Yuzhu Peak, Photo: Courtesy of Xtrail FKT Race
The Xtrail FKT (Fastest Known Time) Race, which tops out at 20,420 feet above sea level, is the highest trail run in the world and will be held on May 20 on Yuzhu Peak in Tsinghai, China. To provide some perspective, that’s 184 feet higher than Denali and more than 1,000 feet up from Mount Kilimanjaro. Yuzhu Peak is about 10 kilometers east of Kunlun Pass and 160km from Golmud, the nearest population center in western China.
The event is organized by Xtrail Expedition Sports Co., Ltd. Founded in 2014 and based in Beijing, Xtrail organizes inclusive and dynamic options for the community of outdoor racing enthusiasts in China and abroad. Xtrail’s events include professional-level endurance races, including ultras and adventure races, urban outdoor events, and team-building adventure races for businesses and communities.
The Xtrail FKT is 12km in distance; all of it ascending to the summit and then returning to the basecamp start/finish at 18,375 feet. Much of the route is on snow and ice and the competitors will be equipped with crampons and ice axes, and will be on fixed ropes for the upper part of the course.
A map of the 12km course/ascent. Photo: Courtesy of Xtrail FKT Race
The average weather temperature during this time of year is -5 degrees Celsius with the lower portion of the mountain being protected from winds that will likely confront the runners after they get past the first checkpoint’s protective ridge. The slope is relatively steady and safe, which is why Yuzhu is frequently used for high-altitude training in China.
The race field is limited to just ten people, including champion ultrarunners Stevie Kremer and Anna Frost.
After winning the all-women’s FKT event on Yuzhu Peak last year, Stevie Kremer is returning for a second time. Kremer said she loved last year’s upper rope and crampon section because it was new and unique to her. “I have never had to put real, legit mountaineering crampons on before, and since the mountain isn’t especially technical, it made my first-time experience really cool.”
New Zealand’s Anna Frost, winner of both the 2015 and 2016 Hardrock 100, was excited to be one of the athletes invited to compete in the FKT. “I love new challenges, new places and new events, so I was keen straight away. I knew Stevie had been the year before and she really loved it. So I was in, ” said Frost, who has been as high as 18,000 feet in the Himalayas.
Frost believes the FKT will help prepare for this summer’s Hardrock. “Every piece of training helps for Hardrock: steep days, longs days, short days, high days. It is all part of over strength and conditioning,” she said.