Brett Maune posted briefly about previous Skyline Trail FKTs, but the information was sketchy until he ran the route in 2h28m0s on Dec. 25, 2011, as reported below. Maune established sign at Grubbs Notch as the endpoint of the run, but also continued to the "door at the top of the [tramway] stairs by thermometer" in 2h32m55s.
There was a thread on the San Jacinto message board that was started soon after the run.
I have had the Skyline FKT in the back of mind for many years but only recently have I been able to acquire the degree of fitness required for a realistic attempt. Regarding what the record actually is/was(?) there are rumors that someone did it in 2:30s (as mentioned above) but I haven’t been able to confirm it. I recently asked for information on the San Jacinto message board and someone there (Perry) claimed to have done it in ~2:45 to Grubbs Notch and 2:48:44 to the back patio of the tram. My goal was to hopefully make it to the tram in under 2:30 so as to beat the most liberal interpretation of the rumored ‘2:30s time’. Based on my trip up Iron Mountain last week I thought I had a decent chance of doing this but unfortunately did not quite achieve this, but came close.
Given this was a record attempt I wanted to go as light and fast as possible and so desperately wanted to avoid having a pack despite the winter conditions. To achieve this I took the absolute minimal gear required for the ascent. I had one handheld bottle for water and carried microspikes in the other hand. Gloves were strapped to my watch. My pockets contained gel. I wore a t-shirt and shorts with arms and legs. The lack of additional gear was not just to minimize ascent time but also served to create a more memorable run. As I serendipitously discovered last week on Iron, the reduction of gear for winter ascents decreases the margin of error but in turn heightens the sensory experience.
I got a late start and began at 7:25 AM, which created warmer than expected conditions. Soon my shirt became soaked with sweat and I was a little concerned about not having enough water but knew the temperature would rapidly drop as I ascended. In the end I had enough water. At 0:32 I reached the first of two ‘rescue stations’. I did not see these the last time I did the hike (2009). They are a nice addition given the unfortunate incidents that occur during hot weather.
I reached 4300 ft (marked with rocks) in 1:03 and was happy with my ascent rate of about 3600 ft/hr. At that rate I had a comfortable margin for beating 2:30 and thought I could reach Flat Rock in the mid 1:30s. That is, until the trail started to level off going towards Flat Rock. I do not like flat trails when doing timed ascents. I like to analyze runs in terms of ascent rates and use this metric to compare different runs and to project finishing times. If one focuses on ascent rates then one does not like low gradient trail sections or traverses since this lowers the average ascent rate for the run and increases the finishing time relative to one’s projections. The opposite is true if one instead analyzes runs based on speed. In any case, I had forgotten how flat the trail is as it approaches Flat Rock and I was upset as the minutes ticked by with little elevation gain. I estimated I needed to reach Flat Rock somewhere around 1:40-1:45 in order to break 2:30 and my imagined time buffer decreased with each horizontal step. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally reached Flat Rock in 1:42 and knew I had little time to spare.
Shortly thereafter the trail became icy and I was glad to have to put on the microspikes. By that point, my hand was quite tired of carrying them. I had originally planned to also put on my gloves at this point but decided against it since I would be in the sun for a while longer and the air was still warm. I would later regret this.
During the steep ascent I occupied myself by trying to estimate the times at the upcoming landmarks I needed to hit to be on pace for a sub 2:30 finish. Eventually I got to the prominent rock outcropping and later the beginning of the traverse with what I conservatively thought was a couple minute buffer. I just needed a solid finish for the final thousand foot ascent and I was confident I would make it. Then the traverse started, and it sucked. It sucked bad. Don’t get me wrong, given the circumstances the snow conditions were about as good as could be expected. The footprints left by previous hikers were crucial—any record attempt would have been clearly impossible without them! I knew I was going to have to endure snow, but snow costs minutes. This was a record attempt, and I didn’t have many minutes to spare.
I could not run on the traverse. Whenever I tried I broke through the compacted footprints and slid down the slope. This wasted a tremendous amount of energy and time but there was nothing I could do about it. I hiked as fast and as gingerly as I could with occasional attempts at running, which usually failed. I felt the minutes slipping away as the never-ending traverse continued. My hands were numb from touching the snow from the frequent slips but I could not spare any time to put on the gloves. Eventually I got to the end of the traverse and started the final ascent. I knew reaching the tram in under 2:30 was now out of the question but at all cost I still wanted to reach Grubbs Notch before 2:30. So I dug deep and began a rapid unsustainable ascent with the hope that I could just hang on long enough to reach the top. I kept climbing and the clock kept ticking down…8…7…no sign of the top…6…come on where is it!...5…Is that it? Is it leveling off up there?...4…I think I see a sign!...3…2…Done! Grubbs Notch in ~2:28:00. I then ran towards the tram as fast as I could but could only muster a slow jog at first until I recovered somewhat. I got to the ramps and I was shocked how packed they were with people on Christmas. I had to alternate between running and power hiking a few times due to the exhaustion as well as the crowds. I reached the topmost door near the thermometer at 2:32:55.
Here are the splits:
Started from the museum parking lot at 7:25:00AM
0:12 Picnic tables
0:21 Long Valley sign
0:32 First rescue station
1:03 4300 ft elevation (marked with rocks)
1:30 Second rescue station
1:42 Flat Rock
2:05 Rock outcropping
2:09 Beginning of traverse
2:28:00Sign at Grubbs Notch
2:32:55Door at top of stairs by thermometer
Note, I had originally intended to mark the time at Grubbs Notch at the two boulders that form a kind of finish line. This is apparently what people tend to use, but with the snow I wasn’t sure where they were. So in the end I decided to use my time at the sign which I knew to within a few seconds (2:28:00 plus/minus about 2 seconds).