This is such a great route with lots of relatively exposed extremely technical running on rock slabs at the top of the ridges. The two big climbs and descents are also insanely gnarly, but the real challenge with this route is navigating the top of the ridges where the trails take lots of winding turns and the blazes can be very difficult to follow. I've always preferred to run this loop counterclockwise, where you get most of the tough-to-navigate ridge running in the first half and then you drop down into and climb back out of Dark Hollow in the second half. I've run this route several times before including one failed FKT attempt in May 2021 where I missed the turn off the ridge down the Dark Hollow trail, but haven't had a chance to go back until this attempt.
There had been some thunderstorms the night before and I was starting around 6 am with the sun set to rise around 6:30 (thanks daylight saving time), so I was pretty concerned with (a) slick rocks on top of the ridges and (b) navigating the trails efficiently in the dark, especially since I hadn't been on the route in 10 months. Fortunately, I managed to avoid any major navigation errors, though I did have to stop and check the gpx track a few times before the sun came up. The trails were only slightly damp, which didn't really affect the big climbs and descents, but the rocks slabs on top of the ridges apparently get very slick when wet. I took a couple of face-first spills on the wet rocks and generally was forced to proceed cautiously over the slab sections. I think in sunlight and with dry conditions, this route can go much faster.
I ran unsupported, carrying just a waist belt with a few gels and an empty 500mL bottle with filter that I filled twice (at the stream between the two ridges and at the bottom of dark hollow)
- 17:00 to the trail junction at the top of the first climb
- 45:00 to the stream crossing at the far side of the loop
- 1:04:00 to start of Dark Hollow descent
- 1:20:00 to bottom of Dark Hollow
- 1:40:00 to regain the yellow blazes at the crest of the ridge
- 1:50:00 to the top of the white blazed trail
- 1:59:07 finish at the start, where the white blazes reach Otterkill Rd
I look forward to seeing this time come down in the future.