Fastpacks From Hell: The Weminuche Throwdown

Stats (approx.):

  • 81.4 Miles
  • 34,847’+ elevation

Total time:

  • 5 days, 1hr, 44min

Nine Centennials Summited:

  • Pigeon Peak
  • Turret Peak
  • Jupiter Mountain
  • Windom Peak
  • Sunlight Peak
  • North Eolus
  • Mount Eolus
  • Jagged Mountain
  • Vestal Peak

The Weminuche. This was the make-or-break section of my tour. A large project within an enormous project. Lots of terrain to cover, lots of mountains to top. Technical scrambling in a desolate setting. For example, Jagged Mountain’s easiest route rated at 5.2 is one of the technical cruxes of the whole trip and is located more than a dozen miles from any trailhead. Jagged is also one of the more remote peaks in the Highest Hundred itinerary. I also planned to take Vestal’s Wham Ridge (5.4) to summit, rather than the easiest, if much looser, Southeast Couloir. I would have to descend the Southeast Couloir anyways, but Wham Ridge seemed too incredible to pass off in the name of speed.

Let’s talk logistics of even getting in there. There are nine peaks of the the Weminuche (sans the isolated Rio Grande Pyramid, which I did in a separate trip). First the good news. Five of the them: Jupiter, Windom, Sunlight, North Eolus, and Eolus are clumped into one area, easily accessible from each other in the quite popular (for Weminuche standards) Chicago Basin.

Now the bad: Turret/Pigeon, Jagged Mountain, and Vestal Peak are spaced quite far away from each other, separated by gnarly mountain passes, with no trail connecting them together.

Further complicating matters is the weather: it can be terrible, especially in the monsoon season, which is when I inevitably hit the area. With the trip being a multi-day affair and my goal of moving quickly, I could only afford bringing just so much food in my 35 liter pack, which limits how long I can stay out for. Margin of error is low, or I would face the problem of needing to go back into town to resupply, and making yet another unplanned backpack approach in, which I imagine would feel completely demoralizing for someone like me going for clock time.

For Seekers of the Self-Powered Way, there are only a few access points that make sense to gain these summits. The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is often used to cut down time/distance to access many of these peaks. For me, that would be of course: off the table.

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FKT of the Year Awards 2018, Why the Tour of the Highest Hundred is so Weird (and why that’s so awesome)

Blanca Peak, after traversing directly from Little Bear Peak (in the background), Tour of the Highest Hundred , 2017

The 2018 FKTOFTY Awards have been announced. I’ve very thankful that the Tour of the Highest Hundred was selected in the lineup! Although, it didn’t “win”, I really had no reason to think I would! I’m actually a little confused how different FKT attempts can even be compared to each other, but if all we want to do is celebrate FKT projects in general, I think that’s a worthwhile reason to make such lists.

But if I hope that the Tour of the Highest Hundred would win something like a popularity contest… forget it. It’s too long, too hard, too weird, and too obscure to ever become the type of, “Destination FKT” something like the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim or the John Muir Trail are quickly becoming. And that’s totally fine with me. A litmus test is this: try to visualize exact what teh Highest Hundred challenge would entail. Kinda hard, right? What do you focus on? The distance, the peaks themselves, the elevation gain, the route? It’s a complex mother.

But, there’s a lot of reasons I think going for the Colorado Centennials by bike and by foot self-supported makes a totally life-changing challenge, even if you don’t make it your own FKT.

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1/8/18 – 1/14/18 Training Journal

The theme of this week was, “Am I getting sick? I’m getting sick. No, not quite sick, maybe tomorrow?! Tomorrow I’ll be sick?!” Thus, it was an easy-ish load of training. Trying not to overdo it, as everyone around me seems to be inflicted with the plague.

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The First Ever Longs Peak Self-Powered Duathlon

Before I completed my first self-powered Longs Peak Duathlon (after a few failures) from Arvada, I knew of only a few others I was certain had made the trip: Bill Wright, The Briggs Brothers, Stefan Griebel. I never thought about who the first people to complete the feat were – perhaps the names were lost in mountaineering history?

That’s until I started reading Paul Nesbit’s, Longs Peak: It’s Story and a Climbing Guide mentioned:

1977: Cleve McCarty of Boulder and his 12-year-old son Eric bicycled to the trailhead, climbed the Kieners route on the East Face […] went down the North Face and biked home, all in one day.

Not bad! Cleve McCarty is fairly well-known in Colorado Mountaineering lore, and that makes it all the stranger that I never heard about this adventure of his. As well as this long day, Cleve once held the FKT for completing the Colorado 14ers: 54 14ers in 54 days (or was it 52 peaks in 52?) back in 1959. He’s also the co-author of High Over Boulder, with Pat Ament.

What’s also amazing is that Eric McCarty repeated the trip with his own 12-year old son, 32 years later!

And of course, Eric is still around, in Boulder, and works a few blocks from where I work. Small place, this world.

1/1/18 – 1/7/18 Training Journal

Wow, the start of the new year perfectly coincides with the beginning day of my training journal? Guess that’s good enough excuse enough to jot things down online.

This year, I’ve decided to keep record keeping in a actual gridded notebook, and make my notes as I do the exercise, which makes a world of difference when doing a half a dozen things say, at the gym, and want to keep track of progress on all those things. Even using it for these few days, it’s been amazingly helpful, if not for recall.

Sadly, it makes posts like this one pretty boring, since the added minutiae may not be all that entertaining. But, I’m generally working on a few things:

Aerobic Conditioning

I have no concrete goals, so I’m just hoping for consistency of my aerobic training – doing a workout 6 days a week of at least one hour each workout would be ideal. I’m not looking to kill myself. My aerobic conditioning is probably my most mature of all my fitness by a wide margin. Right now, I’d just like to feel fit, and get a sense of balance and health. Consistency is key – I usually gravitate towards death marches of 9 hours+, but they’re not really really worthwhile for training purposes, as I usually take a few days off afterwards to recover.


Far below my aeerobic fitness is my climbing fitness – I couldn’t be any more different in how I train the two. Instead of every day (with one reset day) for aerobic work, I shoot for every other day. I focus almost exclusively on bouldering (power). When it comes time to project a route, it only takes a few weeks to build up enough endurance to make this reasonable. I’m not against training via sport climbing, but I do find bouldering to be the most efficient use of my time. Generally, I find myself pretty heavy for a climber – my legs are pretty developed from mashing those bike pedals and power hiking up those hills, and my upper body just isn’t in comparison. I shy away from any sort of upper body development I don’t need – I’m one step away from being allergic to weights – getting muscle on this frame usually isn’t a problem. Too much back meat does make for a slow Justin.

I’ve been working through an injury in my right ring finger which doesn’t have an exact time/reason it started to affect my climbing, but boy does it. Symptoms are also much stranger than I’ve experienced before: very tender in the pad right after my knuckle – perhaps this is an A2 pulley problem… who knows.

My general way to treat this problem is a little bit of rest, a lot of taping (“x method” being my favorite) and taking a big step back in the grades I climb. Last summer before my trip, I was topping V7’s and V3 were more a warmup. Not being able to do any V3 I want in the gym is a little bit of a pride-swallower. Pulling hard really angers that pad though – more so than crimping. Jugs are also very hard to hold, as they also put pressure on this A2 pulley area. Ugh!

Ankle PT

Man, where to start? Right now, my ankles are some of the worst spots of my lack of mobility. A few years ago, I fell strangely on my left ankle while bouldering, causing an audible (if only to me), “pop”, and some definite problems with my left ankle ankle-ing. I’ve since worked through that, getting marginal mobility back, but pain still remains. Could be just an old-man pain from whatever scar tissue is still in there causing discomfort and slight inflammation. I wish it would go away, and hoping more mobility will at least help on that front.

My right ankle succumbed an intense sprain and/or break (in the foot itself) in September, as I finished my last peak (Longs Peak) of my 105 peak trip. I hobbled down the mountain that day, and got back to the bike, where the injury really didn’t affect me. The next day, I could barely walk. Walking the next few weeks was pretty painful, and running was absolutely out of the question.

I’ve slowly been regaining mobility and use of my ankle, but it’s still touch and go. I’ve started to ramp up my ankle PT I was practicing because of my left ankle for my right ankle. It’s a long, slow, painful process. Each day, I measure the dorsiflextion I can make – just by seeing how many inches away from a wall I can put my foot, and still touch my knee to the wall, when I bend it.

My target is 5 1/2″. I actually do two measurements: one before I workout, and one afterwards, usually after I do all the PT. That way, I can see if there’s a immediate benefit to all the stretching/tearing/terrible things I do to the ankle.

To me, it seems that the ankle PT has to be done almost daily, or the work I do just gets quickly reset.


I’ve started doing yoga quite a bit, as a way to work on my total body mobility, which I have painfully (if literally painfully), very little of. I’m quite terrible at it, but it’s fun to start something fully from the beginning again.

Antagonist Training

To be somewhat balanced with all the climbing I do, I sneak in a little antagonist training. I’ve a torn shoulder, so I don’t too any benchpress, but I’m also at the point where pushups are challenging.

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Electronics Kit List for the Tour of the Highest Hundred

The electronics gear kit list! Bringing any sort of gear – especially electronic gear, is a fine balance between the convenience of having the resource, and the burdens of carrying it all with you. Doubly so with electronic gear, as it all requires some sort of power source to charge it all up.

Choose wisely.

For the Tour of the Highest Hundred, I brought more electronic gear than on any other ultra racing/FKT trip in my life! It was a lot to manage, but I made all my choices after much deliberation.

Here’s the rundown:

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Fastpacks From Hell: The Crestone Centennial Enchainment!

The Crestones! A highlight of my Highest Hundred trip – the mountains of this group are awesomely steep, the rock is solid, the scrambling: divine. This is truly a Fastpack from Hell-yeah!


  • 36.1 Miles
  • 15,200’+ elevation

Total time:

  • 1 day, 17hr, 28min

Seven Centennials summited:

  • Adams
  • Challenger
  • Kit Carson
  • Columbia Point
  • Humboldt
  • Crestone Needle
  • Crestone Peak

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Fastpacks From Hell: The Colorado Sierra Blanca Centennial Enchainment!


  • 33.1 Miles
  • 15,085’+ elevation

Total time:

  • 2 days 25min

Six Centennials summited:

  • Ellingwood Point
  • Little Bear Peak
  • Blanca Peak
  • “Huerfano Peak”
  • Mt. Lindsey
  • California Peak

To make the Tour of the Highest Hundred work, my general strategy was to keep the number of separate trailheads I needed to visit by bike as low as possible, while designing my route on foot to tag as many mountains in an area as possible. Transitioning to/from bike-mode/hike-mode and superfluous riding are big time sucks.

One of the largest puzzles is the Sierra Blancas. Even enthusiastic peak baggers will separate this group of mountains into >= two trips:

  • Approaching from the east for Mt. Lindsey and “Huerfano Peak” via the Huerfano/Lily Lake Trailhead
  • Approaching from the west to access Ellingwood Point, Little Bear, and Blanca via Lake Como Road
  • And well, also approaching from the west for California Peak (if the Centennials are part of your goal), which is accessed from an altogether trail head: Zapata Falls.

Three different trips to three different trailheads is a lot of bike riding for six mountains that sit close together. Visiting the eastern trailhead, then the western ones means either crossing a northern mountain pass (Mosca Pass), or going around the entire southern end of the Sierra Blancas (La Veta Pass) – I was willing and needed to do one, but not both.

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