Dean Potter Sets New Half Dome FKT

Dean Potter claims his three arts are climbing, flying and walking lines. But the Yosemite legend, now 43, adds another to the ranks—running, or as he calls it, “ultra climbing.”

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Dean Potter’s Half Dome FKT route. [Photo courtesy of Jennifer Rapp]
Dean Potter’s Half Dome FKT route. Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Rapp.

On May 3, Potter shaved 5 minutes 59 seconds off the previous Fastest Known Time (FKT) for Half Dome in Yosemite National Park—a record held by Kyle Williams with a time of 2:23:51—through a combination of running, speed hiking and free-solo climbing.

“My route proves with the hybridization of climbing and running, major new milestones can be set,” says Potter.

He reached the 8,839-foot summit of Half Dome in 1 hour 19 minutes, completing the trip back to the Valley floor in a total time of 2:17:52. He carried no food, no water and wore approach shoes.

Potter pioneered a different FKT route than the previous record holder. He started his watch at the signpost for the old Sierra Point Trail but left the trail, taking a gully at the base of Grizzly Peak to Snake Dike (5.7)—an eight-pitch, 800-foot climb up the southwest face of Half Dome.

Potter free-soloed the climb, touched the official high-point of Half Dome nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor, then descended via the cable trail. He circled Lost Lake, taking the Mist Trail back to the signpost where he started.

Potter said his inspiration for the FKT came from Scott Jurek, friend and ultra-runner.

“I mentioned that I hike [Half Dome] at least once a week,” Potter said in an interview with Trail Runner Magazine. He told Jurek that he typically made it to the summit in 1:40, while carrying a 10 to 15 pound pack. Jurek planted the idea in Potter’s head that he had a chance at breaking the speed record.

Potter, a regular runner in his youth, hasn’t been much of a runner ever since he started climbing and BASE-jumping, but he often runs as a means of descent or for longer link-ups.

“I’ve always called it ultra climbing, because if you are climbing several peaks, or one really big peak, you are moving continuously for two days straight,” he told Trail Runner.

Potter plans to run the route weekly with a goal of breaking the two-hour mark.

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