CA 14ers Speed Record (2001)
CA 14ers Speed Record (2001)
Page Type: Trip Report
California, United States, North America
41.40940°N / 122.1939°W
CA 14ers Speed Record (2001)
Aug 6, 2001
Created/Edited: Feb 13, 2002 /
Object ID: 168518
Page Score: 77.46%
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2002 UPDATE: New record by Jack McBroom!
| 1) Introduction:
In 1998, the well-known speed climber Hans Florine, and his climbing friend Russ McBride and Tony Ralph bagged all 15 CA Fourteeners in 9 days, 10 hours, and 50 minutes "car-to-car time." Last September, MountainZone.com ran a feature on the Hans Florine's solo attempt to climb 14 of the 15 Califonia Fourteeners in 6 days. Hans wasn't able to complete his quest. During those few days, I followed his exploits from my cubicle and wished I could be out there "cruising the Sierra" too. In early August, 2001 I got my chance. Below is an account of how I climbed all 15 CA 14ers in 5 days, 23 hours, and 41 minutes "car-to-car time." All of my climbing was done solo/ropeless, and I was completely self-supported. To my knowledge, this is the new record. If anyone has done it faster, please stand up!
2) Day By Day Account:
|Date:|| August 1, 2001|
|Climbing Time:|| 3:51am - 9:49pm|
|Elevation Gain:|| ~11,000 ft|
|Mileage:|| ~22 miles|
|Mountains Climbed:|| Thunderbolt Peak (14,003 ft)|
Starlight Peak (14,200 ft)
North Palisade (14,242 ft)
Polemonium Peak (14,200 ft)
Mount Sill (14,153 ft)
Middle Palisade (14,040 ft).
|Gear:|| Five-Ten Guide Almighty Approach Shoes, Black Diamond Bullet Pack, MSR 4 Liter Hydration System, chalk bag, headlamp, hat, and gloves.|
Just below the true summit of Thunderbolt Peak
Just below the true summit of Starlight Peak
On top of North Palisade
Summit of Polemonium
Summit of Mount Sill
On top of Middle Palisade
| Notes: I started hiking from Glacier Lodge up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek. The first peak on my itinerary was Thunderbolt. I circumvented the bergschrund on the Palisade Glacier by traversing to the right of it. Then I headed left on Class 4 rock to the right hand Underhill Couloir. This led up to the notch between Thunderbolt and Starlight via some 4th class climbing. The couloir was snow free. From the notch, I climbed up Class 4 rock until I arrived at the summit block of Thunderbolt (8:16am). The register was not on the true summit (discussion of this is here). After I signed it, I threw it in my pack and climbed the 5.9 east side of the summit block. This is really just a 15 ft boulder problem (albeit at 14K ft and with a bad landing). I attached the register to the bolts on the true summit. Hopefully it will remain there. I then down-climbed back to the notch between Thunderbolt and Starlight. |
From the notch, I cruised up the Class 4 ridge crest to the base of the 5.4 summit pinnacle of Starlight. I signed the register, then tagged the true summit (9:04am).
I then headed over to North Palisade on Class 4 and easy Class 5 rock. This short traverse involves some fairly difficult routefinding to keep the technical climbing difficulty down. I arrived at the summit of North Palisade at 9:32am.
From the summit, I headed down Class 3 rock to the top of ~200 ft 5.2ish section. I downclimbed this to the notch between Polemonium and North Palisade. From the notch, I headed up and right on rock that was never harder than Class 4, then traversed left along a ridge to the summit of Polemonium (10:20am).
After descending about 50 ft of Class 4 rock from the summit of Polemonium, the terrain eased to Class 2/3 and remained easy all the way to the summit of Sill (11:06am).
I descended the East Couloir of Sill. This descent was more treacherous than I expected. This was due to a lot of loose rock on fairly steep terrain. The East Couloir is supposedly Class 3, but I think it's more like Class 4. I would not want to be on this route with another party (or even another person for that matter). The lower party/person would surely be pummeled with rocks. Maybe it's better early in the season when there's more snow. At the bottom of the East Couloir, I had to climb down into the bergschrund on the Sill Glacier, then up and out the other side. Fortunately, this was pretty easy.
I had just traversed five peaks in less than three hours and was feeling very good. I only had one more peak scheduled for the day: Middle Palisade. Little did I know that my day wasn't even half way over.
The trek over to Middle Palisade was horrendous. I can't overemphasize how much this portion of the day sucked. I started scrambling southeast toward Middle Palisade over very unfriendly talus fields. After a while, I reached a ~200 ft cliff that I had to downclimb. There was probably an easy way down, but I couldn't find it. A little while later, I got to the base of the ridge I had to go over to get to the base of Middle Palisade (I think this is called Firebird Ridge). I climbed a fairly direct route to the top of the ridge (~5.4). There's probably a Class 3/4 way up, but I didn't bother looking for it. Sometimes it's just easier to just go straight up and climb the rock that get's dealt to you. From the top of the ridge, I descended Class 3 and 4 rock to the Middle Palisade Glacier.
My plan was to climb the Class 3 East Face of Middle Palisade. In order to avoid some snow at the base of the route, I headed straight up to the right of the real start of the route. After a couple hundred feet I joined the real route and followed it to the summit (5:03pm). This route is textbook Class 3 and is a lot of fun.
I descended the East Face. When I reached the base of the glacier, I was faced with the task of finding my way down the South Fork of Big Pine Creek. I had never been up this way before, and I didn't see any trails. The guidebook was useless (as usual) and the topo didn't reveal anything noteworthy. So, I headed directly down to Finger Lake. This turned out to be a mistake.
I'll spare you the details, but it suffices to say that after a few hours of scrambling, bush whacking, going back uphill in order to avoid swimming in the lake, and crossing back and forth across a steep stream, I found the South Fork trail. It was getting dark, so I took out my headlamp. It must have twisted on during the day because the batteries were completely dead. So, I stumbled down the trail to my car in the dark.
Check out this annotated photo of part of the Palisade Traverse (photo credit: wacziarg)
|Date:|| August 2, 2001|
|Climbing Time:|| 8:01am - 6:06pm|
|Elevation Gain:|| 7,490 ft (+ ~800 ft on dirt road)|
|Mileage:|| ~18 miles + ~9 miles on dirt road|
|Mountains Climbed:|| Split Mountain (14,058 ft)|
|Gear:|| Same as day 1, except no chalk bag and Adidas running shoes instead of Guide Almighties|
On the summit of Split Mountain
| Notes: Because my '91 Mazda 626 is not exactly a "high clearance vehicle" (it barely makes it over speedbumps), I had to park it about 4.5 miles from the trailhead. In anticipation of this, I had borrowed Ryle's mountain bike. I rode the bike about halfway to the trailhead until the road became very sandy and continuously uphill. It was rideable, but it required a lot more energy than walking (and wasn't much faster). So, in order to conserve energy, I pushed the bike the rest of the way to the trailhead. It was 9:10am and probably about 95 degrees when I finally reached the trailhead (elevation 6,568 ft). |
I stashed the bike in the bushes and started up the steep, sandy, overgrown trail to Red Mountain Lake. From the lake I hiked up endless Class 2/3 talus (very loose in spots) to the Prater-Split Saddle. From there it was a quick jaunt to the summit (1:50pm). The descent was uneventful.
|Date:|| August 3, 2001|
|Climbing Time:|| 6:55am - 10:53am|
|Elevation Gain:|| ~3,000 ft |
|Mileage:|| 13 miles|
|Mountains Climbed:|| White Mountain Peak (14,246 ft)|
|Gear:|| Same as day 2|
On the summit of White Mountain Peak
| Notes: I was beat after two days of adventures, so I decided to take a "rest" day. I had a pretty bad sunburn from my Split ascent. This probably contributed to my lack of energy. I strolled up and down White at a leisurely pace. I spent the rest of the day relaxing. |
|Date:|| August 4, 2001|
|Climbing Time:|| 3:02am - 1:03pm|
|Elevation Gain:|| ~8,500 ft |
|Mileage:|| 21 miles|
|Mountains Climbed:||Mount Muir (14,012 ft)|
Mount Whitney (14,494 ft)
Mount Russell (14,086 ft)
|Gear:|| Same as day 1, except no chalk bag|
On the summit of Mount Muir
In front of the summit shelter on Mount Whitney
Just below the summit of Mount Russell
| Notes: I started at the overflow hiker parking area at Whitney Portal in the early morning darkness. Just before I reached the trailhead I noticed a bear having his way with an overflowing "bear proof" trash can. I glanced up in disgust and continued on. I plodded up the Whitney Trail, passing about 50 people on the way to Trail Crest (elevation 13,600 ft). |
The moon was so bright that I almost needed sunglasses. As I hiked the trail, I had the great fortune of hearing the incessant ringing of what seemed to be dozens of "bear bells." I passed one group of six people who sounded more like a line of tamborine dancers than hikers. I really don't think bear bells are necessary...
I finally reached the turnoff for Mount Muir and scrambled up the Class 3 rock to the summit. It felt more like Class 4 to me. I reached the summit and signed the register (the register needs to be replaced...it's beyond full), then downclimbed to the Whitney Trail.
A short hike to the summit of Whitney followed. I reached the summit at 7:40am, then I began to descend the North Face. According to the guidebook, this is Class 3, and there are many possible routes. I don't think I went far enough west before descending because I encountered some fairly serious downclimbing. At one point I reached a very hard and steep snow field (~200 ft). Not having an ice-axe, crampons, or a rope, I puzzled over what to do for a while. One slip and it'd be curtains. I could have climbed back up a few hundred feet and taken a different route down, but I really didn't want to do that. After a few minutes, I noticed that the snow/ice had a bunch of widely spaced 1/2"-2" diameter / 1"-3" deep holes in it. Each of these holes contained a small rock. The rocks had fallen on the soft afternoon snow during previous days and formed the holes, which were now frozen. I finally decided to downclimb the section "rock style." I used the holes as if they were limestone finger pockets. It was actually quite fun, although it was a little scary. I then continued the descent to the small lake at the low point between Whitney and Russell. Descending the North Face of Whitney took a lot longer than I expected. It was now 9:30.
I motored up the South Face of Russell (Class 3) and got to the summit at 10:16am (I think I mistakenly wrote 9:16 in the register). I then descended the South Face, climbed up and over the Whitney-Russell saddle, and began the trek down the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. I arrived at my car a little after 1pm.
There was a lot of day left, so I thought about bagging Langley, but I decided it would be a better idea to rest up for Tyndall and Williamson.
|Date:|| August 5, 2001|
|Climbing Time:|| 3:09am - 6:20pm|
|Elevation Gain:|| ~13,000 ft |
|Mileage:|| ~30 miles|
|Mountains Climbed:|| Mount Tyndall (14,015 ft)|
Mount Williamson (14,375 ft)
|Gear:|| Same as day 2, except I used my larger pack and I brought my Guide Almighties (but never used them)|
On top of Mount Tyndall
The summit of Mount Williamson. GU is good!
| Notes: I left the Symmes Creek Trailhead (elevation ~5,600 ft) at 3:09am and started the long hike up to Shepherd's Pass. Eleven miles later I reached the pass. From the pass I headed toward the Class 3 North Rib of Tyndall. At 9:15 I reached the summit then headed back down the North Rib and across Williamson Bowl toward Williamson. |
I headed up the Class 3 West Face of Williamson, reaching the summit at 12:21pm. The last entry in the register was on July 16 by a ranger. The second to last was by Jay (summitpost handle = Guilty). I then headed back down the West Face, across Williamson Bowl, over Shepherd's Pass, and down to my car (6:20pm).
|Date:|| August 6-7, 2001|
|Climbing Time:|| 3:06am - 9:51am and 8:19pm - 3:32am |
|Elevation Gain:|| ~11,000 ft |
|Mileage:|| ~35 miles|
|Mountains Climbed:|| Mount Langley (14,042 ft)|
Mount Shasta (14,162 ft)
|Gear:|| Same as day 2 for Langley; for Shasta I also brought an ice-axe, crampons, and boots.|
On top of Mount Langley
The summit of Mount Shasta at 12:34am. Unfortunately, the light from my headlamp wasn't quite enough for the disposable camera ;-(
| Notes: I left the Cottonwod Lakes trailhead at 3:06am and had an uneventful Class 2 hike up the South Slopes via Old Army Pass. Near the top, I became very frustrated with the sand, so I left the main trail climbed up some Class 4 rock (off-route) to the summit. I then hiked back down to my car, arriving at 9:51am. |
Almost done! Only Shasta left. But, unfortunately Shasta is a long distance away from the Sierras. There's really no direct driving route. The drive took me 9 hours.
I started at Shasta's "Bunny Flat" at 8:19 pm. It was not quite dark, and I was feeling pretty good. I busted up the trail to Horse Camp, getting there in 28 minutes. Then I took out my headlamp and continued up Avalanche Gulch. To my dismay, Shasta is very dry this year. There is very little snow (check out this recent photo by John). This made for some very frustrating hiking up loose ash, cinder, and talus. The darkness made the hiking even more frustrating. I finally reached the Red Banks, slogged up Misery Hill, and arrived at the summit at 12:34am. I was pretty disappointed with my slow time, but the conditions were horrible, so I guess it's ok. I then began the descent, which also took a lot longer than I had hoped. The ash/cinder/rock conglomeration in Avalanche Gulch was now frozen solid. Going down this was a hassle. I tried glissading a bit on the last remnants of snow, but that didn't really work too well. Finally, I tagged my car at 3:32am. Four minutes later I was asleep. The clock stopped at 5 days, 23 hours, and 41 minutes!
Total elevation gained: ~54,000+ ft (I'm sure this is wildly inaccurate...if anyone wants to study the topos to get a more accurate number, go for it!) Total mileage: ~140+ miles, plus a few miles of mountain biking on the way to the Split trailhead. (I'm sure this number is also wildly inaccurate...) Hardest Climbing Move: 5.9 (YDS) Number of times I was rained on: 0 (the weather was perfect the whole time) Number of servings of GU ingested: 20 Number of liters of liquid consumed: ~50 Favorite CA 14er: Starlight Peak -- the summit pinnacle is awesome Least favorite CA 14er: Split Mountain -- the trail up to Red Mountain Lake sucks Subjective ranking of the days (hardest to easiest): 1, 6, 5, 4, 2, 3
4) The Future:
It would be nice to see more CA 14er speed record attempts. My time can and will be broken. 6 days is really slow. The record won't really be respectable until it's under 3 days. If you're thinking about attempting it, here are some tidbits of advice:
1) Make sure you FULLY acclimatize before you start. The day before I started, I drove from sea level (San Jose, CA) to Mount Hoffman in Yosemite. I made a quick jaunt up this little peak (elevation 10,850 ft). This was probably not sufficient. Although I felt ok on the first day of my 14er tour, I'm sure I would have been able to go faster if I had acclimatized more before hand.
2) Drink LOTS of water. Of course you know that drinking lots of water is essential, but I can't overstate how important this is during an ultra-endurance session. Some days I drank upwards of three gallons. A couple of months ago I bought one of those "hydration systems." I used to think that such things were silly gimmicks, but boy was I wrong. When I hike, I take a sip of water just about every two or three minutes. It's convenient, you don't have to stop, and it helps you remain very well hydrated.
3) GU is not a gimmick! I love this stuff. Power Gel is good too. There's nothing better for quick energy.
4) Get a high clearance vehicle. This is really only necessary for Split Mountain. I had to use a mountain bike to get to the trailhead. Riding through the hot, sandy desert just to get to the trail was not fun.
5) Trick a friend into chauffeuring you around. This would have been very helpful for the long drive from the Sierras to Shasta.
6) If you're not completely comfortable free-soloing 4th and easy 5th class rock, stay home.
7) After you beat the current record, write up a trip report and we'll post it for all to see on SummitPost.com.
5) Who Am I?
I've received a couple requests for a "Who Am I?" section for this trip report. Am I a runner? A peak-bagger? A technical climber? An adventure racer? How do I get so much time off work?
I don't really know how to answer. I haven't really honed my skill in any one area. I do a fair amount of rock climbing (bouldering, sport, trad). I also bag quite a few peaks each year, but I'm not really an obsessive peak-bagger (I don't keep lists). I'm really just a 25 year old guy who likes to suffer and enjoys a challenge. I've never done an adventure race, but I'd love to (anyone want to sponsor me? ;-)
One of my favorite activities is moving fast in the mountains. Moderate alpine rock is currently my preferred medium, but you'll sometimes find me on snow and ice or running on trails. I think backcountry camping is really boring, so if the guidebook says you can do it in three days or less, I'll often try to do it in a day. For more info on some of the peaks I've climbed, see my SummitPost profile page.
Outside of climbing, I'm webmaster of a lame little website called SummitPost.com. I used to be a programmer for a Silicon Valley genomics company, but I quit last month when I came to the realization that the field of genomics is pseudoscience (at best). That's the reason I have so much free time. I once dabbled in Cryptography/Data-Security and Applied Math grad school, but those days are now just bad memories.
If you have any comments or questions, please post them here.