Nick Elson sets new FKT on Half Dome

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

June 14th, 2018 by | Posted in Trail Running | Tags: , , , , ,

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

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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.