New Half Dome Running Record (2:30:50 ROUND TRIP by Ryan Ghelfi)

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Half Dome in Profile

Note 1: There's a NEW new Half Dome Running record by Kyle Williams

Note 2: If you're running Half Dome yourself be sure to scroll down to the comments and read all the advice there from other runners. If you have run Half Dome or if you get help from these comments, when you're done come back and add your experiences for others. Also, the Half Dome record is for the round trip, from gauging station to summit and back, not just the uphill leg.

After a near miss in 2006 and bigger miss in 2007, 19 year-old Ryan Ghelfi of Redding, CA, succeeded this year in breaking the Half Dome Trail running record. On Monday, June 16, he left Happy Isles at 6:00am, touched the summit and in a mere 2:30:50 found himself back at Happy Isles, beating the old record, set by Hari Mix, by approximately seven and a half minutes (Mix ran the trail in 2:38:21). Ryan had previously done the run in 2:40, but then was disappointed last year by his 2:48 time and came back this year determined to run harder and smarter.

Since there seems to be some confusion occasionally, that's 2:30:50 for the ROUND TRIP, not just running up. Look at the splits below.

Like most runners, Ryan walked the steep stairs before the top of Vernal Falls, the last bit before Nevada Falls, the sub dome and the cables. He said the hardest part of the run is keeping it together for the last thirty minutes on the uphill part. He says that "It all happens in that section… Mentally that is the hardest part so prepare for that like that is the whole race. It's going to feel slow. And I find that it is very easy to want to give up in that section". Last year, he was on record pace at the "2 miles to go" sign, but lost a lot of time between there and the summit. This year he kept it together to reach the summit in 1:32:54, running the downhill leg in 57:56.

As with previous record holders that I know of, Ryan's run was unsupported, meaning that he carried with him whatever he was going to eat and drink on the trail. He took one liter of water, a couple of Gu packs and some electrolyte tabs. He recommends taking in about 300-400 calories if you can, but he was actually only able to down 200 calories himself. By the way, he carried his water in a Nathan running pack, saying it doesn't bounce around like others. I recently got one as well and have to say that it is the most comfortable way to carry water when running. For me, hip belts bouncing up and down give me serious stomach distress after a couple of hours (though they're great for non-impact sports like skate skiing), typical Camelbaks are too bouncy and carrying water bottles in my hands just wears me out and is not practical on rough trails. So though they're a bit hard to find, definitely look into a Nathan (I'll add some links to this when I get a chance but check out ZombieRunners.com and RunnersWarehouse.com, where I got mine).

Ryan said he thinks if someone really strong heads up there, he could get the time below 2:10 and he added

I wish everybody luck who goes for this record. It has been worth it every time for me, and I hope that I get to try and break a new record again some day soon.

He may well get his wish. Previous record holder Hari Mix said: "I guess this leaves me no choice but to take the record back."

I asked Ryan for some advice for those who might try to beat his record and said he thought a few major factors contributed to his success this year:

  • "For me the big difference was going to college and running on the team [Ryan is on the Southern Oregon University track team]. In high school I was not as consistent with training and I was not being pushed by faster guys."
  • "Also I did a lot of Mt Biking in the month previous to the Half Dome run. I feel that it gave me some added leg strength which makes a huge difference on this run." Though I'm a slug compared to Ryan, I have to say that I find that when I do a lot of hard skiing and get my legs strong, the steps on the Mist Trail seem way, way easier. This run requires a lot more leg power than the typical run.
  • Magic shoes. "I think shoe weight makes a huge difference when you have a mile of vertical. I went from using 15 ounce shoes to using 9 ounce shoes [Innovate trail racers]. Obviously you have to give up some cushion but it is worth it."
  • Being fitter and mentally tougher on the last part of that climb.

He also points out that he's not as fast as Hari Mix in more traditional collegiate races (Ryan's best time in the 10K is 32:02 compared to 28:59 for Mix). Ryan does better at longer distances and probably at rough, steep trails (personally, the steeper and rougher the trail, the more likely I am to be able to keep up with a superior runner). It's not a soft record though. Previous record holders include Hari Mix, a talented collegiate runner at Stanford and Buzz Burrell, one of the elder statesmen of trail running and sponsored runner on the La Sportive Golite running team. Still, Ryan hopes to get his personal time on Half Dome down below 2:20 in the next couple of years and, as I mentioned above, said that he sees the overall record dropping below 2:10 if some really fast runner puts his mind to it. We'll see about that!

In any case, congratulations Ryan!

Some details on Ryan's run:

  • Start and end: the new sign across from the old bridge (at the gauging station in other words). This is the "official" starting point for timed runs on Half Dome.
  • Splits
    • FootBridge- 7:17
    • Gate at Vernal- 17:16
    • Bathrooms above Nevada- 34:04
    • 2 Mile sign- 1:00:28
    • Base of Sub dome- 1:18:20
    • Top- 1:32:54
    • Down time- 57:56
    • Finish- 2:30:50

30 Comments

Half Dome Trail Record

Thanks for the excellent report. And the documentation was excellent too ... with more people doing stuff like this, it's important to accurately record it.

For more of a similar vein: http://adventurerunningblog.com
More traditional mountain running: http://mountainrunningblog.com

My favorite Half Dome Trail entry from the old Yosemite records log:

9:20:00 - Steve Edwards. July 98 ( no water till he cramped up and fell down in a locked up position, then ended up helping a woman out with a twisted ankle).

Thanks for the links

Thanks for the links Buzz (and in case anyone missed it, Buzz held the record on Half Dome before Hari Mix).

BTW, the old Yosemite Records log is still up and functioning, but a bit decrepit. I'm trying to spruce it up for him, but in any case, you can still find it Speedclimbing.com.

Amazing

I was surprised at his time from the bottom of the cables to the top. I assume this includes the jaunt over to the actual apex and not just the top of the cables. My personal best is 9 minutes up the cables. Gotta get there early and go up the outside. 5 1/2 mins down. Years ago, of course.

Can't imagine what his knees go thru on the downhill. ouch.

Rick D.
www.hikehalfdome.com

Basically the high point

There's a fairly obvious high point. I think if you tag that it's okay. In other words, you don't have to locate a specific survey marker. I'll have to ask Ryan what point he uses and that would I guess be the official one since his is the time to beat.

half dome high point

I don't know exactly where I ended. That is to say it wasnt really a specific point. I went well past the cables to where seemed like it was basically the highest point, but I don't even know where the official top is. I could see well into the valley, but really I can't say the exact spot. I guess if I do it again in the future Ill end at a more definable spot.

Well, next time I'm up there,

Well, next time I'm up there, I'll take a photo of the spot that I think of as the "top" that I'm talking about. It seems obvious enough when you're there and since the record has always fallen by five minutes or more, it hasn't changed who the record holder would be. Still better to have an "official" turnaround as records get tighter.

Endurolytes?

I'm not sure which caps Ryan uses, but the main ones that runners use are either Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes or Sustain caps. I use Endurolytes and have nothing but good things to say. If you can't find them just by searching Google, let me know and I'll put up a link.

As for carrying them, you can use one of those little change purses, a film cannister or a small plastic bottle or simply a small ziploc to hold them in.

Ryan and I both do our long runs with a Nathan running pack. Compared to most packs, the Nathans bounce a lot less and they have little pockets to hold, among other things, your Endurolytes in the front. You can also put in a two-liter bladder, some food and a few other essentials, so it's enough for a full-day run unsupported.

Inspired by Ryan's run

Inspired by Ryan's record breaking run, I decided to try the run up to Half Dome myself. I started at 6:05AM on August 8, 2009, and completed the run before 11AM, in 4:48:09. I took with me a Nathan Elite 2V Hydration Pack and a GoLite 21 ounce handheld, 6 power gels, a trail mix bar, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I ended up only drinking about 20 ounces of gatorade and 20 ounces of water, and I ate 4 of the power gels. I ran up the Mist Trail (or ran as much as I could), but took the John Muir trail on the way down to avoid the crowds. I made it to the top in about 2 hours and 39 minutes, and took about 4-5 minutes at the top to take some pictured with my phone, and to call my wife to brag about where I was. The downhill run was awesome. The John Muir trail was very vacant and quiet. This was an awesome running experience. Thanks, Ryan!

Half Dome Run For First Timers

Ran this trail in July 2009. Followed the trail past Vernal (Mist, I believe) and Nevada falls to the top.

Below is a list of things I was glad I knew before hand as well as what I wish I knew before. Hopefully this will help aid others trying this for the first time.

-Run on a weekday and leave as early as possible. We ran on a Saturday morning and left at sunrise (the parking lot was already at least 1/2 full). I was amazed at how many people were already ahead of us on the trail. Mind you, we passed most of them in the first 3 miles then had the trail to ourselves until we hit more hikers coming out of the campground (Little Yosemite I believe).

-When starting out at the bridge, follow the river. The signage was a little confusing as to which trail to take. Follow the one that everyone else is going on. Beyond this, the trail is VERY well marked and easy to follow.

-The first and last sections of the trail had some of the steepest sections. Don't get discouraged at the start thinking the trail is like that the entire way. I wish I would have walked a little more of the beginning, would probably have brought me to the top a little faster.

-I ran with a 2L camelback and found I had plenty of water. There are also plenty of spots to get water in the first half of the trail. Even bathrooms if you need them.

-We both just ran in running shoes, the trail is in very good condition and doesn't require trail shoes.

-There were plenty of pairs of gloves to use at the cables. Make sure to find a pair that still has some grip. I found I had more grip without them then with the ones I choose at the bottom.

-We had no issues passing people on the way up or down. Many saw us coming and let us by. It was a little tougher when going down by Vernal falls as many of the people have their heads down and seem very concentrated in just making it to the next step.

-For reference, we made it to the top in 2:00" and were back in 3:20". On flatland and sea-level I run a 1:40 half-marathon. I only mention this because while researching the run I wanted to get an idea of whether or not it was even feasible for me to try, and if so, get a rough estimate of how long I should expect to be out there.

-Tom is also a great resource to bounce questions off. I had mine answered that day and helped make my Yosemite experience better than if I had used guide books.

Trail Run Experiences

Thanks to the comments made, they were of great help in the preparation for this run. And congratulations to Ryan and Hari, both put up some amazing times.

I completed this challenging run yesterday August 21, I left San Jose at 4am by car, to start at the concrete bridge at 8:05am. Below some notes intended to supplement previous information:

> I threw my bike in the back of the car so parking at the trailhead became less of an issue, it is busy in the park and not having to run a mile back to the car makes a lot of difference

> A tough part of the run for me was the sandy trail to the ranger station. Particularly on the way back, my legs were jelly and I naturally wanted to go fast (but could not), you can stay on the hard trail on the side but then got to jump logs instead

> On the way up I had an encounter with the mule trail, re-supplying the ranger station, eventually I got the attention of the rider, just walked in the dust behind them until she stopped and signaled me to pass

> Social Power - When running up a lot of people laugh in support and say something motivating, everyone was extremely accommodating considering the sometimes narrowing passages. In return I was cracking jokes, even stopped several times to take pictures of couples at viewpoints, I even became a messenger boy, "Tell the xx group ahead that Joel went back with equipment failure"

> Well little did I know that this turned into a major booster, reaching the sub-dome, people were cheering me on, and on the way back - the folks who I met on the way up - cheered me on, doing high-fives, asking me for my time to the top and so on and so forth - this kept me running where otherwise I would have taken it easy

> Going down mist-trail was very busy, and busy with people with children, I highly recommend to take the longer way and avoid that you accidently push someone. It is us the trail runners who are out of place here.

> Do not attempt to do this run with sunglasses on, the sun/shade/rocky trail mix is a bad combo.

> My equipment was a 70oz Nathan running vest (ample), 5-6 Gu's (different tastes!), running head, and regular running shoes. What I had left at home (!#$?!?) were my salt tablets

> What was great was to soak my legs in the river

My time was 2:09 up and 1:39 down. I am a Kain trained tri-athlete and rate this as tough as any Half Ironman

That this may help you in the same way the previous posts helped me.

Awesome post Jacco! There is

Awesome run and awesome post Jacco! There is some super advice in there!

Bike. Definitely. You can't park at the trailhead and it's not really far enough to wait for the shuttle unless your whupped. Bike is the best.

Sunglasses do indeed increase the chance of ankle twists while running in the shadowy forests, especially on downhills.

And yes, runners do NOT have any sort of right of way and we are the ones who are out of place. It's important to respect other people out there.

The comments people make when you run that trail are always funny. I've noticed that everyone is encouraging except young men hiking with a female. They often glare at you. Everyone else (including young men with other men and older men, no matter who they're with) will make funny comments and call you a showoff and such (and I'm slow!)

PS, when Jacco says he is "Kain trained" I think that means that he has Kain performance coach. In other words, he's a serious athlete, so when he says this is like a half ironman... Of course, it depends. If you're like me, it would take me all day to swim a mile, so I'd rather run/hike Half Dome twice than do a half ironman!

45 year old

I am a 45 year old old timer and I ran (big steps/running) to the top of Half Dome in 2 hours (1:50 to bottom of cables). I did not take the short-cut on the way up..I ran the horse trail, so I think I lost 10-15 min going up. I am wondering if that could be a record for a 45 year old? My legs were to beat up to run down so it took me 2 hours to come back.

Age-based records?

Great times Bill! The HD one is not a record, though. I'm not sure about 4-mile.

I don't know of any age-based records for Half Dome. The last two records were by young guys. Buzz Burrell ran the round trip in 2:49 in 2004 (see my writeup on speedclimb.com). He's born in 1951, so he would have been about 53 at the time. I don't know what his splits are, but that would still be the "master's record" I suppose.

I know Bill Wright ran the 4-mile trail from parking to railing in 1:09 (see the speedclimb.com trial running page, but I don't know as that's a record, per se.

Alright, so i was told that

Alright, so i was told that the record was 3:32:50, and that one of the rangers did it in 5 hours. In August 2009, I decided to go up with a girlfriend who is a fitness instructor. She chalanged me that she would beat me and promised she would wait for me at the top. I'm 42 years old but i wont say her age, only that she's 2wo years older than I am. We were aggressive going up and ran where we could comming down and made it in 5 hours, ( I kicked her but). I beleived that with some trainning, i could possibly beat the record. We went again this past Oct. 9th and we made it up in 2:40 ( she beat me this time). I was running down to get back under 55 min and rolled my ankle one mile into the decent. it took me three hours to get down. I thought it was too easy that i cold come even close to breaking a record at 42 and no cardio trainning, so i just looked it up. 2:30????
I'll be back next year!!!

Record is for the ROUND TRIP

Hey Jim,

I hope the ankle is healing up.

As for the record.... Sorry Jim, the record is for the round trip - Ryan runs UP in about 1:33 and still has the energy to get down in under and hour without having his knees buckle. The clock doesn't stop at the top either, so if you take in the view and rest your weary legs before going down the cables, that counts too.

As far as I know, the "over-40" record would belong to Buzz Burrell at 2:49 round trip, aged about 53.

You could try to be my sorry butt on the Ostrander run though - 2:05, round trip. Anyway halfway fast would shatter that, but so far I only know my time and Hans Florine's (slower, around 2:10, but he's a lot faster than me on the Nose!).

It's not the Eiger in winter. Just go do it.

4:09 RT to and from the bus stop, using the John Muir trail rather than the Mist Trail. I wasn't kicking it for speed record of any sort. I do like the mellower grade on the John Muir trail and would likely go that way again. It's a long run, but not what I would call epic by any stretch. I used 3 8oz bottles on a belt ( the green ones, not sure of brand ), each with diluted Gu2O, plus maybe 3 GU packets. I've done a lot of long trail runs, probably average 35-40 miles a week in the summer.

Go for it. If you pass out, 50 tourons with sat phones, iPhones and cell phones and more food in their packs than I eat in a week will dogpile you and a helicopter will be there in 8 minutes flat. No worries, man.

Other good runs:
- 4 mile to Panorama to John Muir.
- Mirror Lake to Olmstead Point - hitch hike back to the Valley or run out and back.

Ryan - contact me

Ryan (or Tom),

I'm the author of the Half Dome Hiking book and am doing a 2nd edition. I would love to talk to Ryan about his record in 2008. (Does it still stand?)

Please email or call.

Rick
--
Rick Deutsch ("Mr. Half Dome")
Speaker, Adventurer, Author
"One Best Hike: Yosemite

I've asked some fast women to

I've asked some fast women to tell me their best time and we'll call it the record until someone disputes it, but they're all too modest! So there's no fastest women's time I know of. Go run it and report it and it will be YOU.

Does any one know of a record

Does any one know of a record for an 11 year old? We get to the top in 4 hours 22 mins, and went car to car on just under 8 1/2 hours after a swim at hte top of Nevada Falls on the way back down.

Thanks Rob

Hi Rob,

Hi Rob,

I doubt there's a known record for an 11 year-old per se. I don't even have a record for a woman. I would say the "junior" record would definitely belong to Ryan Ghelfi. He was running it round trip in about 2:45 when he was sixteen or so.

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