Last July, following a 100-mile running race in Canada, Paul and Dan Fronhofer were determined to tackle their next adrenaline-churning adventure: scaling the Adirondacks’ 46 High Peaks.
But they didn’t just want to hike the peaks. After hearing the news of SUNY Cortland graduates Michael Jock and Lukas Wear breaking a 2009 thru-hike record later that day — by scaling the High Peaks in just seven days, two hours and 52 minutes — the two cousins decided to bring in some added experience to see if, maybe, they had a shot at breaking that record themselves.
The duo ran the idea by their cousin Mike Jawarski, 29, of Greenwich, who was already planning on trying for a thru-hike winter record in the ADKs. Well, Jawarski set that record a few months later. And with Jawarski’s expertise and route proving to be successful, the trio realized they had a shot at breaking the all-time thru-hike record this summer.
And that’s exactly what they did this week. In six days, five hours and 36 minutes, from Friday to Thursday after starting at Donaldson Mountain, Jawarski and Paul, 42, of Moreau, and Dan Fronhofer, 38, of Saratoga Springs, scaled all 46 high peaks, crushing Jock and Wear’s 2019 record by over 20 hours.
“I try to pick people who like to push me,” Jawarski said of his cousins. “Paul and Dan are always held in high regard. Dan was nearly an Olympic rower, Paul is a top-notch endurance athlete. Figuring out how to stop the least, how to pack it all. We could have a camp set up and we’d be sleeping. There’s no wasted time, we’re just trying to move.”
And Jawarski, Dan said, used his experience from the winter throughout and became an exceptional leader through the 198-mile trip, navigating the group as a GPS tracker located their every move and Facebook followers kept notice.
“He really grabbed this and planned it,” Dan said. “He was the leader of the group through it, because he knows the camping more than we do. He knows how to set that all up so he was recommending gear so we could stay out there and keep moving.”
But even with three mega-athletes on the trails, the trip and the jenky sleep schedule proved to be physically tasking.
In order to conserve their time, they’d only sleep four to six hours a night and would time their day-to-day rests with a stopwatch, as they traveled south and east before heading back west and then north through the range.
“The timers were an on-the-fly move,” Paul said. “We knew we were going to move through the night. Everybody’s feet and legs are sore and you don’t want to stop long enough to get comfortable, but you just want to get off your feet a little bit. And most of the trip is like that. You can’t control everything. There’s only a certain amount of variables you can control.”
As for the other variables, things managed to go pretty well for the record-breaking crew.
They pushed back their initial departure date just to make sure the weather was on par. And even after losing some steam on a rainy and snowy second day, the cousins stayed on their set path throughout. That, they said, helped them beat the record.
“I don’t think we made a single mistake — on the route that we had planned to do — in our original plan of where to go,” Paul said. “We hit all the numbers that we had planned ahead of time and [Mike’s] brain was probably the reason we were able to do what we did. That can’t be understated at all.”
The hardest part of the journey for Jawarski, outside of any physical pain of course, would be the taste of trail mix after six days of working his way through the woods.
“You get this mouth rot,” Jawarski said. “You’re sweating so much so you’re drinking a sports drink. It’s basically salt water and then you’re eating trail mix that’s covered in salt. My tongue is completely singed and all I want to do is have a bowl of cereal.”
And at the end of their journey and days of pain, of which they’re now resting off, the crew was greeted by their children and family at the bottom of the final trail. For Paul and Dan, seeing their kids was the ultimate pay-off.
“It hits you on multiple fronts,” Paul said. “You’re exhausted already and the last two and a half miles of the trip are downhill so you really just hate going downhill after a while. And seeing your kids after not seeing them for five days is emotional as it is, but after putting your body and mind through what we had just done, we can only do what we do because of our families and you have to have so much gratitude toward them.”