The Pawnee-Buchanan Loop has become a classic among ultra runners and backpackers. It’s about 27 miles long, includes two 12,000-foot passes over the Continental Divide, and the starting trailhead is a 60-minute drive from my front door.
(Side note: To spice up this loop, use the Pfiffner Traverse to connect Buchanan and Cascade Creeks, rather than the all-trail route around the west side of Thunderbolt Peak. Read my route description.)
Yesterday I set a new FKT for the Pawnee-Buchanan Loop, in 4:46:32. The time is barely faster than Anton Krupicka’s 4:50 from 2010, but I’m delighted to be even in his zip code. He was running very well that summer, with a second-place finish at Western States (in the legendary showdown with Kilian and Geoff Roes) and later a CR at White River. He could have run faster that day, I’m sure. Even so, his time has stood for seven years.
My 4:46 will absolutely not stand the test of time. I could drop another 15-20 minutes by being fresh (not fatigued from two 50k’s in the preceding five days), by giving it more than just a “moderate” effort, or by avoiding a soaking rain squall on the west side of Pawnee Pass. And someone with more talent (e.g. Sage) could drive up tomorrow and handily set a new standard.
Big picture, I’m not excited about this FKT because it’s a FKT. Rather, it’s a confidence-boosting data point for my current fitness, three weeks out from UTMB. In the Alps, I’m predicting a RRR100 or Boston Marathon type of performance, where I wildly outperform my seed placement and surprise just about everyone (except David Roche).
Any map recommendations for the area? My wife and I are planning a 2 day hike. We are coming from KC and the ranger station is VERY worried about us. 1) doing it in 2 days and 2) doing it at all because of many recent issues they’ve had to deal with regarding altitude sickness.
The Trails Illustrated map for this area would be sufficient, as the trails are very well established and the signage is decent. If you want more detail, print out a custom map set using Caltopo and the 2016 USFS layer.