FKT: Robert Edwards - Tenmile Traverse (CO) - 2022-09-25

Route variation
Tenmile Range Traverse (Wheeler to Frisco, TH-to-TH)
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
14h 20m 15s

The full tenmile range begins at Wheeler Mountain and travels 19 miles north to Frisco, spanning 18 named points along the way and sustaining an elevation of 13,000+ for the first 7 peaks before it drops below at the col between peak 10 and 9, then it does not significantly give way to 12,000 ft for the proceeding 9 peaks, until Victoria mountain. 

Prior to this attempt, I had scouted Wheeler -> Drift -> Fletcher and the full peak 10 to Mt Royal traverse, with the intentions of piecing together a Tenmile-Mosquito traverse (a later date for that one will come…). Going into this, I felt confident about the entire route as a whole because i had seen and covered the toughest parts of the route, Wheeler to Drift and Peaks 4->3->2 and I knew what was going on for 70% of the route. 

I began the day at 11,400 ft at the blue lakes trailhead at a brisk 32 degrees, headed to wheeler mountain.  I ran the easier portions of the blue lakes basin and gained the east ridge of wheeler and scrambled up to the summit of wheeler in 1:36. Sat for a couple mins and then headed to Drift peak. 

This traverse contains a number of gendarmes, most of which go with a few that cliff out enough to rap or to avoid in general, for speed’s sake. Peter and Buzz covered the traverse in 1:59 and on my scouting mission I covered it in 2:20. For the FKT, 1:59 was the time to beat. I made quick work of the first 2/3s of the ridge and then dropped down off the ridge for speed’s sake and did not come back up onto the ridge until after the last major cliff bump shortly before Drift, i arrived at Drift peak in 1:20, on a huge high after making great work of the traverse. Onto Fletcher. 

Fletcher is close to drift and thus wasn’t difficult to get to. The Drift-Fletcher traverse is rated at 5.2, respectively, but I found  class 4 option on the head wall during my scouting trip that I happily and quickly obliged to. Fletcher took about 40 mins.

I sat on Fletcher for a good 10 mins, a bit tired from starting pretty fast. Fletcher to Atlantic was the biggest unknown for me without having scouted it. I had gpx tracks to follow and I have read a handful of trip reports for it so I knew what needed to happen. I descended the north ridge of Fletcher until I hit a red rock saddle and then dropped down the obvious gully to the east to about 13,400 and I contoured north in the loose gully, until I got around the major towers. After I skirted them I regained the ridge in the most open looking location, with 1-2 bumps that required some scrambling before I hit the summit. The ascent up back into the ridge is where my day began to turn south. The east side of the ridge felt like running on a stair master at full intensity, every single step. This took a lot out of me and the sustained elevation helped beat me down a bit too.  I gained the summit of Atlantic in 1:08, from Fletcher.

Waking up the morning of this FKT I was gagging on my food every bite, which wasn’t a great sign for what was to come. This continued and progressively got worse, to the point at Atlantic I was almost throwing up every time I needed to put a gel or other food down. This is common for me when I spend extended time at elevation and I was able to force food down as I needed it. There was a few times I had to hold in vomit on the day. 

From Atlantic onward, it was rolling, alpine or rocky class 2 until peak 4. The scrambling was done for now. I dropped down to the Pacific Tarn Lake at 13,420 ft, which is the highest named Lake in the United States! This was my only water source on the entire route. I filtered a couple liters of water here, drank a liter and continued on what had become the struggle bus, up to the summit of Pacific. From Atlantic it took 27 mins to get to the Tarn and another 28 mins to summit Pacific. I was still beating Peter and Buzz’s splits at this point, but the times at which I was beating them was dwindling quickly. 

Coming down Atlantic I could tell my feet were yearning for the alpine tundra that peaks 10-4 had to offer. I hit my first major low point going up crystal peak and I started to slow down drastically. I think it was a combination of the sun beating down on me and the elevation. At this point I was trying really hard to block out everything I had left for the day, if I thought about it too much I would have bailed right here. I thought hard about this, though, thinking “this is early on in the traverse I could chalk it up as nutrition issues and i wasn’t feeling it”. I looked at my watch and I had covered 7.3 miles to this point and 4.5-5k ish gain. No. I can’t quit now. I have to keep going. I made a few small goals for myself, like getting to the summit of crystal. The summit of Crystal meant i was finished with the huge centennial peaks. Next, I’ll be back on familiar and more forgiving terrain when I get to peak 10, and just MAYBE I’d see people on peak 10. I got to crystal by 1:32 pm, 6:53 mins total and a 2:03 split from Pacific, an hour longer than Peter and Buzz’s. I had given myself a huge buffer up to this point but I couldn’t let up now and leave it until the end. Quick side note, I hit my 100th distinct peak above 13,000’ in Colorado on Crystal!

From crystal to peak 10 I felt like a totally new person. I ran a bit of the downhill and the flat, I felt like my second wind had arrived. I scurried over to 10 in about 40 mins. I saw a couple people on 10, which was my motivation to get up there. I talked to them for a couple mins, joked around a bit and hurried along, knowing Peter and Buzz’s splits on the alpine tundra were quicker and I’d need to at least be moving, if not jogging the downhills. From peak 10 to peak 4 my climbing legs seemed to have been fried and my heart wasn’t in agreement with all the caffeine I had consumed, so I could only go so fast on the uphills, which was slow for my standards. But I knew I just had to keep moving. Peak 9 passed, peak 8, peak 7, peak 6, peak 5, peak 4….. I was getting close. 

I hit peak 4 around 5:10 pm, 10:31 into the day. with the second major crux staring me in the face I wasn’t quite done yet. Peaks 4-2 have a lot of sustained, class 3 and 4 scrambling. I descend peak 4, up to peak 3 in about 27 mins. This is about when my body had had enough of caffeine and sugar and I was just about out of water. I had about 900 calories left on me but my body would reject all of it if I dared to try,  

The scrambling from peak 3 to 2 felt like it never ended. I split 40 mins from peak 3 to 2. From peak 2 I was at 12:00 elapsed and I spent another 2:20 working my way across the last 3 peaks and down to the car. Before this attempt I was fully expecting to run down from peak 1, and grab Victoria and Royal quickly to wrap it up.  But the altitude, lack of fuel and water  for the last few hours had beaten me down. It was a slow meander down to the car to meet Seb, finishing at 8:59 pm, 14 hours and 20 mins after I began. 

Overall, there’s a lot I’d change if I got a redo. But I don’t. I’m proud of myself for persevering and marinating in the suffering for as long as I needed to to get this done. Peter and Buzz are legends of the FKT world who have established countless classic routes and I’m honored to have set an FKT on one of those routes. The tenmile range has everything going for it from stellar scrambling, to high, sustained elevation, vert, route finding, etc etc.