Denali in a day. That’s what was on my mind all week leading up to the 6th annual Climbathon. That’s 20,320 vertical feet of climbing in a single day. Not even a day, ten hours! The North Face hiking trail is 2.2 miles long and 2,000 vertical feet tall, runners can complete the “Denali-in-a-day Challenge” by completing 10 laps up the trail plus an additional 320 feet up Mighty Mite, which, for the record, is an insanely hard task after finishing 10 laps.
Climbathon is the brain child of Alyeska Mountain Manager Brian Burnett. This guy thought to himself one day “hey, let’s see how many times we can hike this mountain in one day.” And he made it happen. Getting mountain runners, trail runners, UAA cross-country members and triathletes from all over Alaska to rally behind this idea of holding the gnarliest mountain running event in the state didn’t take much convincing, they showed up for the first event in droves and packed the 6th annual event as well. The rules for Climbathon are simple. Hike up, tram down, repeat. Climbers have ten hours to complete this cycle as many times as they physically can. The record is 12 laps which is mind numbing.
The scene at the tram base at 8:30 am is that of excitement and anticipation. Climbers stretch, jog and get ready as the rest of the field trickles in for registration. At 9:00 am Brian Burnett calls everyone to the starting line and gives a brief speech about the nature of this year’s event. For the 2013 Climbathon Alyeska Resort teamed up with Globethon and Let Every Woman Know – Alaska to raise money for GYN cancer research and treatment facilities. with $48,000 raised for this event you could call it a successful day from the get go. On your mark, get set, CLIMB! Burntski’s call out sends the field running up the trail. For the next ten hours they will all be tested to the max to achieve ultimate vertical for the day. Throughout the day family members and friends climb a lap or two next to the different participants and shout out encouraging words. In total, 250 people came out to climb and raise money, even a black bear took part in the event although he was chased off by climbers and a patrol.
Fast forward to nine hours and fifty minutes in, there are exhausted climbers laying everywhere, on the deck and in GLX eating anything that resembles food trying to regain the thousands of calories burned in such a short period of time. Some climbers who are just completing their tenth lap are being faced with the additional challenge of Mighty Mite for the additional 320 feet of vertical to claim “Denali in a day.” Climbing Mighty Mite doesn’t seem like a challenge but after a ten hour straight up hike it takes a strong willed person to force themselves up the steep, short pitch. At the end of the day 250 climbers cranked out more than 1,700 total laps, over 2.5 million vertical feet of climbing and $48,000 was donated to a great cause.