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Nick Elson sets new FKT on Half Dome

BC trail runner adds to his considerable string of accomplishments in trail and mountain running

Dean Potter Half Dome Route

In 2015 Dean Potter climbed and descended Half Dome in 2:17:52, using a route that included climbing Snake Dike (a 5.7 rockclimb). This bettered fastest time set running up and down the standard hiking trail which had over the years belonged to a string of highly accomplished trail runners. Last spring I spent a few days checking out his route but quickly realized I would need more time to figure out the convoluted approach and rehearse the technical climbing. This year I returned with Eric who gamely climbed the route with me two days in a row and belayed me as I climbed back and forth across the crux. However, even after the rehearsal I realized that I wasn't very excited about climbing the route unroped while trying to move quickly. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I am no Dean Potter. Instead, I decided to try via the route that Dean descended during his record. It's a bit of a compromise between the circuitous hiking trail and Snake Dike. @ryanghelfi had attempted this route earlier this year (but unfortunately was hampered by an ankle injury) and realized that it was likely the fastest non-technical route up Half Dome. Ultimately, I was able to run up and down in 2:03:52. I reached the summit in 1:20 – almost the same time as Dean. However, the off-trail descent suited my strengths – I had a flashback to Mt. Marathon while flailing wildly down the steep sandy slope – and I was able to improve on Dean's downhill time. While the record provided the impetus to go to Yosemite, ultimately it's an excuse for a personal challenge in a beautiful place. I think I left some room for improvement and I look forward to watching other people take up the challenge. Photo: @skiericcarter @lasportivana @mec

A post shared by Nick Elson (@nicksethelson) on

One of Canada’s most accomplished trail runners with a string of FKT’s to his name, Nick Elson, 34, has added another: Yosemite’s Half Dome, last conquered by the late Dean Potter in 2015.

Nick Elson
Nick Elson

Potter famously scaled Half Dome in 2:17:52 in a combination of climbing and running. Elson followed Potter’s descent route in both directions (involving a combination of the hiking trail and the route known as Snake Dike), resulting in the “fastest non-technical route” and an impressive new FKT of 2:03:52.

RELATED: Mountain runner sets speed record on Yosemite’s Half Dome

Elson’s Instagram story tells it all–except, as fellow trail runner Gary Robbins pointed out in a tweet, the sheer athleticism it took to pull it off. 


Ten days after Potter set the 2015 record, he and friend Graham Hunt were killed in a wingsuit accident, also in Yosemite.