Chasing Ryan Atkins

Recently I went to Lake Placid with a group of women with the goal of completing the Great Range Traverse. There was talk of run/hiking it or just hiking it, but the one thing we all agreed on was that we would take the same course that Ryan Atkins did his FKT on. Chasing Ryan Atkins became a little of bit of my own inside joke as I left my comfort zone at the air BandB.

When your girlfriend asks you to go hiking in Lake Placid, make sure you clarify what that actually means. I envisioned a mountainous day on the trails, with many ups and downs but wasn’t quite prepared for bouldering. Ryan Atkins completed the Great Range Traverse in 5 hours and 45 mins (give or take a second or two). This particular and popular FKT route includes 9 summits all over 4,600M in elevation. The terrain rugged and very little of it is actually runnable.

5 girls showed up on that day dressed as trail runners, loaded with packs full of food, emergency supplies and hiking poles. We estimated we could definitely do it in 15 hours, but were confident we would cover the 30km in closer to 10 hours. We started the long ascend up the first summit and by time we had reached our third summit it was clear we’d be lucky to do this in 15 hours. We got some very strange looks from the others hikers who were dressed in appropriate hiking gear for the day; long pants, poles, jackets and much larger packs. These hikers had little to no mud on them, while not even halfway through our day we were caked in mud.

The Great Range Traverse has a lot of beautiful things to see and you can spend years summiting all the mountains in the area. Some people will come for the pure leisure activity of being surrounded by nature, while others will come to challenge their own limits and abilities. Our group of 5 hovered over both of these categories, stopping for short lunch breaks, but didn’t really take the time to smell the beautiful unique arctic flowers. However we still weren’t moving quite as fast as the FKT guys/gals have in the past. It took us the same amount of time to get 1/3 of the way done as it took for Ryan Atkins to complete the entire range. As we crawled up and over boulders and summited exposed rock face, we couldn’t understand how this could be possible. It became the statement of the day, after every challenging climb or crawl space, we would ask out loud, how did he do this?

The experience from start to finish was amazing. I learned a lot about bouldering (something I’ve have no interest in learning about, but now see it as a necessary life skill everyone should have) and I learned about my own ability to push past fear. Throughout the day of hiking, I was never afraid I was going to die. There are a lot of mistakes that can happen while playing in the mountains and I was happy to be a group of women that took safety seriously. We ate regularly and stayed hydrated to ensure our bodies would hold up. If you’re not fuelled properly, you can’t possible make good decisions if things go south. However, I did have a moment, a very real and frightening moment. I’m afraid of heights, and exposed rock face is not exactly a comfortable place to be. As I was meticulously guided down the mountain by one of the other girls, I needed a min mental break halfway down Saddlebacks. I sat in this small groove in a rock and I started to feel the vertigo creeping up on me. I looked up, I had come too far down the mountain, I looked down and it was still a very steep climb down. I was mentally stuck and for a few minutes while my girlfriends caught up to us, I was panicking.

Post – Panic

This was my moment. I had no other choice but to commit to climbing down and push past my fear of heights. With just a few seconds of deep breathing and some very rational thought, I was able to start moving my limbs. Once again with the assistance our “team” and Jenn who had all the bouldering experience, I safely made it off Saddlebacks. I had literally imploded my comfort zone and felt like I had conquered yet another fear that day.

The rest of the day was great, but as the daylight was quickly coming to an end we had to make some big decisions. Me, Jenn and Ashley decided we were too tired to safely climb big Haystack and waited for the other two girls to go up and down. We all collectively decided it would be very unsafe to complete Mount Marcy and instead just headed down the mountain on the very long 9 mile trek back to the parking lot.

For most of the girls, the goal was complete the Great Range Traverse and even without the Mount Marcy summit they technically did complete. The hikers are in a long debate about whether Mount Marcy is actually part of the range. I’m just a mountain girl and whether I had gone up only one mountain or 20 mountains I was just happy to be where I feel closest to nature. Overall as a team of 5 we finished the day in just over 15 hours and it was one of the most memorable 15 hours of my life.

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