FKT: Aurelien Sanchez - John Muir Trail (CA) - 2018-09-14

Route variation
south to north
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
3d 3h 55m 10s

Aurelien announced his attempt on the JMT Route page (referencing his failed attempts of 2017 and Aug 31 - Sept 3, 2018):  "I'm going back for a third unsupported attempt this Tuesday, Sept 11th, starting again at 10am.  Third time's the charm they say...  Aurelien"

Tracker showed 9:54am (9/11) start time, 1:09pm (9/11) at Whitney summit, 6:55pm (9/11) at Forester Pass, 10:25pm (9/11) at Glen Pass, 12:49am (9/12) at Woods Creek, 3:40am (9/12) at Pinchot Pass, 6:55am (9/12) at Mather Pass, 2:30pm (9/12) at Muir Pass, 12:14am (9/13) at Selden Pass, 7:32am (9/13) at Silver Pass.  At about 12:10pm on 9/13 Aurelien was at the Duck Lake junction after over 50 hours with no apparent significant sleep breaks, but it looks like he took about a 4 hour break.  Aurelien had a very solid night, crossing Donahue Pass at 2:30am (9/14), and left Tuolumne Meadows around 7:11am (9/14).  At 3d3h30m (approx) he had just about 2 miles to go.  He reported a total time of 3d3h55m10s.  Unsupported!

Here's Aurelien's report:

We are today Friday sept 7th, and I failed at my 2nd JMT attempt 4 days ago. I am already focused towards next year: “is the weather and the snow going to be okay? Will I get permit easily? Will I be trained properly? …” . I am bothered much, this is already exhausting me mentally.

I feel physically recovered now, and I also saw that the weather forecast was still looking ok for next week. One call to the Lone Pine Visitor center taught me I had high chances to get another permit thanks to cancellation. I ask a favor to my colleague to leave them once more, and it was decided, I would attempt my third JMT FKT 8 days after having finish the previous one.

Some people discouraged me to do this so early, but it is getting colder now in the Sierra, I do not have much choice, even if in the end they were partly right…

Tuesday sept 11th 2018 at 10am, I am back at the start at Whitney Portal, with the same strategy in mind than last time, but trying now to resist to this difficult third night I have faced.


My third JMT

  • 0h / 0 km / Whitney Portal:  I decided to carry with me one useless object: a nutshell from Tennessee. It did not help me until now, but I hope it would behave as a good luck charm this time. At the start, I feel the same anxiety than last time, for a similar reason: the fear of being slower than my previous attempts and getting discouraged.

  • 12h25 / 72km / Glen Pass: It is 10:25pm, the day light is gone for 3 hours now, and it is dark. The first 72km were done the same way than last time, 5 minutes faster, which keeps me motivated and confident for the rest.

  • 14h55 / 90km / Woods creek: I suffered much last time in the descent just after Glen Pass. I fueled much before that, and succeeded to feel better, being 25 minutes faster. I remember being frustrated arriving at Woods creek, but not this time anymore.

  • 17h40 / 99km / Pinchot Pass: It is the middle of the night, and the more I climb Pinchot Pass, the stronger is the wind, it is getting colder and colder, and I feel very vulnerable at high elevation. It should be around 0-degree C, I don’t wear much clothe on me, no gloves, a light short, and I do not have much choice but to keep moving to fight the cold, hoping to get down to lower elevation very soon.

  • 19h10 / 107km / Kings fork creek: The descent under the freezing wind felt very long, but I was able to keep my time advantage, despite the exhaustion growing much.

  • 20h55 / 115km / Mather Pass: I was waiting for the sun to rise again impatiently, but it was never coming. I had to force myself to go up Mather Pass, before hoping to take a nap in a warmer weather on the other side. I feel very weak and exhausted, only the cold and the caffeine is keeping me moving.

  • 22h00 / 123km / Palisade lake: It is 8am, it is daylight for 2 hours now, but it is still very cold out here, and I forced myself to keep moving for several hours now. The trail is next to two lakes still in the shade. I try to have a nap, but I am shaking due to the freezing wind coming from the lakes. Anyway, now that the sun is up, I am more awake, and I got a break to recover a bit, so I’ll keep moving and skip this nap, taking some time to eat and drink much.

  • 28h30 / 151km / Muir Pass: This time compared to last time I am not sick, and I can finally breathe normally. I feel confident to not lose much time in the upcoming climb towards Muir Pass. I have 6 hours ahead of schedule, and once on top I keep being confident despite the fatigue still very present.

  • 30h00 / 160km / Evolution Lake: It is 4pm, and I feel extremely exhausted, I need a break. I try again to sleep 30min, but it does not work again, the sun hitting me, the cold wind, … So again, I take time to eat and drink while my legs are take some deserved rest, before starting soon the second night.

  • 33h45 / 175km / Goddard Creek: Those last 3 hours were not done very fast, but i did not lose much time again, and they allowed me to continue to fuel properly to finally recover and feel better. 

  • 38h15 / 197km / Selden Pass: I suffered very much last time on the climb towards Selden Pass, so I anticipated by fueling a lot, and it went better this time. I kept 5 hours ahead of schedule once at the top, boosting my motivation.

  • 45h30 / 210km / Bear Ridge: Problems started to show up. I felt 100% starting the day before, but a small blister on my small toe from my left foot did not have time to fully recover since last time. My toe is now very painful, and my left ankle too since I compensated. Every step downhill is now painful. I also start to lose patience not seeing the next junction, and I start doubting a lot, maybe I have missed it due to the little visibility in the dark … but finally no, I stay patient, before reaching Bear Ridge with still 5 hours ahead of schedule.

  • 45h33 / 228km / Silver Pass: The third day started while I was climbing Silver Pass, and for a certain reason, I did not recognize the trail at some point. I lose 20 minutes going back and forth checking if I am on the right trail, I have no idea anymore, I start to panic, but again everything was fine, just the fatigue starting to play me tricks. I have now 10 hours ahead of schedule, but this is since I have not slept at all in the last two days, and I am now looking forward to that.

  • 47h30 / 234km / Tully Hole: The descent is now more difficult and very painful, my right calf is now suffering, and the exhaustion feels very present. I take a 30 min break where I could finally fall asleep, just a little, before keeping moving toward my planned stop.

  • 54h / 250km / Deer Creek: Finally arrived at Deer Creek where I planned to take a 3-hour nap, hoping to sleep all of it. The sun and the wind are still waking me up time to time, but I was able to have some sleep, about 2h I believe, and get some useful rest finally.

  • 56h15 / 260km / Reds Meadow: I have 6h30min ahead of schedule, I do not feel much better than my last attempt at this point, but I am more determined than ever to fight against this 3rd night, the one that beat me down last week. I know now it is going to be very long and tough until the end, I learnt from my mistakes from last time. I know I need around 20h more of walking, I feel exhausted mentally and physically knowing I will not take any break moving forward, but whatever, I do not think about it, I shutdown my thinking brain, and I keep moving.

  • 64h30 / 302km / Donohue Pass: I am finally at Reds Meadow, with still 35km remaining towards Donohue Pass, with a little extra time than my previous attempt. The sun is going down, I get myself ready to fight this last night. I cross again on my way the same trees and rocks that were not nice to me last time, that I hated much, but I do not let them discourage me this time, I came here stronger and more determined. I keep moving. Visibility is low, I do not know where I am, so I set myself several 30 min goals. I need to do 16 x 30 min to be around Donohue Pass at this pace. I keep moving. 30 min done. I do not want to come back here, I keep moving. 30 min done. I keep pushing, I make good progress, 30 min done … Exhaustion is coming, and the trail start to personify himself. He became an old wizard with a long white beard, taking the name of Sir Donohue. He is making everything for me to fail and to slow me down, being never-ending, steep, technical, … I start to hate him so much. I cannot give up again, I keep moving, 30 min done … and finally, before I knew it, I was at the top of Donohue Pass, with 6 hours ahead of schedule. The wizard Donohue is disappearing, I know now that I succeeded at least where I failed last time. 

  • 68h / 325km / Tuolumne Meadow:  I descend with the pain growing into my right calf, and my left ankle. I feel now pain into my left knee, my legs are falling apart. But I am getting so close now, I keep accelerating towards Tuolumne to keep my advantage, waiting once more for the sun to rise again to escape the cold.

  • 75h 55min 10 sec / 360km / Happy Isles: It is now the fourth day, and a long descent is waiting for me until the finish … but it is climbing more than I thought, even if Sean R. warned me before. I am getting exhausted exponentially, since I do not take time anymore to eat and drink properly, and there are 30km remaining. It is getting very warm now, and my sunburn on my face and hands start to be unsustainable. The more the descent is steep, the more I suffer now. I cry literally from the pain time to time, but I have no choice, I cannot stop here now. I keep moving. I do not enjoy this anymore, I have no hope estimating the remaining time. After every small 15 sec breaks I take, I have big difficulties to start moving again, my legs are getting tetanized very quickly now. But I keep moving. When I am only 3km away from the finish, I finally trade my tears of suffering for tears of joy, I know now I will arrive kind of soon. I look at the watch, 1:35pm, I need to finish before 2pm, I am saying to myself. I start to run, I surprisingly do not feel much pain now, and I start crossing many people on my way, all looking at me very weirdly, while I run in a very strange way, being dirtier than a pig, having my lips bloody because of the sun, my eyes red, … I see they do not understand what I am doing here. 1:53pm … 1:54pm … I see the sign out there … 1:55pm … and I finally touch the road, marking the end of the John Muir Trail! I take time to roll over the finish to celebrate, in a very ugly way, and I hold strongly in my hand my nutshell from Tennessee: “Nutshell, you were this time my good luck charm!”

New « Fastest Known Time » unsupported: 3 days 3 hours 55 minutes 10 seconds.

To establish the time above (and the time of 3 days 0 hours 45 minutes from the Whitney Summit, where really starts the JMT), several ways were used:

Start =

Mount Whitney summit = 

Finish = 

For reference, GoPro videos of my second attempt the week before are here : 


About being unsupported, it involves few things:

- No self-support: means do not set any self-drop bags on the way and wearing his own gear from start to finish. Thus, I did the choice to carry everything with me until the top of mount Whitney (see video)

- No general support: impossibility to ask anything to anyone, food, water, gear, … impossibility to borrow tent, sleeping bag, … impossibility to borrow or use anything from anyone! I decided to not take much with me, and keep walking at night to stay warm, and have breaks only at day time.

I respected all those rules, and for reference here is the list of the gear and of the food I took with me: .

It would be a pleasure to answer any questions if any info is missing here.

Finally, I am extremely grateful to Matt R. about welcoming me the night I finished, to have a good sleep and great recovery where he was staying. Extremely grateful too to Soenke K., who took me while I was hitchhiking my way back to my car, he drove me the whole way back, and made my day nicer. Big thanks to my colleague Philippe M. who followed me twice to Lake Tahoe for two FKT attempts, I failed but they helped me a lot. Thanks to my buddy Julien V. for involving himself in a great challenge around the Mont Blanc, giving it all, and allowing me to get ready for the JMT in the best way possible. Thank you to you if you read this, to my friends, family, all of you that followed me, and encouraged me, it helped me so much, because again, the road until now has been very rude to me mentally and physically.

Time to rest, before getting in new adventures next year.