FKT: Brannon Forrester - Mt. Clark (CA) - 2021-07-19

Route variation
NW Arete, up & down
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
8h 37m 40s

This route is beyond beautiful!

I started at 4:15 am to try and beat the forecast thunderstorms, and i was glad i did!  When I saw that Rory had set up an ascent by any route time, but had done it as part of a mega effort, I thought how fast could 4:40 be?  So I decided to race the way in, but still climb the NW ridge. 

I started with a 16 oz handrunner and a 2L camelback in my Salomon running pack, along with my climbing shoes and chalk, and lots of Spring energy gels and a peanut butter and honey sandwich.  It was still 80 degrees at the trailhead, and having camped in 95 degrees the night before, I felt like I couldn't cool down.  I pressed on hoping it would cool off with the elevation gain but it was wierdly hot for a long time.  Further up I had some symptoms of heat exhaustion, including mild nausea, minor cramping and some dizziness.  The cross country slowed me to a power hike, and by the time I hit the summit ridge I was feeling a bit better.  The adrenaline on the final climb also helped clear my head!

I downloaded Todd's gpx track on my phone, and followed it on the Gaia app (highly recommended; the free version works off line) while laying a track for the ascent FKT.  The departure from the trail is an obvious section of open slabs, but then it gets convoluted.  I found a bear trail, judging from the prints and scat, that cut straight up the slope on the Western edge of the brush, and followed that into some pretty gnarly cross country.  BUT I am happy to report I did zero bushwacking, just very steep forest floor with lots of branches and downed trees.  My route pushed me to the West, but I found some open benches that i was able to jog along to cut back East to get back on route, and I think this was the faster (and more pleasant!) option.

It is hard to see the peak while you are in the trees, and so I was thankful to be rechecking my GPS, but once you are on the summit ridge it is straightforward.  The fastest option is consistently on the West side of the ridge in scrubby trees and class 2 blocks, until you get to the ridgeline proper.  At that point, I changed into my climbing shoes, took a breather, and released any thought of time or records, and just focused on the rock.

I got off route when I traversed onto a face trying to gain the ridgeline that put me in a blank section, but a sketchy downclimb and 2 exposed slab traverses later I was on the knife edge ridge top, replete with nice exposure, incredible views, and pretty mellow moves.  All of a sudden I was at the summit, 4 hrs and 16 min from the car!  The dark clouds on the horizon were not too threatening yet at 8:30am, and the views were incredible.

I enjoyed the summit for a while, and then descended the exposed 3rd class moves on the Southern side, changed back into my running shoes, and tagged the bonus peak on the way down.  I refilled water at the lake in the bowl below Clark.  I had woke up in a cold sweat the night before realizing I had forgotten to pack my iodine tablets!  I carefully picked a stream that looked clean, but I would recommend treating the water; definitely feeling a little off now!  But I am fine.

I traversed back to my original route to avoid the brush, and moved carefully down the steep, loose slopes.  I finally hit the trail again, and emptied the debris out of my shoes as the thunder started to rage in the high country and the rain started to fall.

I took it slow down the wet granite steps, then switched to a fun cruise through the flats as I got soaked in the rain, with thunder rolling over my shoulders; I felt like I was running in Yosemite's wild heart!  The temps finally dropped, and with the rain, I was cool for the first time, and then blessedly cold!  I kept moving, and never put on the windshirt that I had brought with me, and was mostly dry by the time I ran into the much warmer Valley floor.

I was able to come down the Mist Trail, but even with the thunder it was still pretty crowded and crazy.  On a sunny, busy day I probably would have taken Todd's route down the JMT, but as it was I think it took off another mile or so.

Also I would suggest to start and end at the Happy Isles TH.  I did the car-to-car approach to honor Todd's effort, but parking in Yosemite is anyone's game, and the TH makes it more official.  But most of all, that way you don't have to add in the trail's end bathroom stop to your total time!


Be careful if you try this route; an experienced ultra runner from Tahoe had gone missing the Saturday before my Monday run while he was trying this thing.  The cross country section is convoluted and serious.  I have extensive backcountry experience, but I was still checking my GPS quite often.  I called into the Ranger station when a friend alerted me to the missing hiker, and gave them the information of my route and that I had not seen anyone, which they said was still helpful information. 

Be careful out there!