JACKSON, Wyo. A 33-year-old ultra-endurance athlete says he has staked out a new benchmark for running in Grand Teton National Park.
Matt Hart, of Driggs, Idaho, said he recently ran a nearly 34-mile loop around the high peaks of the Teton Range. The route gained more than 8,000 vertical feet, yet Hart said he finished in just under six and a half hours.
"I thought it would be cool to set up the route and see what people can do," Hart said. "It's easy with all the awesome trails in the Tetons to figure out a logical loop."
Hart said he fell into snow up to his waist at one point. He didn't have any wildlife encounters, however, despite spotting a bear while scouting out the route the day before.
Hart ran the route last month. He started at 6:53 a.m. at the junction of the Cascade Canyon trail and the Valley trail at the northwest end of Jenny Lake.
He then ran a counterclockwise loop up Cascade Canyon, over Hurricane Pass and down into Alaska Basin. Heading south, Hart passed over Static Peak Divide before descending Death Canyon.
He finished by heading north on the Valley trail past Taggart and Bradley lakes to the junction where he left. It was 1:21 p.m.
"There's other ways I could have started the loop, but I wanted to soak in some cold water when I was done," Hart said.
"That's why I did the String Lake start," he said.
Hart scouted the route with three friends the day before his run, a trip that took 9 hours, 27 minutes. Hart said he was so excited by the route's scenery and challenge that he returned to establish his mark the next day.
"For me, it's all about the training and pushing my limits," Hart said.
He carried his own water bottles, forgoing the option of bringing a filter and drinking water from streams and ponds.
A native of Portsmouth, N.H., Hart worked for Microsoft in Seattle until 2005, when he quit his job to pursue racing full time.
He said others have run the route since his run but haven't broken his time.