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Postby bluerail » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:06 pm

Skyline ascent record?
« Reply #7 on Dec 25, 2011, 7:08pm »
I have had the Skyline FKT in the back of mind for many years but only recently have I been able to acquire the degree of fitness required for a realistic attempt. Regarding what the record actually is/was(?) there are rumors that someone did it in 2:30s (as mentioned above) but I haven’t been able to confirm it. I recently asked for information on the San Jacinto message board and someone there (Perry) claimed to have done it in ~2:45 to Grubbs Notch and 2:48:44 to the back patio of the tram. My goal was to hopefully make it to the tram in under 2:30 so as to beat the most liberal interpretation of the rumored ‘2:30s time’. Based on my trip up Iron Mountain last week I thought I had a decent chance of doing this but unfortunately did not quite achieve this, but came close.

Given this was a record attempt I wanted to go as light and fast as possible and so desperately wanted to avoid having a pack despite the winter conditions. To achieve this I took the absolute minimal gear required for the ascent. I had one handheld bottle for water and carried microspikes in the other hand. Gloves were strapped to my watch. My pockets contained gel. I wore a t-shirt and shorts with arms and legs. The lack of additional gear was not just to minimize ascent time but also served to create a more memorable run. As I serendipitously discovered last week on Iron, the reduction of gear for winter ascents decreases the margin of error but in turn heightens the sensory experience.

I got a late start and began at 7:25 AM, which created warmer than expected conditions. Soon my shirt became soaked with sweat and I was a little concerned about not having enough water but knew the temperature would rapidly drop as I ascended. In the end I had enough water. At 0:32 I reached the first of two ‘rescue stations’. I did not see these the last time I did the hike (2009). They are a nice addition given the unfortunate incidents that occur during hot weather.

I reached 4300 ft (marked with rocks) in 1:03 and was happy with my ascent rate of about 3600 ft/hr. At that rate I had a comfortable margin for beating 2:30 and thought I could reach Flat Rock in the mid 1:30s. That is, until the trail started to level off going towards Flat Rock. I do not like flat trails when doing timed ascents. I like to analyze runs in terms of ascent rates and use this metric to compare different runs and to project finishing times. If one focuses on ascent rates then one does not like low gradient trail sections or traverses since this lowers the average ascent rate for the run and increases the finishing time relative to one’s projections. The opposite is true if one instead analyzes runs based on speed. In any case, I had forgotten how flat the trail is as it approaches Flat Rock and I was upset as the minutes ticked by with little elevation gain. I estimated I needed to reach Flat Rock somewhere around 1:40-1:45 in order to break 2:30 and my imagined time buffer decreased with each horizontal step. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally reached Flat Rock in 1:42 and knew I had little time to spare.

Shortly thereafter the trail became icy and I was glad to have to put on the microspikes. By that point, my hand was quite tired of carrying them. I had originally planned to also put on my gloves at this point but decided against it since I would be in the sun for a while longer and the air was still warm. I would later regret this.

During the steep ascent I occupied myself by trying to estimate the times at the upcoming landmarks I needed to hit to be on pace for a sub 2:30 finish. Eventually I got to the prominent rock outcropping and later the beginning of the traverse with what I conservatively thought was a couple minute buffer. I just needed a solid finish for the final thousand foot ascent and I was confident I would make it. Then the traverse started, and it sucked. It sucked bad. Don’t get me wrong, given the circumstances the snow conditions were about as good as could be expected. The footprints left by previous hikers were crucial—any record attempt would have been clearly impossible without them! I knew I was going to have to endure snow, but snow costs minutes. This was a record attempt, and I didn’t have many minutes to spare.

I could not run on the traverse. Whenever I tried I broke through the compacted footprints and slid down the slope. This wasted a tremendous amount of energy and time but there was nothing I could do about it. I hiked as fast and as gingerly as I could with occasional attempts at running, which usually failed. I felt the minutes slipping away as the never-ending traverse continued. My hands were numb from touching the snow from the frequent slips but I could not spare any time to put on the gloves. Eventually I got to the end of the traverse and started the final ascent. I knew reaching the tram in under 2:30 was now out of the question but at all cost I still wanted to reach Grubbs Notch before 2:30. So I dug deep and began a rapid unsustainable ascent with the hope that I could just hang on long enough to reach the top. I kept climbing and the clock kept ticking down…8…7…no sign of the top…6…come on where is it!...5…Is that it? Is it leveling off up there?...4…I think I see a sign!...3…2…Done! Grubbs Notch in ~2:28:00. I then ran towards the tram as fast as I could but could only muster a slow jog at first until I recovered somewhat. I got to the ramps and I was shocked how packed they were with people on Christmas. I had to alternate between running and power hiking a few times due to the exhaustion as well as the crowds. I reached the topmost door near the thermometer at 2:32:55.

Here are the splits:
Started from the museum parking lot at 7:25:00AM
0:12 Picnic tables
0:21 Long Valley sign
0:32 First rescue station
1:03 4300 ft elevation (marked with rocks)
1:30 Second rescue station
1:42 Flat Rock
2:05 Rock outcropping
2:09 Beginning of traverse
2:28:00Sign at Grubbs Notch
2:32:55Door at top of stairs by thermometer

Note, I had originally intended to mark the time at Grubbs Notch at the two boulders that form a kind of finish line. This is apparently what people tend to use, but with the snow I wasn’t sure where they were. So in the end I decided to use my time at the sign which I knew to within a few seconds (2:28:00 plus/minus about 2 seconds).
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Postby Stockwell » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:47 pm

Holy ....

That is incredible! Now just so I can be clear, What is a Sub Time and Super Time again? My Brain is struggling to comprehend someone doing skyline in 2:30. Although I know you did it and that's awesome! Fastest time I know of, ya would've put the nail in the coffin with spring conditions.

Should try again when there is less snow on the traverse.
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Postby wb » Wed Dec 28, 2011 10:50 pm

Outstanding job, Bluerail! What a remarkable time. Are you Steve Austin?
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Postby zippetydude » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:10 pm

Actually I think bluerail was sharing a post from another board...but if the guy is for real, he's pretty quick!

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Postby bluerail » Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:01 am

oh yea....this isnt me, like zip said, I am just sharing something.

19 minutes to get from the beginning of the traverse to the sign?

and easily could have knocked 5+ minutes off without the snow.

also interesting : ... ation.html

The JMT in 3 days 14 hrs....I ran into Brett on SJ before he did his JMT trip., actually I followed his route through a bushwacking nightmare, but it got me past the snow without any gear.
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Postby PatrickSupra » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:01 am

The author of the first post on FKT is also a member on here. Let's see if he fesses up. ;)
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Postby bluerail » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:29 am

I dont think theres anything to question.. ... marathons/

google the Barkley
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Postby HikerBlatt » Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:47 am

Very impressive athletic achievement. Not many would be able to match it. Congratulations....
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Postby Perry » Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:39 pm

Winning the Barkley Marathons is the one thing that makes me inclined to believe that Brett told the truth. Congrats again Brett!

Granted, doing it on Christmas Day when there's almost nobody on the trail with 1 bottle of water does sound a little suspicious. However, it is cold this time of year and Steve gets away with 1 water bottle. For most hikers and runners that is dangerous! I think Steve is really a camel. Brett too. Having crowds on the trail during a record attempt causes issues of bumping elbows, crashing through bushes, or having to slow down often to pass groups of hikers.

I've always thought it's humanly possible to break 2:30 because there are some really fast guys (and gals) out there, and it's kind of a surprise that my "record" has lasted as long as it did, at least in terms of word-of-mouth locally. Steve thinks that a few guys he has seen on the trail have already been doing around 2:45 or faster. It would be interesting to see what kind of times are possible after the snow melts...
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Postby bdog » Thu Dec 29, 2011 9:05 pm

I guess there is little sense in hiding my idenity anymore...bdog=Brett. I'm the one who posted the TR on the other forum.

Responding to some of the comments:
Regarding the little water intake, I think it is surprising how little water people need when it is cold. I didn't fully realize this myself until a couple weeks ago when I did Iron Mountain with a handheld plus one quart. I had a decent amount left after that run which is why I figured one handheld would be more than enough for Skyline. I also primed myself and probably drank half a quart right before starting.

Regarding doing it on Christmas, I originally wanted to do it 2 days prior but the high winds caused the delay. I did encounter people on the trail though. I passed one person on the initial climb from the Museum and then a group of two during the long traverse "to the left" just past the Long valley signs. I hope to try it again when the snow melts, but I guess that will likely be after April 1st? I might be doing the Barkley again, which would interfere with a spring attempt. So then fall would be the earliest I could try it again.
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