Fastpacking differs from ultralight backpacking to me (although the line is indeed blurry) in one major way: the brisk movement through terrain is most likely the only objective. There’s rarely a large camping/cooking/hanging out portion of a fastpack. Instead it’s all about that forward motion: fastpacking is a multi-day, unsupported run.
It’s best to be as prepared beforehand for the adventure, and get your gear dialed in as best as possible. Part of this dialing in is picking out what to bring, as well as how to pack it. I’ll be focusing on the latter idea in this post.
Not at all inspired by Semi-Rad’s Fridays Inspiration (not at all, nope), I started to collect some things that I found inspiring throughout the week out there as well – and we can all use something to motivate us:
Nutrition is a difficult subject for me to broach, as I don’t feel as if I’m an expert on the subject to give advice to others. But, I can share the strategies that I personally take when doing my projects, and invite you to use it as a model for your own experiments. What I cover in this article is for unsupported, take no prisoners, as fast you can fastpacks on difficult mountainous terrain. Pack space is at a premium and the total weight is something you try to keep at a minimum. This will not be advice for an ultralight backpacking trip, which is a different beast altogether. No stopping to prepare a meal, no stove.
Scrambling! Joyously moving on easy rock routes. In Boulder, we have a King’s ransom of big rocks to fumble about on and there’s a lifetime of routes to tick. The Flatirons are one of Boulder’s most iconic natural wonders. It’s somewhat impossible to roll into to town and not take a moment to look out west and imagine wandering in/out/around the various crags. Such a playground we have.
The Sportiva Mutant is my personal Greatest Of All Time trail runner – and it’s a good chance, it’s yours too. Sock-like upper, tons of cush., knobby outsole, and sticky as all get out rubber. They’re my go-to shoe for any on or off trail adventure, be it a run, a fastpack, or a backpack. This is the shoe I used for my Tour of the Highest Hundred, and Sangres Range Ridge Traverse, as well as many other mountain adventures.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t like modifying and customizing them, just like I do most of my gear. Here are some of the things I do:
Pinned. In front of me, like plated back spikes of a malevolent dragon, was a sheer tower of rock twelve feet high, overhanging on all sides, 300-foot drops to the west and east, and no obvious way to climb up, over, then down to the next spire. How many more of these I would have to surmount was uncertain, but I’d already climbed over three of them. I told myself – perhaps in an attempt to keep calm, that it’s good I’m continuing to go forward, because there’s just no way I was going to be able to reverse the moves previous to get back down to the safer ground I left behind.
The mountains along the Continental Divide provide the backdrop to the city I live in: Boulder, CO. From town, nothing can be seen beyond their sheer, rocky, glacier-choked east faces and the ridgeline itself invites one to come explore their craggy features, beacoup exposure, and long expanses of carpeted-in-tundra plateaus.
From Milner Pass located in Rocky Mountain National Park, and Berthoud Pass closer to I-70, one will find over 50 named points and peaks. These passes are about 45 miles apart as the crow flies. No other paved roads are found between these two passes and no other roads – paved or otherwise, can be crossed via motor vehicles. The rest is mostly National Park and Designated Wilderness. The wandering ridge, if followed exactly at its apex, is around 75-80 miles long.
I was surprised to find in my research that there hasn’t been a recorded report of anyone traversing this section of ridge proper by foot. This seems extremely hard to believe, as the concentration of runners, backpackers, mountaineers, and world-class climbers in the area is very high, and the line itself is obvious. It takes a special blend of ultra-running fitness and technical climbing skill to be able to safely traverse the ridge.