Posted by: pointlenana | May 19, 2017

Issy Alps 100M Attempt


The Quick Version

  • 100 mile point-to-point (mostly) run from Mailbox Peak near North Bend to High Point/Tiger Mountain
  • Unsupported solo – carry everything from start to finish, refill water from streams, no one with me
  • Starting Saturday May 20 around 4am Seattle time, live tracking here
  • Goals: 1) Finish 2) Finish in daylight the second day 3) Fast time

If you want more:

Local ultra runner George Orozco figured out the Issy Alps 100 course a few years back and tracks finishers for 50k, 100k, and 100 mile versions.  Since this became A Thing, 8 different people have completed the 100 mile course. (There are more than 8 finishes, since some people – and in particular Van Phan – have done it more than once).

George tracks finishes in different styles:

  • Supported – friends meet you along the way with supplies and/or run portions of the course with you.  This means lighter packs and help with stuff like route-finding when your brain tires after being awake for too long.
  • Self-supported – no company but you can stash supplies along the course so you don’t have to carry as much in your pack.
  • Unsupported – no company and you carry everything from start to finish except for water, which you get out of streams.  Van Phan and John Barrickman ran together but each supported themselves, so there are also Solo and Team variations on unsupported.

I am going to do this unsupported and solo.

As of now, only 2 people have officially finished Unsupported Solo – one is the only person to have crossed the Grand Canyon 6 times in a continuous push, and the other has climbed Mt. Everest.  Another person, Yitka Winn, made it 99 miles but her attempt ended abruptly at 3am, one mile from the finish, due to a couple creepy encounters.  A 4th person, Richard Kresser, recently did the route backwards but had to skip a hill near the end due to some construction – it’s not clear if that will get counted.  (Richard – who won the Bigfoot 200 mile race in 2016 – does hold the Fastest Known Time for Supported  from an earlier finish.)  The guy finishers intimidate me, but Yitka’s near-finish is the most impressive to me – I’m a little skittish about being out there alone in Twin Peaks land and I’m a guy, presumably with fewer things to worry about.  Yitka is also the one that makes me think this is reasonable for me to try – she and I ran similar times at UTMB which might be comparable.

I will start with a heavier pack with lots of food, and it will gradually get lighter as I eat the contents.  Janet will drop me off at Mailbox Peak early Saturday morning, she’ll pick me up sometime later at High Point, and I’ll be on my own in-between.  It will be the weekend, so I’ll see a fair number of hikers along the way but, for example, it will probably be me alone in the woods Saturday night.

My main goal is to finish.  Beyond that, here are some interesting times (full results here) to know about:

  • 53 hours 26 minutes – the current official Fastest Known Time (FKT) for Unsupported Solo, run by Seth Wolpin last fall.
  • ~42 hours – when it gets dark my second day out.  I’d really rather not be out there a second night.
  • ~40 hours – estimated finish time for Yitka, if she’d been able to run that last mile.
  • 35 hours 41 minutes – the time it took Richard Kresser recently to do most of the course backwards, unsupported and solo.
  • 31 hours 17 minutes – Richard’s Supported FKT.

At some point, someone very fast will do this – Gary Robbins lives up the road – but at the moment there are no insanely fast times.  (Well, maybe I’ll change my mind on that after I’ve tried this.)

36-40 hours seems reasonable for me based on other things I’ve done, but there are lots of unknowns.  How much time will a heavier pack cost me?  Will the two big climbs right at the beginning wreck me for later?  How much time will I spend filtering water?  Can I stay on course, especially in the trickier section coming off of Rattlesnake Ridge?  Will Yitka Winn’s “friends” visit me also?  Will I experience life-threatening crotch chafing?  Etc., etc., etc..

I’ll be carrying a Garmin Inreach partly for my own safety (it has satellite SOS and texting capabilities) but also because it enables people to track me.  Starting Saturday morning, go to my page on the Garmin site and you’ll be able to see my progress.

This is happening faster than I expected.  I got interested about 3 weeks ago – mostly in the context of training for Plain 100 later this summer.  I figured I’d do a lot of recon and pack experiments, and do this in June sometime.  But there’s a recent trailhead closure on the route that makes weekends better, our weekend schedule is complicated for a while, and the weather (after being pretty horrible for many months) looks promising for this weekend.  I think I’ve done adequate recon and prep so I’m going take advantage of the weather.  Snow up high will slow me down a little bit, but that seems better than waiting an unknown time for things to line up again.  I do want to thank Janet for being patient about “all Issy Alps, all the time” the past week or two – getting this done earlier will be good for her too.

One last thing – as near as I can tell, the oldest finisher in any style so far was 47 years old.  I’m 55.  I may lack youth and natural speed but I’m trying to make up for that through bad judgment.  And I’ll be inspired by some other “wise” people I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with in the running world – Bob H, Scott M, Ken T, Gunhild S, Bev A, George S, Roxanne W, Jim E, and Bruce L to name a few.


  1. How very exciting! I hope you have a great experience (or more likely several) and live to tell the many tales. I’ll be tracking as much as I can.

  2. Mark, I hope your timing gets you across from rattlesnake in the daylight! thanks for all the links. great reading! all the best!

    • Alan, that’s exactly the goal. It’s a little tight and the snow on Teneriffe may be pivotal in whether it happens. But it would be nice to get across the river and creek in daylight.

  3. Wow, Thinking of you and wishing you a fantastic 100 miles! This sounds incredible ( in an OMG what a journey sort of way) and will look forward to hearing about your adventure.

  4. Good luck. Have fun!

  5. […] I already posted about what the Issy Alps 100 is.  I didn’t really explain how I got onto this path though.  It all started with signing up for Plain 100 this coming September – 100 miles, no course markings, no aid stations, no pacers, one drop bag about 62 miles through the race.  I signed up and figured I should practice being self-sufficient.  I looked at the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenges and at some point became aware of the Issy Alps runs.  I’d seen those before but it was back when I was still sane, and at the time thought “only crazy people do that”.  Anyway, to cut to the chase, I figured the best way to practice for something intimidating was to try something even bigger and more intimidating – out of the frying pan and into the fire. […]

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