FKT: Brett Maune - Mt Baldy (CA) - 2012-02-22

Route variation
Bear Canyon ascent
Gender category
Finish date
Total time
1h 36m 44s

Maune posted 2/26/2012:

I had been itching to try and break the FKT (as far as is known on this site) for a couple months now but repeatedly kept postponing an attempt because of the weather. I was tired of canceling attempts and decided to do it this past Thursday even though there were forecasts for 30-35 mph wind gusts for the summit plateau. Surprisingly, the winds were nonexistent all day…

Based on recent training data and an analysis of the route I had a target time of 1:30, but this did not include any penalty for the altitude. I assumed such a penalty would not exceed five minutes and so thought I had a comfortable margin to break Anton’s time. I started running at 6:35AM from the street signs and ran at a steady pace and reached the creek at Bear Flats in 20:03, 3 seconds behind my projection. Then I was upon the beginning of the steep and relentless 4000 ft climb and was forced to power walk up the steep switchbacks. I didn’t remember the trail ever being so steep! I reached the saddle at ~7450 ft in 48:08, 2:08 behind the projections (though the projection assumed the saddle to be at 7400 ft). I did not expect to already be 2 minutes behind my target splits at this point. Two minutes was already a significant fraction of my 7 minute margin. This was a bad omen. I forged ahead up the second steep portion and eventually reached the upper ridge, but there was some ambiguity as to where Anton’s split was taken. I reached the point where the trail winds around to the SE facing side of the ridge at 1:13 but I think Anton’s split is taken a bit past this. Where the ridge levels off is somewhat ambiguous but my guess is that I reached it around 1:14-1:14:15. Using the latter times, I now had less than a 2 minute buffer left and I knew I was steadily losing ground. I expected Anton to have a relative advantage as I ascended due to the altitude and his better acclimatization, but I was hoping to avoid the situation in which I found myself. I was in serious jeopardy of falling behind during the final summit plateau segment and I knew every second would count. So I pushed as hard as I could all the way to the summit and hoped I could hang on long enough. I ran as much as I could but frequently had to power hike steeper sections. As I approached the saddle between Baldy and its sister summit to the SW I saw what I thought was the summit of Baldy and was delighted when I thought I would reach it in 1:34:xx. As I approached, however, the true summit came into view and I was horrified when I mentally estimated that it would take at least another two minutes to reach the summit. This is essentially the nightmare scenario for an FKT mountain ascent attempt--push hard all the way and get close to the summit with little margin for error, and at the very end be surprised by a false summit and come up just short. I had already been going quite hard ever since gaining the summit ridge and was in serious distress by this point, but I kicked it up another notch anyway. Even though I could see the end and the final approach to the summit was not that steep, I was not able to run the full stretch—such was the effect of the altitude. After about 15 seconds of walking I made a final surge towards the summit for the last minute or so. When I was about 10 steps away from the plaque I noticed blackness starting to form at the periphery of my vision. By the time I reached the plaque, the blackness spread inward and consumed most of my vision. Fortunately I could still see a small region around the center—wherever I focused--and so was able to read the time on the watch (1:36:44) before controllably collapsing on the ground. For me this was anything but an exceedingly casual effort. I gasped for what seemed like an eternity for air and eventually recovered. I lay on the ground for about three minutes before standing. I then consumed a gel and started walking from the summit after about a total time of 3:55. Since I nearly blacked-out, I was in no mood initially to run on the descent. After a couple minutes I began to jog and gradually picked up speed as I descended. I didn’t start bombing the descent until about halfway down. I had no specific goal for the descent or the roundtrip time but when I got to Bear Flats and checked my watch for the first time I was surprised to see that I was probably not going to break 2:30. I never thought doing sub 2:30 roundtrip was going to be a problem, but I didn’t expect the ascent to take as long as it did and I definitely didn’t expect to spend four minutes on the summit. Despite my best efforts I finished in 2:30:34.

Based on my training data and analysis of the route, I thought I had a comfortable margin but in the end only beat Anton’s time by 38 seconds. I’m glad he stopped to stash his t-shirt! I hope he will give it another shot and I hope to as well, but with more red blood cells.

Bear Flat 20:03
Saddle at ~7450ft 48:08
Where trail wraps around SE side 1:13/where trail flattens out ~1:14-1:14:15
Summit 1:36:44
Roundtrip 2:30:34

A couple weeks later Maune posted this:

I just learned of a phenomenal ascent time by a coworker who requested to remain anonymous. Apparently he did the ascent starting from the road in ~1:26! Personally I think this is a borderline legendary performance. I don’t know how feasible it is for someone to match this time without being near/at the top of some sport. The few [professional] athletes who could break this time would likely be famous for what they do. A bit more background I know is that my coworker was on the US national cycling team in the 80’s, though he did this run several years after that point in his life and ~20-25 years ago.

He also did the Iron Mountain ascent in ~1:36(!) (he’s less sure of that precise time), and started the clock at the parking lot (which would add ~3 min compared to starting it at the trail). This is arguably even more impressive than the Baldy time.

Lastly, although he never did the San Jacinto Skyline ascent, I can’t help but speculate that he would have done it sub 2:15 or possibly even 2:10 had he tried.

I wonder how many more fast/er/est Unknown times there are…