FKT: Nick Coury - Hole to Hump (AZ) - 2020-06-07

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
14h 35m 46s

I decided to attempt Hole to Hump after Bighorn 100 was canceled in early May.  James Bonnett who held the record at the time helped me with the route, using New Hance over the traditional South Kaibab as it puts you a lot closer to Flagstaff when you exit the canyon.  I was worried it was going to be too late in the year with the heat, so planned to do the bulk of the run overnight.  Luckily a cold spell hit for a few days and temperatures were nearly perfect.

Meghan Slavin, currently coached by James was also attempting the women's record and started down the canyon a few hours before me.

Started down New Hance at 3:20 PM or so, passing Meghan 3 miles from the river.  It was warm on the way down.  I got to the river, filtered water, took a few minute break, then started up at 5:26 PM.  Made good time up the canyon walls, racing the sun but mostly got to stay in the shade.  I'd forgotten to pack a flashlight but luckily made it out a little before 8 right at sunset.

James met me at the top, and crewed me by car every 4-8 miles from there to the base of the final climb.

Hopped on the forest road network that makes up most of the route and started cruising as dark set in.  As I ticked off steady 9-10 minute miles, the full moon rose up on the horizon and was stunning.  Made the night just awesome.  I think the temperature hovered between 65 and 45 the whole night, just absolutely perfect conditions.  Passed Meghan partway through and saw some cattle here and there, but otherwise pretty uneventful most of the way.

There's an 8 mile stretch of asphalt highway on the way in, which I hit at 3 AM.  Only saw 2 cars the whole way, and the second half was recently paved and so smooth I could turn off my light and run by moonlight.  Several areas opened up to some winds, probably 15 MPH, but they were brief.

I finished the highway just as the sun was rising, and turned on to the final stretches of dirt road.  When I hit the base of the final climb I was tired but feeling good, and started up toward Snowbowl ski area.

I had originally planned to use the ski slope to get halfway up the mountain, but there was massive recent construction and it wasn't clear if I could make it through so I took the Humphries trail from the bottom.  This turned out to be a huge mistake, and probably cost me 30+ minutes.  Not only is it a mile longer, but the trail is extremely rooty and rocky, and was exactly the thing to destroy what I had left of my legs.  I was reduced from a solid jog to a slow walk as I struggled with the leg lifting and balance.  At the same time, my watch beeped low battery due to the increasing winds and cold temps.  I shoved it in my shorts to try and warm up the battery and keep it warm enough to not shut down and tried hammering, but to minimal speed improvement.

I felt myself bonking mentally and physically with each passing switchback, just hoping to finish before the watch died.  I hit the Humphries saddle which is around a mile from the top.  There are four or five false summits on the way, and at each one winds increased.  I passed a hiker about a quarter mile from the top who said "It's about 80 up there."  All I could think was I don't know how it can be 80 degrees even in the sun, but that sounds so nice right now!  Then he adds "I had to crawl to get to the top."  Oh shit, he means MPH!

Barely holding on and not sure my body can make it, I pushed on in a haze of rage and adrenaline.  I wondered at what point quitting would become the right option, but wasn't going to do so after coming so far.  Each additional peak brought new wind, and it felt like my windbreaker was going to rip clean off me as my whole body could feel the hypothermia starting to set in.  I finally made it to the base of the final 100 foot ascent, and could feel myself being clean blown off the mountain. There wasn't much of a trail so I just started crawling on hands and feet straight up the side, every other step getting blown off balance and almost crashing into boulders beside me.



Finally I clawed my way to the peak and collapsed behind the rock wall guarding the summit sign, and just took a moment to breathe.  Then struggled to take out my watch with frozen hands and click the timer.  Another breath, then quickly muster finish photos, rearrange my gear, then contemplate my very existence before starting the long and just as painful struggle down the mountain.

My wife Lauren hiked up to meet me just below the saddle, which was nice company for the way down.

Thanks James for all the help, it was everything I hoped it could be!