Jack Kuenzle of Roxbury, CT, on Sunday set a new Fastest Known Time (FKT) for ascending Mount Hood, OR, by any means and also for Mount Hood round trip by any means.
The endurance athlete smashed the previous ascent record of 1h23m set by Alex King, who ran, by seven minutes, completing his climb in 1h16m. From base to summit was a lung-busting 5,380-feet over just under seven miles.
He then preceded to ski down for a total round trip time of 1h31m, beating the previous FKT of 1h44m set by Jason Dorais on skis. Check out his Strava activity here.
Kuenzle is no stranger to bagging FKTs, he has sixteen of them worldwide to his name. These range from the fastest ascent of Mt Shasta, CA, in the USA, to four round trips in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The description below from his Instagram:
Set the by any means ascent and round trip records on Mount Hood yesterday. Skinned/booted up (5,380 ft) in 1:16:40, breaking @alexkingruns 1:23:41 running ascent record, and skied round trip in 1:31:31, breaking @jasondorais 1:44:03 ski round trip record. In a funny coincidence, it appears Jason and I used the same line skis, boots, and bindings on this effort.
In my opinion, this is what skimo racing is all about. Ski mountaineering. Racing in the backcountry is full tilt. Moving fast through unmitigated no fall terrain, picking lines, and optimizing gear, it’s exciting and mentally engaging. Unlike 99% of running, skiing allows you to truly draw your own path through the mountains. Why then would we restrict our competition largely to ski resorts? Why wouldn’t we race our greatest mountains? Some of this is HYOH, but I think it’s important athletes coming into the sport know that racing can be, is best IMO, conducted outside of organized events. Further, competition on these routes makes these times real.
Skimo will be in the @olympics in 2026. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but right now I want nothing to do with an organization that kowtows to the PRC. Fuck the IOC.
Simultaneously, round trip ski records are an enormous headache. They are massively conditions dependent. Optimum conditions on the up are often not best for the down and any choice is going to involve compromise. A competitive time on anything in the continental U.S. is going to require acclimatizing. Hood required more patience and discipline than any effort I’d done before. But I think this is skimo competition in its purest form. We don’t have to follow the euro model. I’d love if some of the North American hitters, like @camfromcb, @tomgoth, @john_gaston1, etc, would come and throw down up here. With a hefty dose of snow in the last couple weeks, Shasta and Hood are both in for skiing and will be for a bit.
Big thanks to Wes and Mike for working traffic at the gates, to Ben Americus and Jason for their beta and help on the route, to Jaron at @thebackcountry for rush, freehand mounting my bindings back in January, and to everyone who was climbing Hood yesterday who let me by.
And another one from his Strava:
Mount Hood ascent record by any means 1:16:40
Previous Alex King (running) 1:23:41
Mount Hood round trip by any means 1:31:31
Previous Jason Dorais (skiing) 1:44:03
Alex King had the ascent record, he started physically on the asphalt in the parking lot. Due to recent snow, there was a 5-6 ft wall around the lot. He OK’d me starting on top of the snow bank with my skis on versus in the lot slick and having to step up and put my skis on. I started as far down the cliff as I reasonably could have. I estimate that this cut 2-3 seconds off his route and is worth mentioning.
Another admin thing, FKT.com guidelines state that anyone meeting you on course is a form of support. Technically, therefore, this is supported. I didn’t check with Jason, but I feel the informal rules for being his record are anyone you want meeting you on course or blocking, but no material or physical aid. I had two friends stage at the base of the gates and ensure they were clear when I came. Despite that there was a dude wedged in the worst spot on both the up and down haha. Fortunately, he was very nice and let me pass but it was tight. My friends obviously cheered me on but didn’t give me anything or help with my transition. So technically supported but not completely.
This was mentally so hard. I came up here in January hoping to do this and it was too icy in the gates. This is probably obvious, but as more snow falls the conditions in the gates improve (wider and less ice) and the angle gets less steep. But this isn’t linear and there are other factors. I’ve been watching the weather ever since and this was the first real good window. It’s snowed over 100 inches here in the last three weeks up here and that definitely helped. To anyone attempting this, the conditions in the gates very wildly, I hit in January and it was like WI2 and tricky on race crampons and light tools. Sometimes you can get away without crampons or axe.
Like for Shasta, I was well acclimatized for this. I came straight up from mammoth and slept at timberline parking lot starting Thursday night. Did a practice lap Friday and then sat around jittery all day Saturday.
What gear to take was a huge consideration. Jason Dorais did not use crampons and only a whippet. I ranted about the whippet on my Shasta activity, so I felt it was axe or nothing. On the crampons, I decided regardless of conditions I would bring crampons so I could move faster. Same with the axe. I was able to run from the summit to the top of the gates and couldn’t have done that without both. I also couldn’t do that in January.
This effort is tricky on conditions especially. You want it to be warm enough that the snow softens, but not so much that you’re punching in though or sinking. The bigger issue is the shedding up top. If it’s too warm then ice will be falling down the gates and it’s impossible to get up.
Despite the high at 9,800 being 39 degrees with light winds, I didn’t notice any softening. I started at 9:48 ish. I talked to Ben Americus who started punching through while skiing later in the day, so I’m happy I started when I did. Predominant condition was windboard. Probably would have been slightly better without the high winds on Friday. Saturday was quite warm but didn’t produce any ice/sun crust except for immediately below the gates.
Took the beat in/groomed ish climbers trail from the lot to Palmer. 400 ft above that was no skinner just going like straight fall line up windboard. Shitty from here to DK. Windboard and postholed skinner. DK to Hogsback was best skinner I’ve seen there, a couple of techy post holed sections. Far side of the hogsback I went to poles and crampons, dumped skis and pulled axe at gates. Ski down I just took it easy. Skied from immediately below gates. Not always possible but saves at least a minute or two (versus upper hogsback). Cut two minutes off Jason descent but I think that came from my summit to gates split. Ski was only marginally faster than a casual lap, it was variable and punchy above Palmer and I almost fell twice. I knew I had the record I just couldn’t crash. Fast below Palmer, although lots of people to swerve around.
It is possible to ski from the top of old chute but definitely think it’s slower.