I had attempted this route once before, about 2 months prior to this attempt. I made it to peak 10 and had to call it off for a couple of reasons. 1 being that I wasn't able to eat/stomach any food after 4 hours. I pushed for another 14hours without eating and my body was completely shutting down. I was on track to break the FKT but, there were lightning storms in the forecast. I pulled the plug on peak 10 and got shuttled off of the peak. The storms showed up a couple hours later and I would've been in deep trouble up there. If not dead. I learned a lot from this first attempt.
Fast forward 2 months, I'm now prepared, and the weather was allowing me passage. 1 month ago, I completed the first ever out and back on the WURL in the Wasatch and was able to learn a lot of new tools to add to the box for future missions. That was a 67-hour push and lots of good things were learned and cherished. A couple of the bigger lessons I learned from that effort was what foods work best for me, how much to eat and drink, when to eat and drink and how to pace myself correctly. As well as digging deep into the pain cave for some time and breaking down mental barriers.
I spent 3 weeks recovering from that, put up a decent week over in the Tetons for some fun mountain play and decided that I was ready to give this traverse another shot. I spent one day getting all of my gear ready and organized. The foods I wanted to eat etc. This time around, the majority of the snow on the ridge was completely melted out and the only source of water I was confident on was the Pacific Tarn, 28 miles away from the starting line. Because of this I carried 5L of water mixed with OutdoorNOM nutrition. It was heavy. I set out on this mission 9/6/2022 at 6:45 from the Weston Pass TH.
The first climb was one of the bigger ones which is always nice to knock out right away. Garrison Homer, the previous FKT holder decided to add Weston Peak to the route which goes in the opposite direction of Frisco for about half a mile. I did the same. While jogging over to the peak and back my right ankle really started to feel the pain from the impact of carrying a 18LB pack, a size I'm not very familiar with. It took roughly 5+ miles for this initial ankle pain to work itself out. About 2 miles in the sun started to set out in the distance over the Sawatch. It was a beautiful sunset. I also knew that I was about to be in for a long night, time to buckle up. I continued to cruise along the ridgeline shuffling at a decent pace, some jogging here and there, but more importantly I was eating.
I started out putting about 250-300 calories down every hour and it was working pretty well. I wasn't bonking. But I was feeling the beatdown physically from the heavy pack while cruising along the unstable terrain. This route has miles of loose class 2 boulder hopping, scree running and talus trotting. The instability of the terrain did a number to my body, and I felt it for the entire travers. Besides that, type of terrain, it also blesses you with long stretches of class 3 scrambling with a solid dose of class 4/5 stints. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoy using my hands on ridgeline and climbing up and around the obstacles.
It seemed like no one before me tagged the true summit of Gemini after the 1st 14er of the route. I went over and touched the top, it was an extra 150ft of vert, maybe. Not really out of the way at all and I think it deserves to be included in the route. So hopefully the next person to rip this route will also find that small, true summit, deserving of a touch. Traveling through the rest of the night was pretty straight forward. I had already done this entire section up to Democrat during the night on my first attempt. I knew what I was in for. It wasn't cold at all. In fact, there was hardly any wind and the temps felt like upper 40s. I carried a wind shell, gloves and a buff and never put any of them on. I was pretty surprised by that because my first go it got very chilly and I ended up putting all of those things on.
While scrambling from Tweto to Buckskin on to Democrat, I had a lot of fun on the ridgeline. I seemed to have moved through this section much for efficiently compared to the first attempt. Even if it did take me a little bit longer. I was able to keep a comfortable pace, route find easily and just cruise along with ease. On top of Democrat, I wasted no time. I continued to move down the north ridge and had fun walking the sidewalk of a ridge and scrambling up and around some fun obstacles. I threw in some headphones to listen to some tunes for a little bit as well. While the sun started to rise in the distance, one of my favorite songs 'At Dawn' by My Morning Jacket began to play and it was perfect timing. I took in the energy of the rising sun and continued on with stoke, even though my body was crushed, and I was deep in suffer.
Once I hit Clinton, I found a small patch of snow, it was frozen, but the thoughts of "oh did I really carry 5L all of the way here just happen?" I knew there would be more patches after running into this one. Which was awesome because I was able to avoid the Pacific Tarn and just fill up a bit at a time here and there. Granted the snow was very dirty, but cold and did its job. I pushed to Wheeler, where I was officially entering the Tenmile Range. I was very stoked about this. I was feeling good, still eating, but much less and just living the dream.
Around halfway to Drift my stomach took a turn for the worst and I was now nauseas and couldn't eat anything. Fortunately, I learned from previous bonks that a Coca-Cola works wonders, and I pulled out the 1 coke I brought, drank it while scrambling through class 3/4 terrain and was able to stomach a couple of snacks after that. About 1.5 later my stomach was back to a mess, and I wasn't eating again. In fact, I pushed to the finish line without eating another bite, 8 hours and about 15 miles. It wasn't very fun but I knew that I could push that far and even further because of doing it before. Obviously, it isn't ideal but you gotta do what you gotta do. The sun throughout midday into the evening was brutal. I wished I would've brought another coke... Now I know.
I was happier about the snow patches because I was able to make ice packs out of my water bottles to rest on my neck and rub my forehead with etc. That helped out so much in keeping my body temp down and stable. There was a slight breeze off and on which I would use to my advantage by squirting this cold water on my neck, back and face in an attempt to get a extra rush of coldness. It worked. I was happy. The last snow patch was right before the summit of Peak 8. I filled up my near empty water and continued to truck along with nice, cold snow water. I had the perfect amount to finish, leaving me a sip or two at the finish line.
As I said before, I bailed on Peak 10 last time. I stood on peak 10, shed a tear of pain, and continued on. I was not going to allow myself to sit down and think too hard. I was hurting just as bad as before, if not worse, but it didn't matter. My mental callouses were being built up and i wanted nothing but to continue diving further into the dark side, pain cave, and to really experience the feelings I was chasing while doing this traverse. I sure enough rode the rollercoaster of pain and suffering, I chiseled away at these tunnels in my mind and pushed onward, knowing that these thoughts would come and go. There was nothing to do besides embrace, strap up and push. The emotional swings of the suffer shifted back and forth for the next handful of hours and I really enjoyed it.
While sitting on peak 4, suffering, the deepest emotional swing smacked me and I began to shed tears, both of joy and pain. I was so happy to be exactly where I was, I didn't want to be anywhere else on Earth at the time. I hurt, I felt, and I was alive. Feeling everything a human is meant to experience. I looked down the range at the last 3 peaks of this mission, sat down, took a 7-minute nap to rest my mind so I could finish strong. I stood up and crushed the last section of this traverse. Sure, I wasn't moving very fast on the scrambles or slight uphill's anymore, the altitude took a toll on my lunges and body, but I was moving. I knew there was nothing in my way that was going to stop me, and I was stoked. I ripped through the Dragon Ridge and stood on peak 2 and looked over at the final peak of the traverse.
I started to pick up the speed a bit and made it to the summit of Peak1 in 24 hours and 5 minutes. I looked around, embraced the feelings, looked at the sun that was about to set, looked down at Frisco and let out a big cheer and sent er on down home. I pulled out some 'saved' up energy any made it down from Peak 1 in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. I arrived at the Mt. Royal TH 25hours 18mins and 49 seconds later and was greeted by my good friend Gary Fondly. We walked together over to the parking lot, Zach's stop, and was greeting with a handful of other close friends. Jonnah Glassman, who brought me a milk shake and a few sodas, she's the best. Teague Holmes, a local legend and 1 of the few finishers of this travers, it was fun sharing some stories with him. Nick Carroll, one of the first people I met when i moved to Breckenridge. Brian Carisch, also another friend that I met very early on in my Breck days. Hugh Carey, a new friend as of this year and an amazing photographer and mountain man.
We all hung out for about an hour and chatted. By the time 10pm rolled around I was crashing. My body hurt and I was ready to lay down. This experience was truly epic, and I believe this route deserves much more attention due to the uniqueness of being the longest, highest sustained ridgeline in the lower 48. I hope more people take aim at this journey rather they go for the FKT or just a soul-searching adventure through some gnar in the high country. Cheers!
woof, impressive effort! I've done the 10-mile a few times but the whole ridge is next level. congrats!