2018 Fastest Known Time of the Year in Europe

Does Europe have any good FKTs? That’s like asking if the ocean has any water!

The tradition here goes back many decades. Routes are very competitive, are well known, and receive a lot of attention. And they tend to be STEEP. The most iconic lines are not trails through the woods, but direct ascents, “From the village, to the top of the mountain, and straight back down to the village”. (From our podcast #23 where Matt Lefort describes the FKT scene in Europe: listen now!)

Read more about them below! And listen to them here in our podcast #24 with Matt Lefort and two FKTOY-EU winners.

The FKTOY-EU is the exact same process as for North America, which yields both a very fair and a very interesting result:

  1. Nomination list is created,
  2. Voters, selected for their knowledge plus diversity in gender, age, and geography, vote for what inspired them the most,
  3. The results are numerically tabulated.

And here they are!

#5: Sonia Regueiro (El Anillo de Picos) & Paul Bonhomme (Dent Blanche)

"El Anillo Picos de Europa" (“Ring of Peaks of Europe”, which is a mountain range in Northern Spain), is a circuit linking numerous huts/refugios in the range and National Park of the same name, with more than 10,000m of vertical gain. Sonia cut almost three hours from the previous record held by Anabel Merino. As usual in Europe, the route is quite technical.

Sonia said: “A really hard route, where it’s easy to get lost. I had one of the most intense experiences of my life!”

Voters said:

  • Strong accomplishment, looks like the choice to start in Poncebos to tackle the difficulties with daylight (La Forcadona and thel Macizo Occidental) was key in her success.

Video (worth it, for glimpse of the Euro style): Run on the Ridge - Dent Blanche (YouTube).

Les Haudères to the summit of Dent Blanche (4,357m) and back. 34.5km and 3,150m of vertical gain, via the SW ridge (Wandflüe, AD, 4+ max) (UIAA 5.7).

Paul said: “I didn’t think I would break a record. I even got lost at the beginning of the ascent!”

Voters said:

  • This is fast. And he took the time to take his own pictures and videos!
  • Seeing Paul running on this sharp ridge with light mountaineering boots can only let us think of what’s next…
  • Alone, self-supported. Yet he took the time to bring back beautiful imagery and a story to share with the rest of us. Inspiring.

#4: Emelie Forsberg (Mont Blanc) & Marco de Gaspari (Monte Rosa)

Up and down Mont Blanc from the church downtown Chamonix. 30km with 4,000m of vertical gain.

Emelie said: “I have climbed Mont Blanc many times but not the official record route from the city of Chamonix. ( 30 km 4000 + ) But now I have! It was a demanding day, the junction glacier was open and to me scary, so I was going slow to take care there. My uphill pace towards the summit was great and I felt good overall! The downhill was a bit hard with very soft snow. Finishing as tired as I have only been a very few times in my life!”

Voters said:

  • Amazed to see that such an iconic route never had a Women time reference. Now we have one.
  • Emelie is disrupting the community of Fast and Light and will for sure inspire more women to get after these more alpine lines.

Up and down Capanna Margherita from Alagna. Marco broke by 4min the time set by legend Fabio Meraldi back in 1994!

Marco said: “Such a momentous day, I’ve fulfilled a dream I’ve had since 1993 when aged 16, thanks to my father I was able to participate in the first edition of the Alagna Monterosa race. This was the moment when I understood what it meant to be a skyrunner. I have a huge respect for Fabio Meraldi’s record time. I called him from the finish line and speaking to him and hearing his congratulations was a huge pleasure. Although the conditions were far from perfect, my love for this sport has been one of the greatest motivators today, over the years I’ve learnt to run as much with my heart as with my legs.”

Voters said:

  • Wow. When we thought that Fabio’s record was unbeatable.
  • 1 hours and 10 min to lose 3,500m of vert running over glacier and rocky terrain. Yup, that’s normal!

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#3: Emelie Forsberg (Kungsleden) & Uisdean Hawthorn (Winter Cuillin Ridge Traverse)

Kungsleden (King of Trails) is a hiking trail in northern Sweden, approximately 440 kilometres (270 mi) long, between Abisko in the north and Hemavan in the south. Near the southern end it passes through the Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Europe. In the winter Kungsleden is a ski trail on approximately the same route.

Emelie said: “FKT for me is not only about records, it’s about challenging myself in an environment I love. I find that I can often push myself more on a challenge, a summit I run up to, because I know that this is what I really want. And to do it in a light alpine environment I feel that my capacity is really strong. This kind of efforts are very rare in the women’s world so I would also like to inspire other girls to push their limits.”

Voters said:

  • Inspirational. What a year for Emelie!

The Cuillin traverse is a 12 km long, technical (up to Very Difficult in the British rating system, or lower 5th class in the US system) ridge traverse with about 3,000m of ascent. Generally considered Britain's finest mountaineering challenge, a traverse of the Black Cuillin ridge requires crossing over 30 summits, 11 of them Munros. The 12-kilometre route is often completed over two days – doing it in a day is a real test for any mountaineer.

Uisdean said: “I thought a time of seven hours would be good and maybe closer to six could be possible if everything went absolutely perfectly. Before I set off I didn’t think it was possible to do a winter traverse in under five hours.”

Voters said:

  • A sub 5 hours for the Black Cuillin in Winter is just ridiculous.
  • I know the history of the Cuillin, have done it myself and think this time in Winter is pretty astonishing!

#2: Andreas Steindl (Matterhorn)

(Female is a tie for #1, so there is no #2 female.)

Video (beautiful footage on the world’s most iconic mountain): Matterhorn Speed Record - Andreas Steindl (YouTube).

From the church in the center of Zermatt to the summit of Matterhorn and back via the Hörnli ridge.

Andreas said: “The most difficult part of the project was staying focused, which was not equally easy everywhere. Especially descending you need maximum concentration. The air is thin, you have reached the summit and are already tired, but now you must keep the pace high on the way down, and especially your concentration. To climb down very fast and without any protection was the most difficult and also most dangerous part of this mission.”

Voters said:

  • He’s done 86 ascents… Must know the mountain like the palm of his hand, especially for the downhill part. Andreas said that “you come in with too much speed to actually process what you see. You don’t have the time to think where to put your foot”. OMG!

#1 Female (tie): Meredith Quinlan, Jess Baker (Iceland Traverse) & Emelie Forsberg (Monte Rosa)

The route starts at the Lighthouse Hraunhafnartangi, which is metres from the Northernmost point in Iceland, and travels through the wilderness finishing down at the Lighthouse Dyrhólaey, also metres from the Southernmost point in Iceland.

Meredith said: “We resupplied at 3 locations until the last 30km when we hit the coast. We had no pre-arranged drops or support crew. The desert highland section in the middle was 300km of no supply available.”

Voters said:

  • Self-supported, which makes it even more impressive. This must have been pretty wild in parts!
  • A real adventure, crossing such different landscapes in pretty adverse conditions!

Up and down Capanna Margherita from Alagna. Emelie broke the previous record held by Gisella Bendotti (5 hours 34 min, 1994) by almost 30 min!  Monte Rosa is the 2nd-highest summit in the Alps, and Mont Blanc is the highest.

Emelie said: “The Women’s record was 5:34, a really good time, and I was eager to see how I could run on the mountain. I asked Kilian if he wanted to rope up, yet another time for my fast glacier and more technical mountain runs! He did and I had such a good day. I could push really hard. On Mont Blanc, 2 days ago, I was afraid for the altitude and saved too much. Today I just started hard and could keep it! Very happy to set a new record with the time 5:03!”

Voters said:

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#1 Male: Kilian Jornet (Bob Graham Round)

The Bob Graham Round is a fell running challenge in the English Lake District which involves traversing 42 fells (hills) over a 66-mile course with 27,000 feet of elevation gain. It was first done under 24 hours by Bob Graham in June 1932.

Kilian said: “Thanks Billy, I had better conditions than you, the best pacers and your inspiration to give everything! And even like that it was sooo sooo hard!!!”

Voters said:

  • Kilian came and decimated what was considered by many to be an almost unbreakable record, and he did it with real sensitivity to the locals and the importance of old traditions; chapeau to a job well done!
  • Billy Bland was in Keswick to congratulate Kilian at the finish, amazing to see the connection and respect across generations.

FKTs of the Year in Europe...

What an inspiring list!  Many were done in the classic alpine style: ‘Start in the village, run to the top of the mountain, charge straight back down again’, while a few others (Iceland and Sweden) are long multi-day trail efforts.  Emelie Forsberg was awarded 3 of the top 5 Female FKTs … and she accomplished all three in the span of two weeks!

Be sure to listen to the two podcasts, as Matt Lefort explains each of these routes, and don’t miss the wrap-up episode, where Kilian Jornet gives his own opinions and thoughts in an exclusive 30 minute discussion:

Episode 24: FKTOY Europe Awards, Part 1, with Matt Lefort, Meredith Quinlan, & Jess Baker

Episode 25: FKTOY-EU Awards, Part 2, with Kilian Jornet and Matt Lefort

Many thanks to Matt Lefort, who put together an all-star team of Voters, so this a very credible list.  And as always, no one actually “wins” anything in the FKTOY Awards - except of course the respect of one’s peers.  The goal here is to learn, share, and inspire each other, creating community while doing what we love.