October 8, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Katherine Moynihan | Photo by Isaac Yee
“Yakking your brains out” and “pure euphoria” are phrases that seldom go together. But, that’s exactly how one describes the journey it took for Isaac Yee ’24 to set the fastest known summit bid of Marble Mountain in the Sangre de Cristo Range last Saturday, Oct. 2.
Yee is a passionate trailrunner who is no stranger to steep slopes and high elevation. Just this fall, Yee completed the Barr Trail — a 26-mile round trip trek up Pikes Peak — numerous times.
While running the Barr a few weeks ago, Yee decided he would try to take trail running to the next level. Yee, along with his trail running partner James Lauriello, created an ambitious plan to “set a new line” in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness and in the process do it in the fastest known time.
A lot of thought went into preparing for the run. Yee and Lauriello wore small running vests, which carried a liter of water, bars and energy gummies, the basics (phone, flashlight, batteries), an emergency bivy sack in case of the need to camp on the mountain and a GARMIN emergency beacon, in case it all went south.
Last Saturday, Lauriello and Yee woke up at 5 a.m. and drove two hours into the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Their line was 14-miles long to the top and back, with a total of 4,705 feet elevation gain. For the first mile and a half the trail was a country road, but sometimes, bodies don’t cooperate.
Yee said he was “yakking his brains out” and failing to keep down his food. Despite feeling sick, the pair continued trekking upwards through grassy tundra. Eventually they crossed the tree line. A few miles in, after the pair arrived at a ridge, a snowstorm came in, which had major consequences.
“The visibility dropped to like ten meters. We couldn’t see each other… it got super windy,” Yee said. The pair spent time debating whether or not to go back down. The snow and wind made it difficult to communicate and find a way to the summit.
“We were constantly re-evaluating the situation,” Yee said.
Unable to see the summit, despite following GPS maps, Yee and Lauriello felt as though they were aimlessly traversing the spine of the mountain. “It was really demoralizing,” Yee said. “This was probably the most challenging hike because of the snowstorm.”
Luckily, the two had appropriate gear and spirit to persevere to the top. Armed with micro spikes, poles and waterproof jackets, Yee and Lauriello were able to bypass the ice, snow, and rocks near the top.
“The traverse was really sketch, but there was never a moment when we didn’t think we could make it,” Yee said.
Finally, the GPS watch notified Lauriello and Yee that they had made it to the top. “I let out a huge yell,” Yee said. He describes the moment as “pure euphoria.” However, the joy did not last long. They took a few pictures and high fived, but quickly the pair began preparing for their journey back down.
The cloud visibility got worse during the descent and Yee and Lauriello got lost. “We were zigzagging, going in circles. Running up and down. There was one time on the ridge when we realized we were on the wrong side, so we had to turn back and go back up, ” Yee said.
At 11,000 feet the weather cleared, and the woods became visible again. Yee and Lauriello took some photos to commemorate the moment. The home stretch was celebratory. Nearly six hours later, the two felt a huge sense of relief.
“It was definitely one of the most rewarding hikes,” Yee said. After piling back into the car, the pair celebrated their accomplishment by going out for coffee, eating a large meal, and taking a long nap.
It wasn’t until Sunday morning that the runners knew for sure they had set a record. They submitted a report of their run, including the raw GPS file, to fastestknowntime.com, which is a website that keeps track of the fastest times for all the known trails in the world.
“You can’t be sure no one in the past 200 years has done this, that’s why it is the fastest known time,” Yee said . They received approval for their entry last Sunday morning. Yee admitted that the pair was “pretty stoked” after confirming their accomplishment. Their record-breaking time up and down the mountain was five hours, 48 minutes, and 36 seconds.
Will Yee consider running this route again? With certainty, he replied, “In the summer, but not now.” He may be done for the season, but Yee seems intent on doing more when the weather cooperates. Until then, he may have to settle for paths that have been run before.