Ultrarunner Sets New FKT on Friendship Peak in India

Hoping to inspire others to get out on an adventure of their own, Indian ultrarunner Kieren D’Souza recently embarked on an effort to set an “FKT” or fastest known time on the iconic Friendship Peak in his home country. As a result, he was able to run up the 5289-meter (17,352 ft) mountain in record time, completing the climb to the summit in 11 hours and 45 minutes. This not only established a new speed record, but is quite possibly the first time anyone has ever climbed the peak in a single day.

D’Souza completed his ascent of the mountain back in mid-June, but has been sharing the story of his adventure more recently. He says that he has grown up and lived in the shadow from Friendship Peak for most of his life, looking up at its lofty summit for years. But it wasn’t until his ultramarathon racing schedule was cancelled due to the coronavirus that he actually started thinking about attempting an FKT on the mountain that was in his own backyard. In fact, prior to setting the new speed record, he had never even gone to the summit before. Watch other endurance athletes find new motivation in the time of COVID-19 inspired him to do the same.

Already in top physical condition, D’Souza says that he prepped for the FKT attempt by acclimatizing on the mountain ahead of time. The day before he embarked on the run, he trekked up the trail to check the snow conditions and test his own level of fitness. Satisfied that he was ready to go, he set off the next day with just a minimal amount of gear and equipment. In fact, he essentially scaled the peak with just trekking poles, boots, and crampons, eschewing the use of ropes, harnesses, and ice axes. This allowed him to move much faster, reaching the summit in less than 12 hours. A typical trek to the top of Friendship Peak takes about 4 to 5 days.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, D’Souza says, “The whole concept of FKT hasn’t really caught on here. In the mountains here it’s very easy to get disconnected. On all the trails you get away from civilisation and it gets very remote very quickly. That is why it’s more exciting, but perhaps why it is not as accessible for so many people. If something goes wrong, you’re on your own.” He hopes that thanks to his efforts, he might inspire a few other Indians to get outside and embark on some adventures of their own. Considering that is something we can do even during the pandemic, perhaps he will start a movement in his home country.