FKT: Jason Hardrath - Norman's 13 (CA) - 2022-07-23

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
3d 2h 22m 19s

(Photos in Strava, short video forthcoming)
WHAT IS Norman’s 13?
- It is a continuous on foot link-up of all thirteen, fourteen-thousand foot high peaks (14ers) in the Sierra.  It has been listed among top mountain traverses across the state by Trail Runner Magazine. The Norman’s route connects these peaks utilizing rough talus passes, 5th class scrambling, and some of the most picturesque miles of the John Muir Trail. From the FKT site description: “The route is the brain-child of Andy Gohlich. The idea is a continuous link up of the thirteen 14ers in the Sierra Nevada Range, similar to Nolan's 14 in Colorado's Sawatch Range.” The final stats for the effort tally up to 106.5 miles & 37k vertical feet according to a COROS Vertix 2 watch estimate, the watch ran in full gps mode without need for recharge throughout the 74hr effort. Thanks for battery life COROS. About 60 miles were on the JMT, including 4 high passes - Forester, Glen, Pinchot, Mather - on good but frequently technical trail. The remainder of the miles are cross country talus travel or 4th to 5th class scrambling. The technical rock crux is found in the climbing sections on the High Sierra Palisades Traverse - a section where most would choose a rope - over the six 14K summits between Middle Palisade and Thunderbolt with rock climbing difficulty regularly in the 5.7yds range - maxing with a 5.9yds crux -  and numerous 4th class “chossaneering” segments. It is a full-on mountaineering - meets ultra-athlete - meets multi-day fastpacking experience. As of 2022, It has been attempted more times than it has been completed by over double [IE less than 33% percent completion rate], since it’s conception in 2017.

Interesting lead up story, LIFE WASN’T PERFECT:

The lead up to this effort during training involved a major setback, I was hit by a deer while descending at over 40mph on my bicycle, putting me in the emergency room.  No broken bones amazingly, but so much lost skin and contusions, especially my hip, which had a subcutaneous sack of fluid from the impact even upon starting this effort. 

Blending a Norman’s 13 FKT effort straight into a human powered CA 14ers attempt had been burning on my mind, and in the pages of my FKT planning notebook since I read these words in 2019 written by Ryan, “I now hold the record for self powered/supported CA 14ers on foot and via bicycle. Out of general interest - it took me 2.5 hours longer to hike/run/scramble the 13 Sierra 14ers than it did to do the segment using a bicycle to move between trailheads last summer, so it is very close time wise. Possibly worth doing no biking at all till the 13 Sierra peaks are completed on foot by a strong runner for a future record attempt of the complete CA 14ers by bike. Norman's 13 was by far tougher physically feeling though. No way I wanted to do a 450 mile bike push to Shasta the next day out! - Ryan

I knew I was not at my strongest, or fittest, or fastest. But I know I had a weather window and amazing support team lined up to make the first “supported” run at Norman’s and CA 14ers by Bike.

Now is the time. “Bring the Dream to Life”. 

Verification methods:

I recorded the entire effort on a single charge with my COROS VERTIX 2 - I am super impressed with the battery life on this product for verifying  multi-day FKT efforts, even on full-gps mode, this 74 hour effort I wasn’t even close to using up my 140hr battery life. Its a great era to be an FKT’er, no worries of your battery dying, no worries of “will they still accept my FKT” while racing against the final 5% of watch battery. I finished with over 40% remaining. But I digress.

The effort was also live tracked by a multitude of followers with an Inreach Mini 2 on 3d live tracking website.  A small crew of friends actually provided some live commentary on the effort via instagram based on the 3d live tracker, it was pretty cool. 

My Pack: 

Ultimate Direction FKT Vest loaded with Hydrapak 3l bladder, Be Free .6l Filter Bottle, ~2000cal in random snacks per day plus 800cal in Gnarly Nutrition Fuel20 per day, Sol Emergency Bivvy, Dynafit Shakedry windlayer, LEKI Trekking Poles 

Path Projects Shorts and Liners, NW Alpine Rock Hoody, Norda Run Ray Zahab Shoes - love how these shoes performed for both the running and the scrambling. Norda makes a great, great product. Perhaps one of the only shoes that can run this terrain, perform on the climb, and actually survive to the end on this brutal terrain intact.

My Experience…

Day one: Langley, Muir, Whitney, Russell, Williamson, Tyndall (“The Big 6”) - this one day Sierra challenge of these six 14k' peaks has only ever been completed by four known people, according to Ryan Tetz, he calls it the "Big 6". This push was well over 23hrs for me, approaching a full 24hrs of moving time from Cottonwood Trailhead to our supported camp by Mason and Ashly, at Shepherd.

Rough Timeline (elapsed time):

Langley - 3hr 30min - felt good. Felt good to be a half-hour ahead of record pace at summit.

Muir - 8hr 25min - we found the first off-trail section between Langley and Muir fairly fast, the climb up to Discovery Pinnacle was slow, but not as bad as expected.

Whitney - 9hr 10min - held on to a lead on the record of about 90min or so here. We had gone out a little fast. So we started to feel that. We took the mountaineers chute down Whitney and the Whitney-Russell Col.

Russell - 11hr 27min - after Russell is where travel slowed down - “The TALUS OCEAN” is what Ryan Tetz calls it - it is a long journey of patience, and likely frustration, Ryan writes, “...lots more dark talus between the 2 peaks (Williamson and Tyndall) and the Talus Ocean in general, but we’ll just glaze over all that for now haha. It’s a lot of talus to the JMT non stop from Mt Whitney is all you need to know! About 7 distance miles as the crow flies with 3 fourteener summits in between + that bonus Barnard East and another 13,600 foot pass around the back of Trojan Peak - so really it’s like 5 summits of nearly 14K over 100% talus for 7 miles if you could fly around like a bird. Feel me??” 

The worst of the Talus Ocean for me was the traverse down to and skirting Lake Helen of Troy.  It was this section where I thought, “ok, I need to send this thing, I don’t want to have to do that again. Lol.” Ryan specifically calls out this section too, “...Another notoriously tricky spot potentially, snow would prove to be a challenge once again skirting the eastern shore of the lake and staying high as possible to avoid the worst of the steep unstable talus and snow fields just above the waterline.

Williamson - 18hr 31min - the base of this peak is where Chris Gorney made his call to withdraw from the FKT effort and go directly to camp.  He is an amazing human and mountain partner though because he immediately said, “I absolutely want to join you for the JMT trail miles tomorrow. I just know my limits, I can’t do these last two peaks with you today and still be good for tomorrow.” This was a blow to my psyche for a bit, but I just kept climbing, recentering my head to climb solo into the night. This was also where I became keenly aware that I was not moving on “20hr pace” for this section, and would only get slower in the dark. Now I would be solo. “Ok, Jason…worked, sleepy, alone…on technical terrain…we’ve been here before.” Onward.

Tyndall - 22hr 12min - At the base of Tyndall, was one of the “come to jesus” moments of the project, the razor edge thought that crossed my mind as I realized there would be almost no time for sleep, even though I pushed all day already. Jason, “you can go sleep now and the dream is dead, or you can keep climbing and the dream stays alive” … I chose to keep the dream alive. All this route is going to ask for today is all I have to give. I have it to give. I climbed on into darkness up the sketchy slabs of Tyndall and back down, of which Ryan wrote, “There is something ominous still for me about doing this route on Tyndall in the dark alone - maybe particularly after feeling my first bonk/dizzy feelings. It’s just so dark you can’t see far enough ahead or below to know where the top or bottom is and the exposure is of real consequence, but the slab is easy enough you could climb in almost any direction up it - but it’s also a giant slab (littered with randomly placed precariously perching chossy blocks just for good measure points) so you are 100% friction on your feet out there in the dark, it’s really cold, and you hope you are going the right way up and down… That’s pretty much my Tyndall experience overall” I agree with Ryan. 

To camp - by 12:50am - 23hours 50 minutes of movement - Ate a Peak Refuel Beef Stroganoff - it has over 1000 calories and over 40 grams of protein and tasted great-  I then promptly passed out for short sleep until 3am.

Day two: 45 JMT miles over 3 12k+' passes, short nap at a supported camp, by Nathan Longhurst,  next to Mather Pass, then straight to Split.

Day 2, Rough Timeline (Elapsed time):

Forester Pass - 30hrs - This is my favorite JMT pass, I think. I love the aesthetics of it, and the trail is groomer fast. Coming down Forester is where we realized my unfit legs were not going to let me run so it would be power-hiking and shuffling jogging all day…oh no, another night with no sleep? This is also where Jameson Henkle the Adventure Racer joined Chris and I for some trail miles. He had ran in the night before. His stoke and storytelling energy for the 20 miles he joined us for was infectious. He is good people. He turned off below the suspension bridge to drop back down to his vehicle. 

Glen Pass - 34hr 30min  - Still had Jameson and Chris with me. Fun times! 

Pinchot Pass - 41hr 34min - Jameson turned off just before this climb - this was probably my least favorite climb, due to rough and slow trail in many sections, or my legs were worked. 

To Camp well after dark, maybe around 10:30pm - we had some trouble finding our supported camp with Nathan Longhurst, maybe lost an hour? Nathan insisted I eat, preparing me a Peak Refuel Chicken Alfredo - I really do love the calorie and protein content of these meals, plus they are so damn good -  and insisted that I take a 20min nap before he would join me up Split mtn. But then it was up and moving again, again “KEEP THE DREAM ALIVE” entered my mind…”If I can’t move fast, I just have to keep moving”

Day three: Split, another nap at camp back near Mather Pass, then Middle Palisade, Sill, Polemonium, North Palisade, Starlight, Thunderbolt - this made for seven 14ers in a 24hr period.

Rough Timeline (Elapsed time):

Split - 49hrs - Split mtn had to be climbed through the night if a daylight hours push of the Palisades traverse was going to be possible, this is the most technical and dangerous terrain. “Keep the Dream Alive” - we got back to camp again around 3am and took a nap until daylight.

Mather Pass - 54hr - last JMT pass!

Middle Palisade - 58hr 15min - I am super glad Ryan and Matt have written about how terrible the rock is and how convoluted the routefinding is on the Farquhar Route.  Nathan and I were properly primed to think this would be one of the worst climbs of our lives, and it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, its loose, convoluted, and 4th/5th…just between Nathan and I having climbed the whole Bulgers List together, and him already having climbed the whole SPS List, we have been on some MEGA-CHOSS. Don’t take this section lightly.

After successfully routefinding our way up and down, bopping between various chutes, faces, ridges, and gullies. We started the long talus traverse to Sill.  The last big climb. Racing daylight. Its close. There is no way we are getting down Thunderbolt before dark….but can we at least be off the dangerous terrain. Just can’t pop on this long vert slog.

Sill Summit - 64hr 30min - This was a huge moment, gaining Mt. Sill, final big climb, only smaller ups and downs now - THIS IS WHERE I FLIPPED THE SWITCH - Nathan said, “we have 3 hrs of daylight, and there is no way we are going to do this traverse as fast as Travis and I did it (they had done 3hrs)” - my mantra as I literally started running and bolder hopping over to Polemonium, “NOT GOING TO DIE UP HERE” and I let myself imagine how terrifying it would be to still be making moves on NorPal or Starlight in blackness.  This let my body kick out the “Survival Instinct” reserves unlocking stores of anaerobic power and mental focus that the heat of the day, fatigue, and calorie restriction had closed off from access in a self-protective “conservation”. I repeated the mantra as I locked into a redline flow state for the terrain. 

Polemonium Summit - 65hrs 10min - “Drop me if you have to dude” huffed Nathan as I waited up for him before our first hand-over-hand rappel, “where did this kick come from?!?”.  I replied “No way, we are together the whole way, but we are going to be off the last technical downclimb between Starlight and Thunderbolt before dark!!!”

North Palisade Summit - 66hrs 20min - The Chimney Pitch and kicking across “the gap” into the squeeze chimney were both interesting cruxs.

Starlight Summit  - 67hr 10min - the Milk bottle was an awkward up climb and downclimb but Nathan and I both scampered up and down.

Hearts pounding, and deep breathing, we did the finally routefinding and hard downclimbing off Starlight. Flow state and urgency eased off, we stopped and put on our headlamps. “Dude we did it. I know we’re not safe yet. But HELL YEAH!”   Nathan replied in astonishment, “I still don’t know where that came from after the last two mega days you have put in.” I replied,  “we’re not gonna die up here”

Thunderbolt - 68hrs 50min - upclimbed the rest of the way to the infamous Thunderbolt summit crux more casually, then we used Nathan and Travis’ “trekking-poles-as-stick-clip” method from his recent SPS 2022 FKT push across this very traverse to protect the final ascent and descent on the 5.9yds summit block of Tbolt. 

Down Tbolt, traverse to Bishop Pass - 72hrs , South Lake Trail out - this is where the sleep deprivation really set in hard, the sleepiness went from 0-to-100 really fast, I could hardly walk or balance, couldn’t think or articulate well, certainly couldn’t run. We just marched. I asked Nathan if we could nap while on top of Bishop Pass, he said, “20min naps are great, but this is not the time, LETS FINISH THIS THING” …damn. Good Pacer. 

I hallucinated random alien, numerical, and religious symbols on each of the rocks we stepped over for that seemingly un-ending trail shuffle out to South Lake Trailhead.

South Lake Trailhead - 74hrs, 22min, 19sec - IT WAS DONE. I HAD DONE IT. I HAD ACTUALIZED A DREAM! From paper to reality…It felt surreal. I had been dwelling and rehearsing on this one since 2019. 

Was it worth it. ABSOLUTELY YES!!!! I am smiling right now.

But was it really over? Because the rest of the dream included hopping on a bike to roll straight into CA 14ers Human Powered Record

…So I did read more over on CA 14ers FKT Page

Please also check out my cool FKT film called Journey to 100 on Youtube