FKT: David Downing - The Priest & Three Ridges (VA) - 2021-01-12

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
6h 16m 56s

On Tuesday, 1/12/21, I set out unsupported from the Route 56 trailhead at 9:31am, carrying 1500ml water, 250ml Nuun/water mix, snacks, light jacket, map, trekking poles and extra buffs. It was my first time on the route, thus I took my time and checked the maps regularly. Heading across the footbridge and up towards the ridges (counterclockwise loop). I maintained a steady jog up through the first 4 miles, with exception of a bit of hiking over the boulders and towards ~1/10 a mile from the top.

It was a crisp morning, in the upper 20’s at the start, and with a thin layer of snow (~1/2in) on top of the ridges. I took it slow through the snow, and descended the ridges into the shadow of the mountain. During the descent, I met lots of ice on the rocks, and had 1 fall, which I half expected and was able to brace myself. Luckily I got up with no major issues and continued on down slowly.

Turning left onto the Mau-Har Trail, I made my way down towards the river, and continued on steadily running again. At ~mile 10, I found myself by a beautiful waterfall, but briefly lost the trail as the blue markings crossed with yellow. Consulting the map, I took a sharp left and headed up the ridge to stay on the blue Mau-Har, and wound my way back to the AT.

At the AT, I took a right, and made my way back to Route 56 before ascending up to the Priest (waved at the car, but did not stop). At this point, I essentially power hiked the next 4 miles, with only occasional bursts of running due to elevation. Reaching the top, I hobble jogged the half mile or so along the plateau to the Priest shelter turnoff sign. 

Re-tying my shoes, I set my gloves on the ground and nearly forgot them. Took a few steps back to retrieve them and was on my way to return along the out and back section. After the big climb up Priest, my legs felt worn, so I ran down steadily but cautiously. No blasting up or down anything today. Weaved my way uneventfully back to the trailhead, finishing up at 3:47pm with a total time of 6:16:56.

It certainly did not feel like a speedy day, but I kept my effort consistent. I took it slowly over the snow (both on the ridges and the Priest plateau), and especially slowly descending over the icy rocks heading towards the Mau-Har Trail. This was my first time on this section of the AT or in this area, but I look forward to returning soon! A soft FKT for sure, but I’m happy to contribute a time.