Klamath Falls man sets speed records on highest mountains in sight
Photo courtesy of Luke WebsterJason Hardrath removes his crampons before climbing the final section to the summit of Mount Formidable
Photo of Luke WebsterJason Hardrath atop Washington’s Sinister Peak.
Photo by Luke WebsterJason Hardrath climbs to the top of Mount Formidable in Washington’s North Cascades.
Most of the time, Jason Hardrath is a physical education teacher at Bonanza Elementary School, a small community in Klamath County.
But when he’s not teaching, the 33-year-old is probably training, or even more to his liking, by tackling increasingly difficult climbs of daunting mountains.
But it’s not just any climber. Hardrath captured national attention for being the first person with 100 fastest known times and, during last year’s summer break, wiping the record for climbing Washington’s 100 highest peaks in 50 days and 23 hours. remarkably tiny. In terms of distance, it covered 869 miles, with a staggering 412,000 feet in elevation gain.
Why does he do it?
“The views, the feeling of being up there. I love the feel of the clouds, the breeze, the feeling of looking down and saying, “My legs got me here,” he says of climbing difficult, often trailless peaks. “I like to put my skills to the test. The feeling that I climbed a mountain as best I could. The feeling that I bring the experience of my best nature to nature.
Hardrath, who grew up in Baker City, eastern Oregon, says mountain climbing is a response and an outlet for his ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactive disorder). “When I was a kid, I couldn’t sit still…I found athletics as that area where I can be successful.”
He succeeds. But mountaineering was not his original outlet for ADHD. In college, he wanted, and eventually succeeded, to run a mile in under six minutes. In high school, he raced track and earned a college scholarship to Corban University in Salem – “I had to work hard to keep my scholarship” – where he raced track while earning a diploma and teaching certificate in physical education.
For several years, Hardrath found his outlet in Ironman triathlons, events that combine swimming, biking and running. Life changed in 2015 when, after what he remembers as a tough day of teaching, coaching and meetings, he momentarily took his eyes off the road, causing his car to derail. Because he was not wearing a seatbelt, Hardrath shot through the open window. Riddled with a litany of injuries, his competitive days were over.
Surprisingly, the ever-competitive Hardrath shifted his overactive outlet to climbing.
It helped that nearby climbing opportunities were plentiful – Hogback at Klamath Falls and tougher nearby mountains like McLoughlin and Shasta, which he climbed more than 25 times.
“I cut my teeth on volcanoes,” says Hardrath, who is 5-foot-9 and weighs 170 pounds. As his climbing skills increased, Hardrath sought greater challenges, which led to speed records, or FKTs, for climbing mountains, often over complex routes. , steep, technical routes.
When he approached his 100th FKT, he decided to make the climb symbolic. And, to add to the challenge, he wanted this mark of the FKT century to signal and symbolize the culmination of his record ascent of Washington’s 100 highest peaks, known as the Bulger List. When he stood atop Mount St. Helens at 6:04 a.m. on August 3, Hardrath, then 34, who had launched his 100 summit effort at 6:21 a.m. on June 13, 2021, broke the previous record. of 410 days set by Eric Gilbertson in 2018.
His journey of 100 summits included 51 days of challenges, not only reaching the peaks but at times suffocating in the sweltering heat, devising ways to reach climbing routes normally accessible from COVID-closed Canada, teetering on sharp ridges, being doused by heavy rain, climbing technical rocky terrain, crossing glaciers and readjusting schedules to avoid forest fires.
As news of his attempt grew, Hardrath was joined by 21-year-old Nathan Longhurst, who accompanied him to 65 summits and later became Bulger’s youngest record holder. Hardrath has secured sponsorships, including from Athletic Brewing, whose chairman insisted, “We have to make a movie of this”, leading WZRD Media camera crews to document his last four ascents.
“It’s been kind of a wild ride to where we are now,” laughs Hardrath, who is now sponsored by Path Projects apparel, Norda Run trail shoes and Coros watches.
Completing the Bulger list in less than two months—a delay partly necessary because it happened during Bonanza’s summer break from teaching—wasn’t done on a whim. After asking himself, “Is this realistic?” Hardrath sought logistical advice from other Bulger finishers, including Gilbertson, through near-daily Zoom calls over a six-month period.
For now, it’s time to reflect on his adventures. Hardrath sincerely enjoys his past time and his time to come, on the challenges and rewards of climbing memories. “When I go out (on top of the mountains) it’s like complete silence. I can feel the breeze on my skin. It’s more of a sanctuary than any church I’ve been to, and it’s quite a powerful call.
He talks about giving his body a rest, including visits to Denver, Seattle, Portland and elsewhere for upcoming “Journey to 100” screenings. But plans this year include more challenging adventures – joining Longhurst for the Norman 13, linking the peaks of the 14,000ft Sierra Nevada mountain range – and, from 2023, tackling the loop Rainier Infinity, which involves two peaks of Mount Rainer and the entire Wonderland Trail. , climbs in South America, and outings like the Teton Picnic, which includes biking 23 miles from Jackson Hole, swimming 1.3 miles through Jenny Lake, climbing 10 miles often techniques to the 13,775-foot summit of Grand Teton, then reverse the route toward town.
“I have a long list of things,” Hardrath laughs.
For now, the immediate focus is on teaching, which includes instilling a sense that you can do it in his students at Bonanza Elementary and encouraging others to gain confidence on hikes or biking in the new Bike Skills area of Moore Park, a project in Klamath Falls he helped fund.
“This desire to help and uplift others is ingrained in me,” says Hardrath. “I’m especially passionate about getting kids outside more. I love the idea of a true, full adventure, and hope to instill that in others as well.
Contact freelance writer Lee Juillerat at [email protected] or 541-880-4139.