On June 5, ultrarunner and former US Navy SEAL Jack Kuenzle set a new fastest known time (FKT) on Denali, the largest mountain in North America (formerly Mount McKinley). He completed the challenging climb from base camp to the summit and back in an astonishing 10 hours, 14 minutes and 57 seconds, surpassing the previous record by an hour and a half held by Karl Egloffan Ecuadorian/Swiss climber.
To conquer the terrain, Kuenzle employed a combination of running, skiing and skinning techniques. Prior to his FKT attempt, he had been using an altitude tent set at 10,000-12,000 feet for six months to acclimatize to the altitude he would contend with on Denali. Kuenzle recognized the potential challenges and dangers, as experienced climbers had previously encountered high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which led to rescues and even fatalities.
During the planning stage, Kuenzle sought advice from former Denali record-holders Kilian Jornet and Egloff. Although Kuenzle broke the FKT for the round trip, Egloff still holds the record for the ascent, completing it in seven hours and 34 minutes. Kuenzle accomplished the ascent in seven hours and 54 minutes, and the descent in two hours and 20 minutes, using skis.
Originally from California, the 27-year-old former cyclist transitioned to ultrarunning in 2018, achieving notable results such as second place in the Lost Boys 50-miler and the Hellgate 100K in 2019. He has since shifted his focus to targeting FKTs on mountainous terrains, including Mount Rainier, completed in an impressive three hours and four minutes, and Mount Shasta, completed in just two hours and 30 minutes.
In September 2022, Kuenzle set a record for the Bob Graham Round in the Lake District of the UK, covering a challenging 66-mile loop with an elevation gain of 27,000 feet and 42 fells (peaks) in 12 hours and 23 minutes.
Kilian Jornet’s shoe brand, NNormal, celebrates Canadian launch
The current women’s FKT for the mountain stands at 21 hours and six minutes, set by Katie Bono in 2017. However, ultrarunner and skier Meredith Edwards, a 38-year-old athlete, is preparing to challenge that record later this month.