March 23, 2019
All I knew about the Cone Peak FKT route before I drove down was that it was a 5.1 mile climb and about 5000 feet of elevation gain. After a stressful week and a late arrival the night before, I decided not to set the alarm, get some extra sleep, and enjoy my coffee by the ocean in the morning. By the time Luke Garten, and I made it to the trail head, it was nearly 11 am. The plan was that Luke would get a head start, and if I didn’t make it to the summit by 2:30 pm he would double back and try to find me. We would continue on after the summit together and run another 15 miles to make a big loop.
Luke left a few minutes before 11, and I started at around 11:20. I started climbing and running as much as I could. I was dripping with sweat, not used to the humidity, but I felt great. The trails in the first mile or two were fairly easy, crossing through some beautiful Redwoods and across a creek.
Before the climb started getting really steep, I passed a couple that was backpacking and they cheered for me and said I was doing great. Luke told me later that he had told them to heckle me and tell me to stop going so slowly. A little while later at an intersection, there was a big group of hikers and Luke had also told them that I was trying to break a record, so they cheered for me. It was a nice boost right before the climb got really steep. The main trail turned there and I continued up a trail that soon petered out. A heavy fog was rolling through so I was unable to see the ocean, but it was still beautiful scenery.
When I had made it nearly to the top of Twin Peak, my watch beeped at me and indicated that I was “Off Course.” I looked around and didn’t see a trail behind me anymore either. I had been trying to follow the ridge line that I was on, and it was hard to orient myself with all of the fog. I looked at the little map on my watch and tried climbing to the top of the ridge, but there was only a mess of dead trees and that was impossible to walk through. Between the contours of the land and the fog, I was having trouble figuring out where I was even with my GPS watch. To make matters more confusing, when I went back down a few hundred feet my watch read “On Course” again, and I knew I hadn’t found the route. I started thinking that my watch was glitching and even the map of where I had been might not be reliable. I ended up roaming around and doing a huge loop back, half of it crawling through manzanita and getting totally scratched up.
Finally I found the trail and figured out where I had missed a turn. I had to start heading south and follow a different ridge line than the one I had been following. I started climbing again. After summiting Twin Peak, the route followed a ridge between the two peaks that eventually turned into a narrow, exposed granite outcropping that I had to do some scrambling over. I wasn’t sure I was following the route correctly, so I hesitated for a couple of minutes, deciding if I wanted to just go for it and risk having to turn around or get into a hairy situation up on that exposed rock. I decided that I would just go for it. I climbed up and over a couple of those outcroppings and finally saw the trail again. The last mile or less was pretty doable climbing, but slower moving than I thought it would be with tired legs.
I had a blast and the route challenged me in multiple ways that I had not anticipated. My legs felt worked from the climb, but it was a fun route and easily done in an afternoon. Luke and I went on and ran a gorgeous loop down and around the other side of the mountain full of wildflowers after we summited Cone Peak. We took the time to take pictures and enjoy the amazing views of the Pacific Ocean after the fog burned off.
Check out my Strava activity here.
Watch this video that Luke Garten made.
Check out the FKT Cone Peak leader board as well as other FKT routes here.