Thursday, July 16, 2009

2005 Race Report

Thank you to Roman Dial who emailed me this race report.
2005 – Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic
Eureka to Talkeetna – June 26--July 3, 2005

Overall Winners: The big news this year is that the 48-hour barrier in a Wilderness Classic was broken by Bobby Schnell (2nd Place 2004), Jason Geck (4th place in 2004), Tyler Johson (5th place in 2004) and newcomer Rory Stark, all of Anchorage. Their time was 1 day, 23 hours and 29 minutes. Solo racer Bjorn Flora of Fairbanks came in second with a time that also nearly broke the two day mark (2 days, 1 hour, 20 minutes). Third place went to Butch Allen and Jim McDonoungh (2 days, 5 hours, 38 minutes). This pair has finished third three years in a row, each year taking a new primarily floating route. All three teams smashed the Gordy Vernon and Thai Verzone “atomic bomb” (cat raft) record carrying only “had guns” (packrafts). That’s how coups are pulled, no?

Route Dist. Time Winner(s)
1982 Hope to Homer 150 miles 6 d 10 h 15 m Roman Dial
1983 Hope to Homer 150 miles 4 d 20 h Roman Dial & Jim Lokken
1984 Hope to Homer 150 miles 3 d 13 h Dave Manzer
1985 Mentasta-McKinley 235 miles 7 d 22 h 12 m Hank Timm
1986 Mentasta-McKinley 235 miles 5 d 23 h Hank Timm
1987 Mentasta-McKinley 235 miles 4 d 18 h 27 m Hank Timm & Randy Pitney
1988 Nabesna-McCarthy 150 miles 2 d 16 h 28 m Roman Dial
1989 Nabesna-McCarthy 150 miles 3 d 6 h 9 m Dave Manzer, Adrian Crane & Tom Possert
1990 Nabesna-McCarthy 150 miles 3 d 8 h 42 m Brant McGee & Jeff Gedney
1991 Gates of the Arctic 130 miles 2 d 6 h 18 m Brant McGee & Adrian Crane
1992 Gates of the Arctic 130 miles 2 d 16 h Brant McGee & Dave Dixson
1993 Gates of the Arctic 130 miles 2 d 7 h 52 m Gordy Vernon
1994 Donnelly-McKinley 140 miles 2 d 12 h 36 m Frazier Miller
1995 Donnelly-McKinley 140 miles 2 d 12 h 20 m Clark Saunders
1996 Donnelly-McKinley 140 miles 2 d 12 h 20 m Steve & Rocky Reifenstuhl
1997 Hope to Homer 150 miles “fifth day” Gordy Vernon & Thai Verzone
1998 Hope to Homer 150 miles 4 d 23 h 30 m Gordy Vernon
1999 Hope to Homer 150 miles ???? Jim Jaegar & Laura McDonough
2000 Nabesna-McCarthy 150 miles 2 d 11 h 43 m Steve & Rocky Reifenstuhl
2001 Nabesna-McCarthy 150 miles 2 d 5 h 49 m Steve & Rocky Reifenstuhl
2002 Nabesna-McCarthy 150 miles 2 d 4 h 23 m Roman Dial
2003 Eureka-Talkeetna 160 miles 3 d 15 h 5 m Hans Neidig, Chris Robertson, Paul Hanis
2004 Eureka-Talkeetna 160 miles 2 d 7 h 40 m Gordy Vernon & Thai Verzone
2005 Eureka-Talkeetna 160 miles 1 d 23 h 29 m Schnell, Geck, Johnson, & Stark

Long sunny days and afternoon showers raised glacial rivers to high volume during the first few days of the 160 mile race. Air Force PJ Bobby Schnell led his team of Jason Geck, Tyler Johnson, and Rory Stark to cruise to a sleepless victory in 47 hours 29 minutes, vaporizing last year’s record by over seven hours and breaking the 23 year record by three hours.

Running across 65 miles of mountainous terrain, including several high, snow covered passes, the group put in on the upper Talkeetna River using packrafts 23 hours after the start of the race near Eureka Lodge on the Glenn Highway. They then floated 45 miles to the Talkeetna Canyon, portaging the worst of the rapids, and floating an additional few miles before pulling out to follow bear trails through the canyon. They put in again at Iron Creek, 25 miles upstream of Talkeetna and paddled to the fastest finish ever in the 24 years of the event.

“It was all Bobby,” said 32 year old Jason Geck. “I led for a lot of the river portion, but on land I felt like a sheep. I was so impressed by Bobby’s strength and his ability to keep it together all the time, even without sleep.”

Schnell, however, said it was a team effort. “Everybody did their part, everybody helped in a critical way at some point in the race.”

“We were more experienced in the packrafts than Tyler and Rory, but after they’d helped us break trail in the mountain snow, we just couldn’t leave them behind,” added Geck, who described the 8 foot waves they paddled in the Talkeetna Canyon as “very impressive.”

Race rules allow for any combination of people to travel, start, or finish together. During the 2003 running of the Eureka to Talkeetna event, Schnell and Geck together finished fifth, after starting with other teammates. Tyler Johnson finished fifth in 2004.

Coming in second, less than two hours behind the leaders and five hours ahead of the 2004 winning pace, was solo finisher, 29 year old Bjorn Flora of Fairbanks. Bjorn took a slightly more northerly route, traveling the first 50 miles with third place finishers Butch Allen and Jim McDonough to the Oshetna River. From there Bjorn headed up into the mountains following the so-called “APU” route down Aspen Creek to The Talkeetna River, while Butch and Jim blew up their boats and headed downstream on the Oshetna, headed for the Susitna River. Wilderness race rules allow for any route that is not near civilization (no roads, motor vehicles, caches or pack animals).

“The rivers were real high this year,” said Butch, who with Jim has come in third place for the last three years, each year by a wildly different route. “We found the Oshetna very exciting, particularly the last five miles.” When asked if they had slept during any of their 53 hour 38 minute run, he replied, “Yea, we took some cat naps when we tied our boats together on the Susitna.”

The two portaged Devil’s Canyon and Watana Canyon on their 210 mile route, first pioneered by last year’s winner, Gordy Vernon, in 2003 when he finished that race next-to-last.

2003 winner Hans Neidig teamed up with Dave Looney to take on a new route this year that involved floating the supercharged Chickaloon River. After hiking into the river in late afternoon, they blew up their packrafts and ran several miles of the river before coming to a blind curve.

“We couldn’t see what was around the corner,” said Looney, “until it was too late. There was a big rock on river-right with a log pushed up against it by the high water and another on river left with a big sweeper pinned there, too.

“We both got by the first one, but Hans got caught upstream of the second one. I looked back and saw him coming out from beneath the sweeper without his boat.”

“I got my arm dislocated going under the sweeper into a rock tunnel. I thought I’d cork that little rock tunnel and drown but I shot out of that and got washed over a submerged boulder. Then I got washed down between two cabin-sized boulders, getting caught between them in their hydraulics.” Looney was downstream watching helplessly as his partner was washed up and down in the huge “hole” below the house-sized boulders

“I came up over and over but just couldn’t get out. Finally, I thought, ‘This is what it feels like to die,’ when an image of my wife came to me and I realized I had to give it one last try. That last shove seemed to do the trick and I was washed out.” Hans was able to swim to shore with a dislocated shoulder that popped back into place.

Meanwhile the winning group made good time in the high waters. “Yea, it was pretty much a near-perfect run. We had no bear problems, no flips in the boats. We really didn’t make any navigational errors either,” said Schnell who trained for this year’s race by running mountains, trails, and even sprints at the track for speed work.

“It’s a new race out there,” observed Geck. “If you want to win you pretty much have to run -- down the hills, across the flats. These guys go really fast.”

Alpacka Raft Drawing Winner: Butch Allen won the Alpacka raft donated by Sheri Tingey of Alpacka Rafts.

Satellite Phones and Evacs: Once again Sat Phones were required equipment and once again they worked very well, both for responding to emergency circumstances and for getting out of the race in no-emergency situations. They will continue to be required gear.

2006 Wilderness Classic: Next year’s race is planned for the Brooks Range. Possibilities are (1) Atigun Pass to Arctic Village or (2) Haul Road to Coldfoot with mandatory checkpoint at Anaktuvuk Pass. Current plans are for last week of June or first week of July, possibly with a van driving to the start from Fairbanks. For the Atigun Pass to Arctic Village route racers would be responsible for getting out, taking the daily Wright Air Service flight to Fairbanks ( $155 currently – more next year!).

2005– Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic -- Eureka to Talkeetna

OFFICAL RESULTS 19 starters, 13 finishers

1. Bobby Schnell (Anchorage), Jason Geck (Anchorage), Tyler Johnson (Anchorage), Rory Stark (Anchorage): 1 day, 23 hours, 29 minutes NEW RACE RECORD
2. Bjorn Flora (Fairbanks): 2 days, 1 hour, 20 minutes
3. Butch Allen (Anchorage), Jim McDonough (Anchorage): 2 days, 5 hours, 38 minutes
4. Zach Shloser (Anchorage): 2 days, 13 hours
5. Bill Collins (Palmer): 2 days, 17 hours, 56 minutes
6. Matt Reardon (Eagle River), Robert Kehrer (Anchorage):, Pete Ostrinski (Anchorage): 4 days, 30 minutes
7. John Lapkass, (Anchorage): 4 days, 12 hours

DNF Dick Griffith (Anchorage), Dave Looney (Anchorage), Hans Neidig (Palmer), Donna Klecka (Eagle River), Will Gilmore (San Francisco), John McConnaughy (Anchorage)

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