FKT: Joseph Roldan - Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne (CA) - 2023-11-14

Route variation
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
5h 22m 31s

Yeeeehawwww! Hayduke legs for the win!!

It was very chilly when I arrived in Tuolumne meadows. Lows were in the 20s and I’m sure it was in the 30s when I got there. Sending temps!! I broke my own rule of being bold and starting cold and thus had to delayer less 2 miles into the run.

Before arriving I stashed my bear can with food, water, and layers at the White Wolf Campground gate since the road was closed for the season.

All the snow on the ground had me quite nervous about the conditions on the trail. The south side of 120, where the Eastern terminus for the route starts, was completely covered in about 6 inches of snow. I ran to the first bridge as a warm up to check out the conditions and while the ponds and rivers were frozen over, there wasn’t a ton of snow or ice on the trail so that gave me more confidence.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last very long. The first section has no tree cover so as soon as I got a mile and a half into the trail where the trees started, there was a quite a good deal of snow and, even more concerning, ice. For the most part the visible ice was easy to dodge, but it definitely slowed me down when there wasn’t a way around it. I found most of the exposed rock to be free of ice. If it had been much worse I was going to call it and turn around. Perhaps the hardest part was the navigation when there was a lot of snow and no footprints to help with direction. This was worst closer to White Wolf where I’m guessing not many people have been recently since I saw more bear prints than human prints.

Save for the couple that I saw in the first mile I had the entire trail to myself. So spectacular. So gorgeous. Lots of leaves on the ground, so much water still rushing around, and lots and lots of bear scat on the trail. The legs weren’t feeling great in the first 4 miles, but after that they really got cooking and I felt like I was flying down the canyon.

I took two ugly falls at around mile 10 that shook me up pretty good, leaving me a bit battered and bloody. The descents are pretty technical and I kept catching my heel on all the rude rocks that would jump up right when I came by. All in all I had 5 pretty good spills, but luckily all pretty superficial, I think. We will see how they feel tomorrow.

I didn’t put too much thought into pacing or splits as I decided to head up two days prior after I saw 120 was no longer closed. All I was thinking is that I would push as hard as feels comfortable, try to click off as many sub 9 minute miles as I could, and try to leave some gas in the tank for the inevitable VK+ climb at the very end.

Well, it didn’t feel like I had any climbing legs on those steep pitches which put me in a real mental funk. I kept expecting to look down at my watch and see 35 minute miles, but the Hayduke hiking legs came in the clutch even if they felt like smoldering garbage.

There were a few sections of crazy ice that I had to navigate up the climb that tried to put me on my ass. I got turned around towards the very end when I knew it was going to be close and started freaking out a bit. Once I saw I had less than three miles to go I just gave it all I had and tried to channel my inner Zach Miller, gritting my teeth, grunting like a wild beast, and pumping the arms as fast as I could.

My watch played a cruel cruel trick on me and stopped a mile short of the actual end. Always make sure your gpx files are accurate! I asked the legs for one more favor and turned it up even more for that final push.

I saw the garbage cans at White Wolf and crashed to the dirt when I got the them, fully spent. I messaged a few friends to check the FKT time as my brain couldn’t conjure up the previous record set by Matt Zupan less than a month prior - a damn stout time. There’s definitely still a lot of room to cut the time down, especially for anyone with the stamina to run that final boss of a climb. I think this direction is faster, but you must have the down-hill technical chops and a penchant for steep climbs.

Shout out to Ginger for the ride back to my car.

So stoked. So tired. Now for rest.