Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Wilderness Classic

The 2016 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic just finished a few days ago.  The course this year ran from Galbraith Lake to Wiseman and looks to be have had all the benefits of being in the Brooks Range.  Open tundra, snowfields, great packrafting and unbeatable views. 

22 people started the race, 9 were rookies and about half of the starters had finished a prior Classic. 

Luc Mehl and Todd Tumolo finished first in 34 hours. 

Other participants included:

Jack McClure
Lee Helzer
Alan Rogers
Ron Koczaja
Jeremy Vandermeer
Danny Powers
John Lapkass
Morgan Lizabeth Bender
Matt Kupilik
John Pekar
Alex Gould
Drew Harrington
Bob Gillis
Alex Agosti
Jon Agosti
Kyle Thompson
Kalin King
Josh Mulkey
Steve Duby
Robert Wing

Luc Mehl has a great summary and a video on his website here.
You can also read Jack McClure's trip report here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

2015 Classic Winner

Here's an article in the Homer News about Josh Mumm who is the winner of the 2015 Classic.  Congratulations Josh!

Monday, July 13, 2015

2015 Classic Results Pending

No word yet on the results of the 2015 Classic.  I'll post though as soon as I hear anything. 

Here's some good reading material though about another great event while you're waiting: 

AlaskAcross - News Miner Article

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic

The 2015 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic was scheduled to start yesterday.  I didn't hear anything about a delay due to forest fires, smoke or other unpredictable events so I'm assuming everyone is off and running.  Probably literally.  The route venue is typically changed once every three years.  However, due to the tragic river death last year of participant Rob Kehrer, this year's race is a special one-time remembrance route starting in the Peter's Hills.  The route then proceeds to Nancy Lakes via Rohn. 

The weather looks fine along the route from where I am but everyone knows weather forecasts in Alaska are not a reliable predictor of reality.  We'll have to see what happens.  Good luck to all everyone who was at the starting line this year. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 Wilderness Classic and Rob Kehrer

It is with mixed emotions that I write this overdue post.  A message last week from a friend and Classic veteran prompted me to finally finish what I have attempted to write a number of times.  Anticipation of a new Wilderness Classic this summer is building but the Classic community is still grieving over the loss of Rob Kehrer during the 2014 event. 

Classic participants have always known that this is an event not to be taken lightly and that the consequences could be fatal.  There have always been dangerous situations that even obsessive training and planning can’t control.  Severe weather, unpredictable water and wild animals are objective variables that are impossible to predict. 

Reciting the dangers of the Classic does not make Rob’s passing any easier.  Rob was popular, friendly and his passion for the Classic was unequaled.  Rob’s respect and love for the Alaska wilderness permeated his life.  He was a Classic veteran and was simply the victim of one of the uncontrollable dangers of wilderness travel.  His was the first death during the 32 year history of the event.  We all knew it could happen.  We also all hoped it never would. 

This is why the event has always been word-of-mouth and why applications are scrutinized carefully.  You must have not only the physical experience but also demonstrate an appreciation of your insignificance in some of the wildest places on the planet.  Humility not bravado is key.  You will never conquer the wilderness.  However, you may sometimes pass through it if you have properly prepared. 

People who have not run a Classic may incorrectly assume that the attraction of the event is the danger.  The hazards of the Alaskan wilderness are undeniably a part but play only a minor role.  Completing a Classic is not the same as the head-rush of cheating death on a free-solo rock climb or skimming inches from a sheer rock wall in a wingsuit.  The distinction may seem trivial to arm-chair observers but motivation of the spirit is key to understanding why so many are attracted to the event. 

The allure surpasses mere endorphins.  Be assured, there is no adrenaline rush 110 miles and four days into an event when you discover that a miscalculation on your creased and dirty map led you five miles off-route up a box canyon. 

The Classic is analogous to a vision quest.  It is a modern continuation of the ancient practice in many cultures of communing with fundamental life forces to gain insight into your own life.  Most participants are hungry, cold, miserable and exhausted when they finish.  They swear they will never do it again.  However, the clarity gained by participating in the Classic is magnetic. 

Sleep deprivation, exhaustion and unplanned suffering must all be expected when starting a Classic.  These factors can lead to clarity but can also lead to miscalculations.  As Classic participants, we must carefully balance the joy of traveling quickly over vast distances with the dangers faced in the wilderness.  Consider also loved ones at home who are concerned for your safety, who do not fully understand your drive to do this event and the devastation in their lives for many years if you do not return.  It is possible to give safety a priority and not diminish the experience.  Please remember that the edge is closer than you think. 

Although there was discussion in the Classic community of cancelling this year’s event out of respect for Rob, everyone agreed that Rob would urge this year’s event to be held.  So, yes, there is going to be a 2015 Wilderness Classic.  In the middle of your Classic this year, pause for a moment and remember Rob.  Build a small cairn at a natural cross-roads on a bear trail.  Listen to Rob’s footsteps behind you as you hike from dusk into darkness.  Hear his laugh as you huddle over a small campfire to keep from freezing. 

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
                                    W.B. Yeats

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Team Heavy - Rob Kehrer

The 2014 Wilderness Classic ended in the tragedy of the death of Rob Kehrer.  Rob was well known in Alaskan wilderness adventure circles and the community has pulled together to grieve his loss and celebrate his life.  Rob added a tremendous amount of color and personality to Classic events.  

Luc Mehl has created a wonderful website as a memorial to Rob.  Please visit the site and add your memories of Rob and his love for the Alaskan outdoors.  There is also a button to contribute to the Rob Kehrer memorial fun.  Please do so.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rob Kehrer - 2014

2014 event participant Rob Kehrer has died while rafting the Tana River in the Wrangell Mountains.  Craig Medred has written a comprehensive article for Alaska Dispatch here about the accident.  Also, Tim Mowry has written an article for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner here.  As soon as I receive more information, I will post.

Rob was well known in the Classic community and liked by everyone.  He has been competing for many years and had fantastic stories to tell every year.  I remember meeting Rob in 2004 on the Eureka to Talkeetna route and was amazed at his positive attitude and high spirits.  Rest in peace Rob.  Rob's family is in our thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2014 Update

The 2014 Alaska Wilderness Classic is set to begin in just a few days.  If you plan to participate you should have already been preparing for the last six months.  Luc Mehl is doing a great job organizing and you should contact him if you plan to take part due to some slight administrative changes. 

It's important to emphasize again that the Classic is dangerous.  If you participate, you must know how to self-rescue.  Self-rescue does not mean that you know how to dial a sat phone for a rescue.  Self-rescue means that you know how to stabilize serious injuries enough so that you can walk (or crawl) dozens of miles to a possible fly-out zone.  You are on your own and you have to take care of yourself.  Most people will never acquire the experience necessary to run a Classic.  In fact, if you're reading this blog, you probably shouldn't even consider doing it. 

If you have any question as to the type of skill-set necessary to complete a Classic, read a post I wrote a while ago.  It is still relevant.  Reality Check

If you are participating this year, good luck and be safe!