Seeing an opportunity for the stars to align with crew logistics, weather, time off, and fitness myself and Peter decided to start our FKT attempt Thanksgiving night at Catalina State Park with a goal of being finished Friday night/ wee hours of Saturday. We started at 8:14pm from the Romero trail head with Melissa crewing us in our van. A few weeks prior we had met a trail crew on this route and enjoyed the relatively clean trail conditions. The ascent went smooth with cold windy weather up top, we summited shortly after midnight and admired the orange moon while descending to the van in an elapsed time of 7:49:39.
Wasson was up next, we both enjoyed the pre dawn light and running the trail with just a handbottle/ waist pack. Elapsed time for Wasson via Kings Canyon - 1:36:27. We hopped back in the van and refueled with mini burritos from a local carneceria and rehydrated with Coca Cola. The Rincons dominated the eastern skyline as Melissa drove us from one end of Speedway to the other.
We both knew Mica was going to be a slog, starting shortly after 8 am we made the decision to commit to minimal stops and left our headlamps in the van. Though the weather was about the best you could ask for on this route we both found 3L to be a bit on the lean side in our tired state, no direct water was available on the route to filter but Melissa met us 1 mile from the trailhead with water allowing us to start rehydrating a bit quicker. Elapsed time for Mica - 7:39:39.
The drive from Mica to Madera Canyon was a good opportunity to down some calories. Premade couscous with feta and snacks were on the menu. I got a bit creative mixing Coca Cola, cold brew and a protein shake for a soda floatish flavor and a few hundred calories + caffeine. At the Madera parking lot we were met by good friends and their dog, Jane set a perfect pace for us up to Josephine saddle and kept the conversation flowing as Peter and I slipped into the ultra trance. Quiet, cold and windy as we ascended from Josephine to the summit of Wrightson. We spent almost no time at the summit and moved efficiently back down to the trailhead. Elapsed time for Wrightson - 3:30:02.
Some more snacks and a short nap brought us to McGee ranch to start the final peak. While on paper Keystone is the easiest of the five, leaving the comfort of the van to head into the night was a physical and mental struggle. We realized as we left that sub 28 hours was in sight and used that to gain some motivation. As we ascended the road we were joined by Robert Harris, one of the Tucson Five route schemers, and his dog Glory. They joined us for the final summit push then lit the way for our final few miles down the road. Somehow we managed to turn out a sub 8’ mile for the final stretch (our fastest of the total effort) then we promptly collapsed into zombie heaps. Keystone peak elapsed time - 1:54:33. Brooke surprised us with a carne asada burrito delivery to start the recovery process off right. Total elapsed time for all five peaks trailhead to trailhead - 27:53:41. As a cool side note, since our summit of Lemmon was after midnight we actually stood on all five peaks within a 24 hour window. A few hours after we finished a winter storm brought rain to the Tucson basin and snow to Lemmon, Mica and Wrightson confirming we had timed our start perfectly.
This was a hard challenge, kudos to Billy Oliver and the Sierrita gang for establishing the route and big thanks to Melissa for crewing us. For future people planning to run this route, I would love to see this route become Tucson’s version of the Millwood 100 with local runners supporting others and meeting them at the end of their attempt whether that is a speed attempt or doing all five peaks in a week.