Are FKT’s the New FA?
Enough with the acronyms! First Ascents and First Descents have long been sought after by the climbing, mountaineering, and skiing (etc…) communities, but what’s left? If you want to bag a first ascent it means you’re pretty much getting on something that is either so dangerous that no one has been tempted to try it or so prohibitively expensive (likely due to remoteness) that no one else has thought it worthwhile. Not to say these things aren’t worth doing, they are just completely out of the grasp of everyone except the most well funded pros. Likewise, if you’re looking for a first descent, what remains are things so mediocre that no one would have been tempted to ski them (and even if you did there would be no way to know whether or not you were truly the first descent if the limiting factor is mediocrity), so gnarly that no one without a death wish would be tempted to ski them, or so remote that they are also out of most people’s grasp financially. So what’s left? These previously completed objectives, just faster.
If you’ve been following the climbing and mountaineering world’s news lately you’ve surely heard of Kilian Jornet. Within the last year he set the round trip speed records on Mt Blanc (4:57, 12,500 vertical), the Matterhorn (2:52, 8100 vertical with 5.3 climbing), and the Grand Teton (2:54, 7500 vertical). All three of these records had stood for nearly 20 years.
Now, obviously Kilian is freakishly fit, and has the ability to dedicate his entire life to training, but on a smaller scale I think there is something here that any motivated person can relate to. An entire community is springing up around the concept of FKT’s, or Fastest Known Times. Unlike a first ascent a FKT is never “done”, and unlike first ascents and first descents FKT’s remain to be broken for the less iconic peaks by mere mortals with jobs and families.
The primary aggregator of FKT records is an online message board found at fastestknowntime.proboards.com. From here you can look up FKTs for any area of the world and even post your own if you’ve beaten a posted record, or want to submit a new objective. If nothing else it gives you a good excuse to get outside and push yourself.
This past summer I spent many afternoons running Byers Peak near Winter Park, CO. It’s the most iconic peak in the valley here and with 3500 vert from the trailhead it’s a formidable run. There isn’t currently an FKT posted for it and while it’s certainly possible someone has run it in faster time than I’ve been able to, there certainly isn’t anything posted. I had wanted to hit a specific target time by the end of the summer that I didn’t make, so I’m going to hold off on posting it as a FKT until I can put up a time that I think will stand for a little while, hopefully next year summer.
While I certainly am no Kilian Jornet or Anton Krupicka it’s still an enjoyable pursuit, and getting beaten by someone else and watching the records fall weekly is all part of the fun.
Byers Peak watching over the Fraser Valley