FKT: Justin Hamilton - Brasstown Bald (GA) - 2023-07-22

Route variation
Soup to Nuts (all 3 trails out & back from the summit)
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
6h 54m 20s

I attempted this effort in March and obtained a second fastest time of 7:19:30, but was far off the standing Self supported record. It was my goal to return in 2023 to attempt it again, but definitely didn’t anticipate the weather being cool enough for me to tackle it until later in the fall.


I had no plan this month to attempt this and even trained all week with the idea of just conducting a typical Sunday training run with friends. Life happened and the Sunday run was canceled. I checked the weather Friday morning and saw that a cooler overcast day with some rain was due for Saturday. I decide to take my sons to tour the Brasstown Bald museum whilst also dropping a bear can at the entrance to the Wagon Train Trail along with a gallon of premixed Tailwind. In addition to that, I dropped 32 ounces of pre mixed Tailwind at the bottom of the Jacks Knob trail near the information kiosk,  and half gallon of pre mixed Tailwind and one 16 ounce bottle of water near the red gate by Young Harris College.


I wrote out a pacing plan which detailed my splits for each climb and descent. I only planned to break this record by 2 minutes.  I originally planned to climb Arkaquah, Descend Wagon Train, climb  Wagon Train, descend Jacks Knob, climb Jacks Knob, and descend back down Arkaquah. Over night the weather turned a bit and the ceiling dropped. My 5 am start time would affect visibility and I decided it would be smarter to climb Arkaquah in the dark and descend Jacks Knob first instead of Wagon Train. Wagon train trail has a lot more trip hazards and Jacks knob would be more friendly to descend with the white out conditions.

I started right at 5am as planned and summited the mountain via the Arkaquah trail. Upon reaching the parking lot, I could not see 10 feet in front of me and decided to remove my head lamp and wrap it around my waist to obtain a better field of vision. I reached the Summit in 1:38:00.

I ran down to my resupply where the paved trail meets Wagon Train. I topped off my tailwind, grabbed a fresh flask of water & a Fig Newton.  At this point I knew my decision to descend Jacks Knob first was smart so I stuck with that plan.

I made my way down Jacks Knob and circled the information kiosk in a time of 2:11:00. I  topped off my flask of Tailwind and chugged the rest out of the resupply bottle. The Speed Goat 5s I was wearing began to malfunction on the Jacks Knob descent. Upon inspection I realized the entire insole had scrunched up into the toe box. I took my shoes off, flatted the insoles out and threw my shoes back on.  I made my way back up the mountain, reaching the summit in a time of 3:14:00. I hit my resupply, topped off my Tailwind, grabbed extra flask of water, and a peanut butter filled tortilla.

 I began my descent down Wagon Train & fell once & was also stung by a hornet in between my fingers lol. I  reached the red gate at Young Harris College in a time of 4:12:00. I topped off my Tailwind & water and removed my Speed Goat 5s to find the insoles once again scrunched up into the toe box. This time it took it me a few minutes to get the insoles straightened out and feeling right.


As I began my final ascent up the mountain, I could feel the heat of the day affecting my pace. After passing the second gate/information kiosk about a mile up, I began to seriously cramp in my groin and in my claves. I doubled up on  salt pills and decided to rely on my trekking poles a lot more than usual. As I drove my poles deeper into the earth, I watched them bend like that of a long bow. I prayed they would not snap as I was now using them as crutches to relieve the groin and calf cramps. I hate to admit it, but once the cramps hit, I began to doubt my abilities to obtain this FKT. I started to foreshadow my descent down Arkaquah. I. Knew that if this cramping continued.. I wouldn’t be able to descend with the speed necessary to make it down the mountain in time to break the record. After a few miles, the cramping subsided. I Stopped by my resupply and grabbed a filled soft flask of tailwind that I had waiting incase I was in a serious time crunch. I reached the summit in a time of 5:54:00. This only gave me and hour and three minutes to descend the mountain. My PR on fresh legs was 52 minutes which is  currently the record (which I hold) for descending the mountain via Arkaquah. This was very disheartening and my faith in breaking the record continued to fade. Once I began descending the mountain I knew I would have to run recklessly fast on spent legs, which ramped up the possibility of a bad fall on the very steep and technical final descent. I knew if I could reach the summit at Buzzards Roost ridge with 15 minutes to spare then I could set the FKT. Most of Arkaquah is a steep descent and I used gravity to my benefit. I experience the feared  fall on a slippery rock section but popped right back up and continued running with everything I had. I reached the top of Buzzards Roost otherwise known as the Track Rock descent with 13 minutes on the clock . This gave me 13 minutes to descend a 1.4 mile segment with -1400 feet of elevation to tie the record. I ran with all my heart and managed to descend this segment in 11 minutes flat, breaking the current record by only 2 minutes.


I attached a copy of my pacing plan that I made the day before this effort. Keep in mind, I originally planned to descend Wagon Train trail first.. but made a game day decision to descend Jack Knob due to low visibility.