All I knew about the Cone Peak Fastest Known Time route before I drove down to attempt to beat the female unsupported FKT time was that it was a 5.1 mile climb and about 5000 feet of elevation gain. Climbing is one of my strengths, and I felt fairly confident that I could beat the previous time, but there were a lot of unknowns.
After a stressful week and a late arrival the night before, I decided that I’d rather end our planned 20 mile run in the dark than set the alarm and get an early start. By the time my companion Luke Garten and I made it to the trail head, it was nearly 11 am. The plan was that Luke would get a head start, and if I didn’t make it to the peak by 2:30 pm he would double back and try to find me. We would continue on and run another 15 miles to make a big loop after we met at the summit.
Luke left a few minutes before 11, and I started at around 11:10. I started climbing and running everything I could. I was dripping with sweat, not used to the humidity, but I felt great. The trails in the first mile or two were fairly easy, and since it had been raining recently, they were all soft and easy to run on.
Before the climb started getting really steep, I passed a couple that was backpacking and they cheered for me and said I was doing great. Luke told me later that he had told them to heckle me and tell me to stop going so slowly. A little while later, at an intersection, there was a big group of hikers and Luke had also told them that I was trying to break a record, so they cheered for me. It was a nice boost right before the climb got really steep. A heavy fog was rolling through so I was unable to see the ocean, but it was still beautiful scenery.
When I had made it nearly to the top of Twin Peak, my watch beeped at me and indicated that I was “Off Course.” I looked around and didn’t see a trail behind me anymore either. I had been trying to follow the ridge line that I was on, and it was hard to orient myself with all of the fog. I looked at the little map on my watch and tried climbing to the top of the ridge, but there was only a mess of dead trees and no trail. Between the contours of the land and the fog, I was having trouble figuring out where I was even with my GPS watch. To make matters more confusing, when I went back down a few hundred feet my watch read “On Course” again, and I knew I hadn’t found the trail. I started thinking that my watch was glitching and even the map of where I had been might not be reliable. I ended up roaming around and doing a huge loop back, half of it crawling through manzanita and getting totally scratched up. Finally I found the trail and figured out where I had missed a turn. I had to start heading east and follow a different ridge line than the one had been following. By that time I was a little rattled, but I started climbing again. After summiting Twin Peak, the route follows a ridge between the two peaks that eventually turns into a very narrow, exposed granite outcropping that I had to do some climbing and scrambling over. It was not clear that I was on the trail (if that’s what you want to call it), so I hesitated for a couple of minutes deciding if I wanted to just go for it and risk having to turn around or get into a hairy situation up on that exposed rock. I decided that I would just go for it. I climbed up and over a couple of those outcroppings and finally saw the trail again. The last mile or less was pretty doable climbing, but slower moving than I thought it would be with tired legs.
All-in-all, I had a blast and the route challenged me in multiple ways that I had not anticipated. I would like to go back and try to run it in less than two hours. My legs felt worked, but I never felt that I was in the pain cave. I was able to move steadily, with the exception of that extra mile I spent thrashing around in the brush. If I attempt it again, I could push myself harder and not get lost (one would assume, right?), and make it in under 2 hours. Luke and I went on and ran an amazing loop down and around the other side of the mountain, and we took the time to take pictures and enjoy the amazing views of the Pacific Ocean after the fog burned off.