Lakewood man sets record for traverse, unsupported, of Tenmile-Mosquito Range
Garrison Hommer completes the treacherous 41-mile, 18,500 vertical feet route from Weston Pass to Frisco in just over 31 hours
Garrison Hommer, 33, of Lakewood set a new record time last month for the traverse of the Tenmile-Mosquito Range in unsupported, solo fashion.
Hommer completed the treacherous 41-mile, 18,500-foot elevation gain route in 31 hours, 10 minutes and 40 seconds to best the previous solo, unsupported record time of just over 47 hours.
Hommer returned to attempt to set the fastest-known time after bailing on a traverse attempt last fall. In that previous attempt, the 6-foot-3-inch, 175-pound Colorado School of Mines mechanical engineering research professor said a lack of resources — namely water — became a problem.
“I was basically sitting on a ridgeline start of one of the most difficult continuous sections with no water left, later in the day, and I knew there was no way,” Hommer said. “It was time to call it.”
The primary lesson Hommer said he learned was to start earlier — around 10 p.m. rather than 2:30 a.m. like he had last fall — and to conserve water. To Hommer, the more hiking he could do at night, the less he’d perspire and the farther he’d be on the route, closer to the first natural water source 26 miles in, when the sun rose.
After the start at 11,921-foot Weston Pass high above Leadville to the west and Fairplay to the east, Hommer hiked with a focus on reaching the first third-class ridgeline around sunrise so he could hit the technical section with daylight.
With a gallon of water in his Camelbak, Hommer had 5,000 calories worth of energy in tow in the form of energy bars, energy gels, salty snacks, peanut butter, cheese and crackers. Hommer said the diversity of the food was key for him to be able to digest it while hiking.
After he called it quits on the route last year, descending 2,000 vertical feet of steep talus near Fremont Pass, Hommer was sure to bring two pairs of shoes and shoe gaiters. The reason was because the more he traversed the Tenmile-Mosquito Range — the vast majority of which is above 13,000 feet — the more his shoes would fill up with whatever small pieces of loose scree he sank into after he took a step.
“And a couple of other things I think were crucial, too,” he said. “Chewable electrolyte tablets and Military Energy Gum — caffeine gum. One hundred milligrams of caffeine per piece, and I had five pieces of that with me.”
As his family and wife, Alex Skogen, kept track of his GPS coordinates every 20 minutes, Hommer ascended northward on the iconic range. He said the toughest portion was between Wheeler and Fletcher peaks, where there was the most sustained and technical section of Class 3 climbing over 2 miles.
“It feels like you don’t make any progress on it, a slow-moving ridgeline that doesn’t seem to end,” Hommer said. “And a lot of route-finding on that as well — a lot of very steep features where you can get cliffed out.”
Once Hommer got past the super tricky Class 5 notch just before Fletcher – the rocky slopes dropping thousands of feet underneath his scree-scratched shoes — there was some more traversing before reaching the long reprieve between Atlantic Peak and Peak 4. Standing atop Atlantic, Hommer knew if he stayed on pace and didn’t have his energy bonk — he slept just two hours in a 50-hour span — he would set the new record.
“But I wasn’t really out there to do the (fastest-known time),” he said. “I was out there to do this line in the mountains that was so cool and aesthetic to me. I thought it would take me to my mental and physical limit.”
As Hommer traversed Crystal Peak toward Peak 10, and neared 24 hours, he took in the most beautiful sight of the trip, a bright-orange sunset on the horizon. It was around Peak 10 where he ran into the only inclement weather on the odyssey, a couple of thunderstorms that dealt rainfall but no lightning as he reached Peak 9.
But once Hommer got to Peak 4 — the hellacious homestretch to Frisco in sight — he hit a brick wall mentally and physically. At 1 a.m., with his alertness wearing off due to malnourishment and dehydration, Hommer carefully negotiated the stretch of ridgeline replete with consequence and higher-level climbing going on 27 hours of moving with no rest.
Battling the bonk, Hommer got to the final summits — Tenmile Peak, Peak 1 and Mounts Victoria and Royal — and climbed down to Frisco Main Street.
Then, rather than sleeping the remainder of the night in his vehicle — something his body was yearning for just hours prior — Hommer drank some water, ate some super-salty pork rinds and drove home to catch his wife 15 minutes before she left for work.
“I had beers in the car and everything,” he said. “But I was like, I’m not even interested in that.’ They were a couple of IPAs depending on what my taste was going to be. But it turned out to be none.”