Half Dome with sunrise

Speed records, also called fastest known time (FKT) in the running world, are becoming more and more popular.

Canadian Nick Elson, 34, has claimed the speed record for a fast lap up and down Half Dome in Yosemite.

Dean Potter set the record at 2:17:52 back in 2015 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.

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

“With hardcore rock and ice climbing and high-altitude alpinism ingrained in his DNA, Nick Elson is poised to become a world-class force in organized mountain running events,” said Squamish climber Rich Wheater.

“But more so, his primary interest in wilderness adventure hints that his potential will likely be realized in the world’s great mountain ranges, far from any crowds.”

Elson is also credited with helping save Adam Campbell’s life in 2016 when Campbell suffered life threatening injuries during a mountain run in British Columbia.

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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