Last week, I wrote an article introducing the concept of Fastest Known Time records (FKTs) and how their popularity has skyrocketed. While that post was intended to be informational, the truth is that I have for some time been planning an FKT of my own and needed to do all that research anyway. Two weeks from today, I will set out on the Beşparmak Trail in an attempt to set a thru-hiking record.
The Beşparmak (also known as Pentadaktylos) Trail translates to “Five Fingers” in English from Turkish and Greek, respectively. The trail is 255km/158mi long and stretches along the Kyrenia Mountain Range in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus from Cape Koruçam on the west coast to Cape Zafer on the Karpaz Peninsula in the north-east part of the island.
The trail has taken many forms throughout the years. In the Middle Ages, Cyprus was an important gateway between the empires of Europe and Asia. As such, the Byzantines and Lusignans built castles and fortifications along the Kyrenia Mountains to safeguard against marauders and protect this strategic stronghold while using mountain trails to connect their fortresses. Since then, the trails have been used mainly by hunters and outdoor enthusiasts for a variety of recreational activities. In 1974, the Turkish army invaded Cyprus following a coup d’etat, and the result was a division of the island into the Republic of Cyprus (ROC) in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in the north – a division that still stands today.
About a decade ago, a group of expats created the “Kyrenia Mountain Trail” by stringing together a number of existing trails with the intent of using them for 4×4 safaris and guided hiking tours. In 2010, this trail was improved (and formally marked) by Tugberk Emirzade and his team with the assistance of a grant from the European Union. Emirzade is a Turkish-Cypriot and former Fulbright Scholar who graduated from the University of Kansas and the University of California, Riverside, with his bachelors and masters degrees in plant science before returning to Cyprus in 2002, where he now teaches at the University of Lefke and also offers guided tours of the region (via his website). Emirzade says it took three people more than two months to mark the trail – a difficult task which involved hiking through harsh and rugged environments in order to find the most efficient route.
After several years and multiple rounds of improvements, the Beşparmak Trail was finally recognized by the Ministry of Tourism in 2015 under the its current name. Unfortunately, funding for the project has since run dry and the trail does not receive the level of maintenance and care that it needs on a yearly basis, causing the less-traveled sections to become overgrown.
The most current map of the Beşparmak Trail, which I received from Emirzade, is as follows:
According to Emirzade, no one has recorded an FKT for the Beşparmak Trail. In fact, he doesn’t know of anyone who has done the whole trail in one go and further noted that the normal tour schedule is 18 days for a full thru-hike.
On Friday, March 2, 2018, I will begin an “Unsupported” FKT attempt of the entire trail starting at the western end in Cape Koruçam and heading East to Cape Zafer. I announced my intention on Feb 15, 2018 on the FKT Forum.
In accordance with the FKT site, which serves as the unofficial keeper of endurance records, I will carry all of my own food during the attempt and will only resupply with water along the way. Having run along the trail many times, I know that there are no gushing mountain springs available, but that each village the trail passes through has public water sources (at churches or mosques) that I will use to refill my bottles.
The impetus behind this attempt is multi-faced. First, I’ve never done anything like this before and it seemed like a fun idea. I won’t break any land-speed records, but having a 5-day goal in mind will help keep me motivated and on track to put in the miles.
Second, I’m less than 50 days from starting my 100-day Appalachian Trail thru-hike and this is the perfect opportunity to test my gear and grow some trail legs before I head out so that I can hit the ground running.
Third, I’m hoping to raise some awareness of the natural beauty in Cyprus and bring attention to its wonderful trails. Lots of tourists come here for the beaches, but the mountains are even better. I hope that with more interest, the Ministry of Tourism in the TRNC will expend a little more effort in preserving and maintaining the trail so that future guests can enjoy it as much as I have for the last two years.
I am planning a 5-day thru-hike of the trail beginning on Friday, March 2 and ending Tuesday, March 6. As I mentioned earlier, the trail is usually hiked in 18 sections which often start and end in villages along the way. My plan is to do multiple sections per day with an average of 50km/31mi per day.
DAY 1 – 50km/31mi
- Section 1: From Kormakitis to Korucam 16km
- Section 2: From Korucam to Lapta 21km
- Section 3: From Lapta to Karaman/Karmi 13.5km
DAY 2 – 49.3km/30.6mi
- Section 4: From Karaman/Karmi to Nicosia-Kyrenia road 9km
- Section 5: From Nicosia-Kyrenia road to Bellapais 13km
- Section 6: From Bellapais to Buffavento restaurant 18km
- Section 7: From Buffavento restaurant to Alevkaya 9.5km
DAY 3 – 63.6km/39.5mi
- Section 8: From Alevkaya to Antifonitis Church 12.4km
- Section 9: From Antifonitis Church to east of Antifonitis Mallidag 10.9km
- Section 10: From Antifonitis Mallidag to Mersinlik 16.7km
- Section 11: From Mersinlik to Kantara 7.3km
- Section 12: From Kantara to Yedikonuk 16.3km
DAY 4 – 52km/32.3mi
- Section 13: From Yedikonuk to Esenkoy 16.5km
- Section 14: From Esenkoy to Sipahi 14.3km
- Section 15: From Sipahi to Eleousa monastery in Dipkarpaz 18.2km
DAY 5 – 42km/26.2mi
- Section 16: From Eleousa monastery in Dipkarpaz to village Dipkarpaz 11km
- Section 17: From Dipkarpaz village to Aphendrika 15km
- Section 18: From Aphendrika to Cape Zafer 18km
To verify my timing and route, I will use multiple methods as prescribed by the FKT website. These include:
I will utilize a DeLorme InReach Explorer as my main source of satellite tracking and location verification. My route and all information will be made available at the completion of my trip.
I have the entire trail loaded onto my Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS watch and will track my progress each day. This information will be uploaded to my Strava profile for corroboration.
I will bring my Sony a6000 camera with me and will take many photos of notable landmarks along the way while having location and timestamp metadata activated.
I will keep a daily journal of the trip and write an extensive trip report upon completion which will be posted here on my blog and also on the FKT site for verification.
Attempting an FKT is something that never crossed my mind until recently. But then again, “you don’t know until you know”…and now I know that it seems pretty damn fun. I’m looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity to promote the trail and test my gear. At the end of the day, there is nothing riding on a successful FKT so the only pressure comes from within. If I fail, there are no consequences other than a bruised ego.
Wish me luck!