Robinson, Saari break record in grueling 12 Peaks Challenge

June 23, 2016

HarlowAnchorage runners Harlow Robinson and Matias Saari broke the record in the 12 Peaks Challenge, a grueling, roughly 36-mile trek along the dozen highest summits in the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage.

The two friends set out on their adventure at 5:17 a.m. Wednesday morning and finished at 3:27 a.m. this morning, climbing some 25,000 vertical feet in the process.

“Never again,” Robinson was quoted as saying afterwards.

Robinson and Saari completed the entire route in 22 hours, 10 minutes, although they could have gone faster.

“The guys had some grizzly bear encounters that diverted the route in the final hours coming off Temptation going through Snow Hawk valley,” Christie Haupert reported in a mass email.

Temptation is the final summit in the 12 Peaks Challenge.

“Feeling high and nearly accomplished, the guys were disheartened when bear sightings required them to change course,” she wrote. “This pushed them about an hour later than they would have otherwise finished.”

Matias Saari cross country running

Matias Saari

Saari is a former winner of Mount Marathon in Seward as well as the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks.

Robinson is also an accomplished runner, with victories in the Matanuska Peak Challenge and Crow Pass Crossing marathon.

The previous record for the 12 Peaks Challenge, according to stockalpine.com, was held by J.T. Lindholm, who posted a time of 22 hours, 40 minutes in 2008.

In 2010, Robinson missed the record by only two minutes.

The mountains covered in the race are part of a chain of 35 summits, with the 12 highest peaks representing a tremendous test for elite athletes.

Here is a list of the mountains in the 12 Peak Challenge:

Mount Williwaw 5,445
Temptation Peak 5,383
Tanaina Peak 5,358
The Ramp 5,240
Tikishla Peak 5,230
West Tanaina Peak 5,200
O’Malley Peak 5,150
Koktoya Peak 5,148
Hidden Peak 5,105
North Suicide Peak 5,065
Avalanche Mountain 5,050
Suicide Peak 5,005

“Temptation, while a grueling climb, proved to be the most fun descent,” wrote Haupert, Saari’s partner. “Both said Temptation is really the crux. They were both feeling good topping out on Tikishla, but getting over the beast that is Temptation really took it out of them.

“Yet another reason to rebrand the event as ‘11 Peaks Challenge!’”