Speed Records Broken on Iconic Peaks

On August 12, Kilian Jornet, a 24-year-old elite Spanish ski mountaineer and “sky runner,” broke the 29-year-old record for running the Grand Teton, racing up and down Garnet Canyon and the Owen-Spalding Route in 2 hours, 54 minutes. This was about 12 minutes faster than the mark set by Bryce Thatcher back in 1983. Jornet set the new time the day after running the peak with Emelie Forsberg, a Swedish woman whose time of 3:51 likely set the female record for the climb and descent.

The climb of the Grand Teton is about 7.5 miles and 7,000 vertical feet each way, and the upper Owen-Spalding Route requires exposed scrambling up to about 5.4 in difficulty. At under 3 hours, Jornet’s average pace for the round-trip was under 12 minutes a mile.

But Jornet’s record didn’t stand long. Ten days later, Andy Anderson, a runner and ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park, ran the Grand round-trip in 2:53:02, besting Jornet’s mark by nearly a minute. Moreover, Anderson did not use a couple of shortcuts across trail switchbacks that the Spanish runner (and many other climbers and runners) followed.

Anderson is no stranger to breaking records on Western peaks. In August 2011, he broke Chris Reveley’s 32-year-old record for running up and down Longs Peak, the 14,259-foot high point of Rocky Mountain National Park. Anderson ran the peak via the Longs Peak Trail and the north face “Cables Route” in 2 hours, 2 minutes, 54 seconds, about 1.5 minutes faster than Reveley. The round-trip is approximately 13 miles, with a long 5.4 pitch and exposed scrambling, and vertical gain of 4,855 feet. Not satisfied with his time, Anderson returned August 8 this year and went well under 2 hours for the round-trip, with a time of 1:56:48.

For their part, Jornet and Forsberg headed to Colorado after leaving the Tetons, where they won the annual Pikes Peak Marathon up and down the 14,114-foot peak on August 19. The 24-year-old Spaniard ran the 26-mile course, with 7,800 feet of vertical gain, in 3:40:26.

Dates of ascents: August 2012