Chugiak’s Connelly claims Climbathon championship

Thursday, September 21, 2017 - 13:34
  • Eagle River’s Michael Connelly competes in the 2017 Mount Marathon race in Seward on July 4, 2017. Connelly, 15, won the Alyeska Climbathon on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 in Girdwood. (Star file photo/Michael Dinneen)

Michael Connelly is a climbing machine.

The 15-year-old from Chugiak climbed Alyeska’s North Face Trail 12 times Sunday to win the 10th Annual Alyeska Climbathon, a unique test of endurance in which climbers see how many times they can make the 2,000-foot ascent in a 10-hour day. Connelly tied the course record and beat his previous personal best by one lap.

The young mountain runner didn’t exactly come out of nowhere; Connelly has been been steadily climbing the leader board over the past three years at the annual event, finishing third in 2015 and second last year. And earlier this season, he finished sixth in the junior Mount Marathon race in Seward.

Connelly bested second-place Aubrey Smith by a single lap. Smith, of Seward, tied the women’s course record by completing 11 laps with less than five minutes to spare before the 10-hour cutoff.

Eight racers tied for third with 10 laps completed in the allotted time.

Over the course of 9 hours, 48 minutes and 41 seconds, Connelly climbed a total of 24,000 vertical feet and traveled roughly the same distance as a full marathon. Connelly’s fastest trip up the 3.5-kilometer trail — which normally takes recreational hikers one to three hours to climb — was 32 minutes, 19 seconds. The longest it took him to complete the trip from the tram terminal at the base of the mountain to the top of the tram was 55 minutes, 27 seconds.

After making it to the top of the tram — a popular summertime destination for sightseers who come to take in the spectacular views of Turnagain Arm and the Chugach Mountains — racers Sunday got to rest during the 3.5-minute trip back to the bottom.

According to race organizers, the annual climbathon raised more than $61,000 for gynecological cancer programs. This year’s race attracted a field of 281 climbers. Connelly wasn’t just there to race, either — he finished 18th among all participants with $610 raised in pledges. Dave Blanchet brought in the most money, racking up $2,940.

For more information about the race, visit alyeskaclimbathon.com

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