FKT: Brett Maune - Telescope Peak from Shorty's Well (CA) - 2015-04-08

Route variation
round trip from Shortys Well
Gender category
Finish date
Total time
7h 50m 20s

I ended up doing the ascent in ~4:47 and had a round trip time of 7:50:20. This really is a spectacular route to hike, but I think it is pretty risky to do for a solo FKT effort. I think it is much riskier than the similar--by stats--cactus to clouds route. Much of the route is not on a well defined trail, the water availability is more precarious, and it is much more remote. You don't want to get injured on this one!

Given the level of risk, I planned to be conservative--especially on the descent. From the valley floor the summit doesn't seem to be 11,000 ft higher but it is an illusion since you start so far away laterally. After getting lost trying to find the TH (I really didn't look at the directions on how to get there) I ended up starting a bit late at 7:02 AM. Getting lost would be a theme for the day. While running up the valley floor I had to battle a stiff headwind. A storm system was just exiting the area and the winds were supposed to diminish throughout the day. I knew I was gambling with the wind. I was dreading--but accepted--the possibility that I might need to turn back just shy of the summit if the cold winds proved to be too strong as I approached the summit ridge. I steadily made progress up the road and eventually got to the spring. I lost some time searching for a place where I could actually access the water and then spent a little time finding the beginning of the route up the mountainside. In hindsight all of this is pretty straightforward, but it is not when you are seeing and doing it for the first time. The long climb then commenced and the summit almost seemed farther away at this point than it did from the valley floor. The climb was long! I took my time and kept looking around to make sure I could retrace my steps later on the descent. I made several minor route finding errors but eventually got to around ~9000 ft. At this point there were traces of snow on the ground from the storm that passed through the previous night and it was cold. Fortunately though the wind was still pretty calm. I didn't know which way to go and I chose to go up the wrong talus slope. It was awful! Much time was wasted trying to ascend incredibly loose talus and scree. I had to take a break every 5 steps or so. The altitude (9000 ft is already enough to crush me without acclimating) combined with the inefficient exertion of trying to make upward progress caused a drop in overall power output, which I needed to maintain to stay warm. Soon I froze and had to put on all my clothes. By this point my hands were so cold I had to use my teeth to open the zipper on the pack. I struggled on and I unexpectedly regained the far superior proper route about 50 ft below the trail junction. In no time I was on the summit. Fortunately, the trail stays on the protected east side of the ridge until a few hundred feet before the summit. When I popped onto the ridge I felt the full force of the wind and knew I couldn't spend any more time than necessary exposed to the wind and I had to run to the summit and back.

Given the incredible badness that would happen if an injury occurred on the route, I took the descent pretty easy and jogged down. The descent was uneventful until I got back down to the valley. While running on the rock road portion I clipped a rock and fell. This really hurt. At the time the only injury I cared about was to a knee--that affected my ability to get back to the car. I must have smacked it pretty good against a rock. I could no longer run and had to slowly limp back to the car. Fortunately I was only about 2 miles from the car when this happened. I suspect low blood sugar contributed to the fall. In hindsight I didn't consume enough calories on the descent, but this wasn't obvious because of the endless uninterrupted descent. After the fall, the injuries consumed all my attention and I ate nothing. The caloric deficit steadily grew. When I got to the car and sat down I soon experienced a bizarre sensation. I was both incredibly weak and sleepy (I had little sleep the previous night and drove through the night to get to Death Valley). I felt like I was going to both pass out and fall asleep at the same time. It was strange. Obviously I couldn't drive in that condition so I turned the car on with the AC going and curled up on the back seat and slept for a while.