, staying on the trail in complete darkness would have been just too much of a risk to take.


David Horton also made a failed attempt to break Paul Pomeroy's supported record for the Colorado Trail, starting on July 4, 2009, at Waterton Canyon. Horton was supported by former CT record holder, Jonathan Basham. As indicated on this website, Horton had metabolic problems and had to stop after completing 330 miles in 6 days. Here are some exerpts from Horton's report on the blog of his trip:

Going after the CT record might have been my most difficult multi-day attempt so far. The CT record is very TOUGH. The trail itself was tougher than I thought it would be. I averaged 40 miles per day on the PCT and AT and 45 miles per day running across America. Averaging over 54 miles per day on the CT was VERY tough. I started every day before daylight, usually around 4:00 AM and finished every day after dark. My average time on the trail was around 17 hours per day. This left very little time for anything. I was usually in bed 30 to 45 minutes after finishing each day. Each day, the last section ATE my lunch. It took everything that I had to finish each day. I never knew at night if I would be able to go again the next day... Could I have run the next day? Yes. Could I have caused myself or others some serious problems? Yes... I hope that God blesses all of you as he has blessed me. Seek your dreams and goals. -- David Horton

Scott Jamie did the CT fully supported in 11d12h46m, September 2-13, 2009. This is a fast time, but still 3 days over the record.

Matt Hart went after the CT record (supported) in July 2010, but only managed 9d7h48m. This is still the 3rd fastest time, and it speaks to the difficulty of the current record. Matt's blog is here.

After 3 days I had run 180.6 miles to the dam road by Twin Lakes. I was now 10 miles ahead of the record pace. But I paid for it the following day where I only logged 38 miles and couldn't stay awake. And so it goes, I made a lot of mistakes, didn't plan well enough for some sections, was stranded a few times and hypothermic once. None of that matters or tarnishes the experience because that is the experience. All of these things are expected when the goal is something this huge. -- Matt Hart

Scott Jamie returned to the CT and broke the supported record, running west to east in 8d7h40, August 16-24, 2013. More info and photos on irunfar.com.

Jamie's supported FKT was broken by Bryan Williams, who ran the CT in 8d0h30m, August 26 - September 3, 2017. Williams went west to east and took the Collegiate West option, which appears to be a little (83 vs. 78 miles) longer than the standard Collegiate East route, with a more vertical and overall higher elevation. He started with Eric Truhe, who suffered a stress fracture after 3.5 days (200 miles) and had to stop. Williams' tracker data was archived by trackleaders.com.

While supported and unsupported records on the CT have been contested for years, only recently has a fast self-supported trip been reported. Brandon Stapanowich hiked the CT in 9d14h28m, July 6-15, 2016, using standard thru-hiker style, including 3 resupplies en route (as indicated below). Stapanowich hiked west to east, and took the somewhat harder Collegiate West option (longer, more vertical gain, higher elevation). More info is below.

The CT has also seen a few truly unsupported trips. Unsupported means you carry all your food from the start, basically getting nothing but water en route. The CT was first done this way in 2004 by Demetri (Coup) Coupounas, the founder of GoLite, in about 20 days. Coup carried a big pack full of food, but also lost 25 lbs body weight on the hike. Coup also did the JMT and the LT unsupported that year, completing the "Triple Gem" of backpacking. In another of his classic trips, Paul Pomeroy attacked the CT unsupported in 2006 -- with a vow of silence for the entire trip. Paul finished in 14d9h30m, dropping 16 lbs of body weight that he could ill-afford to lose. In August 2012, Shawn Forry crushed Pomeroy's unsupported time by hiking the trail (east to west) in a remarkable 10d19h5m. Forry carried a SPOT Tracker, and his track is archived on trackleaders.com. A very detailed report with daily splits is on Forry's blog. He reports doing a few things that could be considered (small) violations of unsupported and FKT efforts, including: taking food/calories from happenstance sources ("Trail Magic") on 4 occasions, totalling 3 sodas and some fruit slices; buying a repair kit for his sleeping pad; disposing of trash and un-needed food along the way; and walking off-route (but not fewer miles) on 4 occasions to obtain water. John Zahorian reports hiking the CT unsupported in a very fast 9d12h32m, July 11-20, 2016. While it took Zahorian 6 months to complete a trip report (his video, while long, is really worth watching!), we see no reason to dispute his claim of a new unsupported FKT. Bronson Hargreaves reports a remarkable unsupported time for the CT of 8d18h7m, August 14-23, 2016, less than 18 hours slower than the fully supported record! However, we look forward to seeing additional information and verification data Hargreaves' trip before acknowledging a new unsupported FKT (see discussion on our old website). Hargreaves made a second attempt in 2017, but stopped after 109 miles, a few hours behind FKT pace.

In an interesting innovation, a group of 5 men ran the CT relay style in 3d15h54m, Sept. 7-10, 2017, as reported by the Durango Herald. The runners were Brett Sublett, Kyle Curtin, Tate Lagasca, Holden Rennaker and Shaun Burke. Such relays have not been common for trail FKT attempts, but could add an interesting new element if standards can be created.

The CT also hosts an informal mountain bike race. Mountain bikers must deviate from the hiker route in several places to avoid wilderness areas. The guiding principles of the race are simply stated as follows: Solo, self-supported. This is a very pure style of racing with a strict code of ethics. The guiding principles are 'Do it yourself.' and 'Equal opportunity.' In 2007 Jefe Branham set the fastest time at 5d5h30m (followed just 20 minutes later by Stefan Griebel). In the 2008 race Ethan Passant lowered the mark to 5d2h26m. But, a week later Owen Murphy did the route as an "individual time trial" in a stunning time of 4d8h45m. Murphy's report includes the following lines that I think will resonnate with many who engage in these types of individual adventures:

I can only shake my head in disbelief at the good fortune I encountered along the Colorado Trail: perfect weather, interesting people, no major mechanicals, and no major physical or mental meltdowns. I cashed in some serious good karma along the way and I am very grateful to everybody who loaned me some of theirs (I’ll pay you back)! The stars may never align like that again, but I’m already hoping they do next summer.

Stefan Griebel combined biking and hiking, to cover the entire official CT in 7d20h from July 28 to August 5, 2006. His report is here.

38.317049, -106.5122368

Images

Comments

I'd like to publicly announce that I will be attempting the overall unsupported fkt on the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango starting this Saturday 7/14/2018.

This will follow a traditional unsupported fkt attempt- 

I will carry everything except water from start to finish. 

I will not accept any trail magic, support, or outside assistance.

I will not be picking up caches or supplies at any point.

I will be on foot the entire time and accept no muleing/pacing etc.

I will be using a SPOT device to track my location at various times along the way. I will send off a location at night and some point during each day. There will be no live tracking due to battery life. 

I will be posting updates on Instagram if you want to follow along (@colahikes).

I’m excited to follow behind those who have hiked before me especially those who have set/ attempted the fkt already. 

Cola

Good luck Cola! Hope you have a safe and successful journey!

The CT officially reopened today.

I'd like to publicly announce that I will be attempting the overall SELF-supported FKT on the Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango starting this Monday 7/16/2018. I will likely start at 0400. I will try to better the current self-supported FKT at 9d14 hrs and ideally JZ's FKT at 9d12 as it is lower than current self-supported.

 

This will follow a traditional self-supported "thru-hiker"  FKT attempt.

I will not accept any trail magic, support, or outside assistance.

I will use mail drops, caches and businesses as necessary. I will only have a total of 3 resupplies.

I will be on foot the entire time and accept no muling/pacing etc.

I will be using an Inreach device to track my location along the way. I will likely send off a location at night. There will be live tracking as long as battery management is reasonable. For verification, I will also use a Garmin Fenix 3 which has GPS as well to backup Inreach.

My inreach link is here: https://share.garmin.com/DrDre

I am excited to go for this. It will motivate me that Cola is on route too. I will most likely never see him (he'll be 100 miles ahead when I start!)  but it will be nice to have a "rabbit" way ahead of me!

 

JZ's time is amazing and I'm excited to try to beat it. Lets pray for rain and no more fires.

Cheers,
Dre'

I am starting a female supported FKT attempt of the CO Trail tomorrow late afternoon in Durango. Here is the link to my DeLorme:  https://share.garmin.com/SheilaHuss

I will be going from Durango to Waterton Canyon and taking the east variation in the Collegiate area. I will have plenty of witnesses, photo documentation, and written documentation in addition to the DeLorme. I posted the link on Facebook, and my husband, other crew, and friends who run with me likely will update that post with information and pictures (or create separate posts) on a regular basis.

My connection to the CO Trail is strong, and I'm really looking forward to spending the next 9ish days out there!

Sheila Huss

Sheila stopped at Carson Saddle early this morning.  She was a attacked and injured by sheep dogs yesterday afternoon, and needed to have her injuries attended too.  Really a shame as she seemed to be doing very well!

-Admin

Hi guys, I want to announce that I am attempting an unsupported FKT attempt of the CT from Durango to Denver this July. I am going to be carrying all of my food from start to finish. There will be no outside support. I will be taking the CW route. Wish me luck! 

Hello all, 

I am planning a FKT attempt for self-supported Colorado Trail East-West w CWE route. Thru-hiker style. No outside assistance including trail magic. Will begin in Waterton, July 21, 2019. Attempting to best John Zahorian’s and Brandon Staponowich’s records. It will be a huge challenge as their times are very strong.

Hopefully, there won’t be too much avalanche debris and downed trees! I will post my inreach link so I can be tracked. I will attempt to maintain tracking whenever moving, unless I have battery life issues. I will also verify a successful FKT attempt with my Garmin watch.

Third times the charm?

Hello.

Just a bit of clarification, are you attempting a SELF supported FKT or an UN supported FKT?  John Zahorian holds the FKT for unsupported at 9d12h32m.  Brandon Stapanowich holds the FKT for the self supported at 9d14h28m.  Self supported means you would have mailed packages to resupply.  Unsupported means you will have everything with you from beginning to end with no resupply or outside support whatsoever.  

Are you SELF or UN supported?  Also, please send your garmin Inreach link.  

Hello FKT world!

I will be attempting an UNsupported FKT on the Colorado Trail beginning August 1st at 5 AM.  I will be traveling from Waterton Canyon to Durango and use the Collegiate East route.  I will carry all my food and supplies from start to finish and not accept any outside assistance, to include no trail magic.  I have informed John Zahorian, current unsupported FKT holder, of my attempt.  My attempt can be followed/verified by my Garmin Inreach device in two places:

Garmin Inreach: https://share.garmin.com/ScottJaimeColoradoTrail2019

Trackleaders: http://trackleaders.com/cti.php?name=Fast_Eddy

I will also have the ability to post on Twitter (@mexifast) and FB along the way via the Garmin Inreach.  

I was unable to complete my journey on the Colorado Trail.  I was unprepared mentally and physically to go unsupported.  My FKT attempt ended pretty early as I was only able to complete ~35 miles a day for 3 days with a much too heavy pack.  I'm really intrigued to become more efficient in the mountains based on this attempt.  

Big congrats to Dr. Dre for setting the Self-Supported FKT!  

 Scott, 

Good effort! I can’t imagine unsupported.

One of the main reasons I did the Colorado Trail was seeing your documentary in Durango back in the day. Great job on all your efforts. Maybe someday our paths will cross.

 

David is doing a great job. I hope he can continue. It’s nice to see so much activity on the record. Take care, dre’

I noticed that as of this morning David Ruttum declared a new UNsupported FKT for the Colorado Trail. However, his initial announcement said he was starting a "fully supported" attempt starting on August 4. While tracking his spot, it appears that all of his sleeps were at road crossings. Based on this as well as the language in the updates, someone else was with him likely helping him.

Given this, I wish to challenge this being the new UNsupported record. Here are David's announcements and updates [emphasis mine]:

I intend to challenge the current fully supported FKT on Colorado Trail Northbound with Colorado Trail West. I will start in Durango morning of Sunday 4 August.

Day 1 (8/04):  Left Junction Creek TH about 5:00AM.  David hiked until about 2AM and slept a bit at Little Molas Lake, about 72 miles.

Day 2 (8/05):  Reached Hwy 149, 127.2 miles (55 for the day).

Day 3 (8/06):  Hwy 114, 182.2 miles in 3 days!

Day 4 (8/07):  Marshall Pass, 217.8 miles.

Day 5 (8/08):  Cottonwood Pass (Collegiate West), 218 miles to go.

Day 6 (8/09):  Twin Lakes, 181.2 miles to go.

Day 7 (8/10):  Cataract Creek (east of Camp Hale), 134.3 miles to go.

Day 8 (8/11):  N Fork Swan River, 91.4 miles to go.

Day 9 (8/12):  At 10PM David took a break of less than 3 hours at Wellington Lake Rd, 40.4 miles to go.  He started again around 12:45AM, leaving him about 16h45m to break John Zahorian's unsupported FKT! GO!

Day 10 (8/13):  Finished at Waterton Canyon TH about 2:30PM, for a total time of about 9d9h30m !  NEW UNSUPPORTED FKT by about 3 hours!

My bad! Somehow I got it mixed up in my mind. Supported is right, so no FKT. I’ll fix that ASAP. (David made no such claim - entirely my fault.)

Hello everyone!

I am planning a Self Supported FKT attempt of the Colorado Trail, collegiate East, thru hiker style with no outside support including trail magic beginning Friday September 6th around 6am MST from Waterton Canyon. I’ll be attempting to break Andre Michaud’s record of 8 days 23 hours and 16 minutes which will be very difficult. I have a lot of respect for this record and this trail and I know it will be quite the test. I will be caching food, picking up mail drops, and buying food along the way. I am sharing my Garmin link so you can follow my progress along the way and verify a new record if one is set. 

Garmin inreach : https://share.garmin.com/Grizzly

 

I had to abandon my Self Supported FKT effort today due to a quad injury unfortunately.