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Stewart Green

Grand Teton Ascent & Descent Record Broken and Rebroken in 10 Days

By August 23, 2012

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On August 12, Sunday, 24-year-old Spanish mountaineer and trail runner Kílian Jornet Burgada broke Bryce Thatcher's 29-year-old speed record on the 13,770-foot Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park.

Jornet ran up and down the Grand via the Owen-Spalding Route in 2 hours 54 minutes and 1 second, shaving 12 minutes off Thatcher's record, which was set in August 26, 1983. The day before, Jornet had climbed the Grand Teton with Swedish runner Emelie Forsberg, who set a new women's record of 3 hours 51 minutes on the mountain.

Jornet's record, however, was tainted because of his use of shortcuts, which are allowed in European mountain races. Earlier in August before his Grand Teton ascent, Jornet had run in the Speedgoat 50K Race at Snowbird in Utah, and although he finished in first place, the prize money was awarded to the second place finisher because Jornet had cut switchbacks, which is illegal in American trail running. On mountain races in the United States like the Pikes Peak Marathon, cutting switchbacks is cheating and offenders are disqualified.

Bryce Thatcher's 1983 time was established without shortcuts and cutting switchbacks on the trail, a tactic which lengthens the route and adds minutes to the mountain runner's time. Jornet apparently did not cut switchbacks on his ascent, sticking to the trail, but on the descent he ran downhill using whatever shortcuts were available. Three days after Jornet's record-setting ascent, the Jenny Lake Climbing Rangers wrote on their blog: "Climbers and hikers are reminded that short-cutting causes erosion and signficant resource damage, and may be cause for citation by a backcountry ranger. Please remain on the well travelled and marked trails in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park."

The gauntlet was, however, thrown down. Yesterday, August 22, Andy Anderson, a climbing ranger from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, broke Jornet's short-lived record by dashing up the Owen-Spalding Route in 2 hours 53 minutes 2 seconds from the Lupine Meadows trailhead, 59 seconds faster than Jornet. The difference is that Anderson stayed on the trail up and down the Grand Teton and used no shortcuts to set the new record. Last year Anderson ran up Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2 hours 2 minutes 54 seconds round-trip via the North Face route (5.4).

As a follow-up to setting his old record on the Grand, Jornet and Forsberg entered the 26-mile-long Pikes Peak Marathon this past Sunday, August19. In this great mountain running race, Jornet bested almost 800 other runners, finished in first place in 3 hours 40 minutes 26 seconds, while Forsberg won the come-from-behind women's race in four hours 28 minutes 7 seconds. Jornet called the race an "amazing experience" and "one of the three best marathons in the world." He was, however, over 25 minutes off Matt Carpenter's Pikes Peak round-trip marathon course record.

Photograph above: National Park climbing ranger Andy Anderson ran up the Grand Teton in 2:53:02 on August 22, 2012 without cutting switchbacks. Photograph © Harvey Lloyd/Getty Images.

Comments

August 27, 2012 at 12:24 pm
(1) Joe says:

About 3 hours to the top of the Grand Teton climbing around 6,000 vertical feet and scrambling on rock is very impressive!

How does the descent work on the Grand for these high speed climbers? Do they go up and down the same route or rappel off the top section on someone’s rope s taken up earlier?

October 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm
(2) HOKIES8653 says:

What is the record for the number of times someone has summited the Grand?

May 31, 2013 at 11:37 pm
(3) Pete Hardman says:

“Bryce Thatcher’s 1983 time was established without shortcuts and cutting switchbacks”

The top three record holders all used different routes. Bryce used trail shortcuts that are not allowed today but were allowed back then. The trail has changed. And, of course, mountain conditions are always changing.

Jornet’ is probably the best of the bunch given his ability to run hard day after day. Anderson had a great run and Thatcher broke the mold but my money would be on Jornet if they ever faced off in a race up the Grand Teton side by side when each was at their peak performance level.

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