Walking Distance #14 | FKT and Fastpacking ft. Gabe Joyes & Ryan Ghelfi

In this episode of Walking Distance presented by The Trek and hosted by Blissful Hiker (Alison Young), we are joined by Gabe Joyes, an ultramarathoner and sponsored athlete, and Ryan Ghelfi, an ultramarathoner and endurance athlete coach. Joyes lives in Lander, Wyoming, near the Wind River Range, and nabbed the FKT (Fastest Known Time) for the Wind River High Route last September, completing it in 47 hours. Ghelfi has several FKTs under his belt and owns the company Wilderness Fastpacking in Ashland, Oregon. 

Blissful Hiker covers what FKT and fastpacking means, the physical endurance as well as mental challenges both entail, and how backpackers can incorporate faster movement into their trips if they choose.


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Interview with Gabe Joyes

1:02 – Running isn’t just intense exercise, it’s also a great way to cover distance and see terrain. 

1:40 – Introduction to FKT (Fastest Known Time) and the Wind River High Route

3:45 – Joyes considered himself a hiker and backpacker before he considered himself a runner; ample time became more of an issue later in life, so he decided to run.

4:40 – How do you choose gear? What about traction?

6:49 – You mention that you have a watch to track your progress, but you have no support out there. It’s a pretty dangerous route to be out there completely isolated, don’t you think?

7:41 – Is part of the FKT not having support, not even having someone running with you?

8:04 – You scouted the route and knew where you were going, but did the route change because of snow from the first time you were there?

9:22 – You had a full moon, and that’s incredible that you timed it just right to have that. But you still have to run at night, what’s that like?

10:10 – Do you miss seeing the views as they are during the day?

10:42 – It’s not just a physical challenge, not being able to stop if you want to beat the record, but a mental challenge of always needing to be focused on where you are and the route. That must be exhausting.

11:52 – You talked a bit about hallucinations; on the trail once I asked another hiker if they heard the loud country music, and they replied that it was a waterfall! Had you experienced that before?

12:45 – You have quite the diary from your two days, and I’m wondering how you remember every step on the route. Do you listen to anything while you’re running?

13:32 – As a backpacker, I have always had a “problem” with FKTs in trying to determine what the point of them are? I didn’t want to ask it that obnoxiously, but maybe I should, what is the point for you?

Interview with Ryan Ghelfi

16:56 – What is fastpacking?

18:40 – Introduction to fastpacking

19:36 – What’s the difference between fastpacking and just ultralight backpacking?

20:17 – It’s a paradigm shift to taking in more of the trail because you have less time, is that right?

21:00 – So this episode is all about going faster on trails that people normally backpack on. And I’ve learned that being “running fit” and “walking fit” are different things, do you agree with that?

22:13 – What are some general tips to get started as a fastpacker? I assume #1 is to get fit, and gear and nutrition also factor in. What are your suggestions?

24:14 – You mention that you wear a bit of a different pack so that you can run if you want, so do you think a backpacker would need a different type of pack for fastpacking?

26:03 – How do you hike with less, go fast and also stay safe?

26:43 – We talked about fastpacking actually being “faster”; is there time to be in wilderness, stop and talk to friends, take pictures, etc.?

28:00 – I’m banned by my doctor from running, because I have brand new titanium hips that will last longer if I just hike and walk. Can someone like me fastpack?

Mentioned in this episode:


Gabe Joyes’ website

Gabe Joyes on Instagram

Ryan’s company, Wilderness Fastpacking

Ryan Ghelfi on Instagram

Get all of the Walking Distance Podcast episodes.

About Alison Young

Alison Young, aka Blissful Hiker, is a former host and producer at American Public Media and professional flutist. She’s thru-hiked New Zealand’s Te Araroa and the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as long trails in South America, South Africa, Europe, Pakistan and all over the US. In her podcast Blissful Hiker, she shares personal essays from the trail along with collected sound. Her goal in life is to hike until she drops.

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