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October 31, 2018

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An FKT Fail is Just Fine by Stephen Kersh

The nice thing about the past is you can, usually, look back on certain events with new found clarity and rationality. Certainly there are occasions where you will forever be delusional (I was definitely the third-best zone defender basketball player on my freshman team) but, for the most part, the ol’ 20-20 adage holds true.

This is all to say I can look back now — with stunning clarity — and see my FKT attempt on Wheeler Peak was doomed. It all started with the IT band woes. If you’ve had to spend anytime in my vicinity over the last few months, please accept this apology: I’m so sorry for only talking about my IT band woes. The woes derailed my training for several weeks and forced me to push back this attempt by one week. Which, LOOKING BACK, is a bit comical because I wasn’t going to be able to gain any more fitness in that one week.

It’s all about the lies we tell ourselves, folks.

Anyways. Because of that extra week, the attempt got pushed into a growing storm system around Taos, New Mexico. My parents, who live, breathe, and monitor weather in New Mexico, tried to tell me it was probably going to be too snowy to attempt the FKT. Like any good son, I bucked their advice, packed up my gear, and hit the road to Wheeler Peak with Sarah (girlfriend) and Ryan (best friend).

When given the opportunity to take advice from a person(s) 30 years your senior, you should heed said advice. As the highway meandered through the Taos Box Canyon and along the Taos Gorge, we finally were greeted by beautiful, gorgeous, fluffy snow-capped peaks. I imagine internally we all knew the attempt was doomed but, since we are such great friends, we lied to one another.

“It’ll be fine!”

“It’s a DUSTING.”

We spent the night about 100-meters away from the trailhead and, honestly, it wasn’t looking so bad. But here is where I can look back with newfound clarity and realize if there was some snow at 9,000 feet, there would a lot of snow at 13,000 feet.

Which there was. The day of the attempt, Sarah and Ryan took off about an hour before me to try and get to the summit for some photo and video. Their expedition was stopped by two Frenchmen who told them there was a foot of untouched snow ahead. The Frenchmen did not want to let me have this FKT.

Ryan called me from the snowfield and effectively put the kibosh on the plan. We soon all met up and hit the road towards Albuquerque without a freshly-minted FKT. 

But, looking back in the most cliché was possible, it reminded me of a few important-ish things.

The first being to maybe avoid green chile the night before any sort of big exercise. The door to the bathroom was a revolving door that morning.

The second being listen to your parents.

And the third being you can pretty much do whatever you want. I decided a few months ago that I wanted to try for this FKT. No one told me to, it wasn’t on a race schedule, and I didn’t really have any help figuring out how to make it happen. It was by no means a herculean effort to put the pieces in place to get the ball rolling, but it did act as a reminder that you’re certainly in control of your reality. Does that make sense? Did I just try to go too deep? Am I in an existential crisis? It doesn’t matter.

And with that, I will leave you in hopes you go forth and set an FKT of your own deciding today.

Stay tuned for Stephen's second FKT attempt at Wheeler Peak next summer. In the meantime, preparing for you own FKT? Don't leave home without the right pair of shorts for the job


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