Ascent of Mount Flume on 2009-09-04

Climber: Kevin Tilton

Others in Party:Ben Nephew
Date:Friday, September 4, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Flume
    Location:USA-New Hampshire
    Elevation:4328 ft / 1319 m

Ascent Trip Report

Let me start by saying that this record attempt was tougher than most races that I have done, both physically and mentally, but a lot of fun at the same time.

The Pemi Loop is one of those grand challenges that hikers and trail runners in the Northeast can look to as an epic adventure and a test of their abilities. 31+ miles of rugged trails with 9000+ feet of elevation gain will test anyone's abilities. I did my first Pemi Loop in 2005 just to see if I could do it ( and ran 8:14:14. I bonked big time going from Garfield to Lafayette, but thought I put in a pretty good effort. Later that summer Alex Kahl ran around 7:25 and set a new record. Last September Charles Dona ("Youngblood") ran 7:26:31. Back in early August a newcomer on the seen, Ryan Weltz ("Farmer") recorded a 7:05:32 ( and left me and a few others a little shocked that anyone could run the loop that fast. I received an e-mail shortly after from my Inov8 and CMS teammate Ben Nephew, a 9 time winner of the Escarpment Trail race in New York, ultra runner, and owner of a sub 1:07:50 PR at the Mt. Washington Road Race. Ben was fresh off a 16th place finish at the IAU World Trail Challenge in Serre Chevalier, France and was looking for a new challenge. I just came back from an 8th place finish at the Pikes Peak Ascent in Colorado, and had done a bunch of 3-4 hour mountain runs in the Whites all summer. We both had Labor Day weekend free and decided to give it a go.

Lincoln Woods to Mt. Flume (5.5 miles, 1:09:47, 12:35 pace)
We headed out from Lincoln Woods a little after 8AM and headed out on the Wilderness Trail on our way to the Osseo Trail. I had done the Pemi Loop two other times, but both times were counter-clockwise. Ben talked me into getting the majority of the climbing out of the way first, so up the Osseo we went. The lower part of the trail is pretty good running, including a lot of the uphill. Ben convinced me to slow up on the upper section with the ladders, as we would need our energy later. We hit the summit of Flume where we fueled up and ditched out shirts due to the warm temperatures.

Mt. Flume to Lafayette (5.0 miles, 1:13:52, 14:46 pace)
Clear skies and a light breeze greeted us as we headed across the ridge on our way to the high point of the loop. We started to see more people as we passed Little Haystack and power hiked our way up Lafayette. Both Ben and I were still feeling good, so we made a quick refueling stop and made our way towards Garfield.

Lafayette to Garfield (3.5 miles, 1:00:41, 17:20 pace)
The Garfield Ridge Trail is one of the most grueling trails I've ever tried to run. This would be the first time I would be relatively fresh while running it though, so I figured it wouldn't be as daunting. Wrong. The ups and downs on this trail never end. I was so glad to go up the steep cone of Garfield as I knew there would be no useless bumps to go over. On one of those useless bumps I ran into my friend Marc Chauvin who was guiding some younger guys. He urged us to not stop to talk and to go for the record. He also mentioned something about going for the Presidential Figure 8 record. That's another level of insanity!

Garfield to Galehead Hut (2.9 miles, 53:28, 18:26 pace)
After a quick refuel at the Garfield summit, we encountered some wet rock coming down from Garfield, but found a lot of runnable terrain on the way to Galehead Hut. We were both getting tired, but just kept our nose to the grindstone and put one foot in front of the other.

Galehead Hut to Bondcliff/Twinway Jct. Trail (2.8 miles, 55:06, 19:41 pace)
At the hut we spent a good ten minutes draining our bottles and refilling. Ben loaded up on four cups of lemonade and I ate a Larabar. We also threw in Nuun caplets in our water to help with the impending cramping we were bound to have on our way down on the rest of the loop. The climb up South Twin was a bear. I had never been up that trail in that direction, and I don't intend on doing it again. From the top of South Twin we knew we would have to boogie to break 7 hours and break the record. Ben's downhill running ability on technical terrain really showed here. I had to really concentrate to stay with him in this section. When we hit the Bondcliff/Twinway trail junction we were both tired, but in cruise control mode, so we didn't bother stopping for fuel and made our way to Bond.

Bondcliff/Twinway Jct. to Mt. Bond (1.3 miles, 18:34, 14:17 pace)
Once again we stepped it up a notch as Ben put the hammer down on the downhill and we pushed the up the best we could knowing that it was the last real climb of the day. I took one last gel at the summit, And I led the way down towards Bondcliff.

Mt. Bond to Wilderness Trail (5.6 miles, 1:04:15, 11:26 pace)
As you can tell by our pace, there is a lot of downhill and we were really moving. It was a little depressing passing Bondcliff without taking any pictures, but we really wanted the record. Once we got below treeline I continued leading as fast as I could. In hindsite I should have let Ben lead this section as he's faster on the downhills and I could have tucked in behind him.

Wilderness Trail to Lincoln Woods (4.7 miles, 29:51, 6:21 pace)
As we made the turn of the Bondcliff Trail and onto the Wilderness Trail, I looked at my watch and noticed that we had about 25 minutes left to break 7 hours and about 30 minutes left to break the record. I ran this section of trail in 34:11 in 2005 and wasn't sure it would be possible to run that fast, let alone faster with 26+ miles under our belt. Ben had other thoughs. He didn't hesitate as he made the turn and just started hammering. I had a hard time keeping up at first, but I eventually settled in behind him and took over pacing duties after a mile. He asked me "Are we running sub 6's?" I stated maybe, but that was all that I could get out. We upped the pace a little as we left the Wilderness and hit the wider trail. As we passed the Osseo Trail I told Ben we had an optimistic 10 minutes to go. He wasn't too happy as he looked at his watch and realized we wouldn't break 7 hours. We kept hammering anyways. Ben dropped his pack half a mile from the finish and picked up the pace. I went with him and we finished in 7:04:47! Nothing like running 7+ hours to beat the record by less than a minute. We finished the last 4.7 miles on the Wilderness Trail at 6:21 per mile pace, which is the equivalent of a 19:41 5k, but over rotted railroad ties.

I don't usually say never about anything, but I find it hard to believe that ANYONE will break 7 hours any time soon. I don't mean to say that to sound like an egomaniac, but Ben and I ran as hard as we could and don't have many places where we could have looked back and said we ran faster. I towed Ben on the ups and he towed me on the downs. We ran flat out the last 5 miles. It is going to take one hell of an effort to beat that one.

Total Loop, 31.3 miles, 7:04:47, 13:34 pace
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail

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