Saturday, December 1, 2012

Opportunity to be a Celebrity!

Here's an opportunity to put all those years of toiling in obscurity to become a real Alaskan Hardman or Hardwoman to good use.  Instead of merely settling for that satisfied feeling of having stoically overcome severe wilderness hardships and knowing that you're more hardcore than anyone else you meet, you can now listen to crowds roar with appreciation of your eye-popping exploits.

Everyone knows Alaska is the hip new place to film extreme stuff so check it out - here's a recent casting call from National Geographic.

National Geographic Channel is looking for charismatic men and women who are skilled in the out-of-doors and want to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience highlighting their field craft. If you're an extreme backpacker, mountaineer, musher, whitewater expert, hunter, trapper, wrangler or know anyone who is, we want you hear from you.

Please contact us ASAP.

Send us an email with your contact information and a photo. Please include: name, email address, phone number, and anything else you'd like to tell us about yourself.

You can either email me at to get contact information or you can email the producer directly at

Friday, November 2, 2012

2013 Wilderness Classic Race

The dates have been set for the 2013 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic.  Set aside June 23-29, 2013 on your calendar for the race. 

Set aside the next six months from today to train for the race. 

And then set aside the following month after the race to recover. 

Good luck!

Check out this link for comprehensive information.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

2012 Race Roundup

It seems like every year the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic exceeds expectations in way and this year was no exception.  The 2012 race was perhaps the most difficult race yet.  Fifteen people started the race at Thompson Pass near Valdez and seven racers finished.  As in past years, everyone exercised excellent judgment and there were no serious injuries.

There were three main routes racers used.  Take a look at this Google map for details on the routes.
Google Map of 2012 Race Routes

Final Race Results

Luc Mehl and Josh Mumm, 3d 22.5h, Bremner Route
Todd Tumolo and Gerard Ganey, 4d 4h, Ice Route
Roman Dial, 4d 9h 52m, Bremner Route
John Sykes and Mike Loso, 4d 12h, Ice Route

DNF: Dave Chenault, John Lapkass, “Team Heavy” (Greg Mills, Rob Keher, Matt Reardon), Todd Kasteler, Tyler Johnson, Danny Powers.

A couple years ago there was almost no information about the Wilderness Classic on the web.  Now you can find videos, detailed accounts of Classic experiences and fantastic photos of the race.  I'll post some links here soon.  A special thanks to Luc Mehl who has done a great job of organizing this year's race.  You can find all sorts of information, including videos and links on his blog

Monday, July 16, 2012

2012 Winners

Congratulations to everyone who competed in the Classic this year.  Thanks to everyone who posted information about the race and finish.  There is a good summary of the race this year here Bedrock and Paradox.  In a race that redefines brutality, this year seemed particularly brutal with many experienced and savvy racers dropping out of the race.  Luc Mehl and Josh Mumm came in first place, Todd Tumalo and Gerard Caney came in second place, and Roman Dial came in third being the first solo finisher. John Sykes and Mike Loso came in fourth place. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

2012 Wilderness Classic Applications

If you plan to do this year's Classic, you should check out Luc Mehl's website.  Thingstolucat 
It's a cool site and chronicles his amazing exploits, including his recent traverse of Mt. Logan.  Luc has all the info you need for the race.  Here is his recent announcement:  
The 2012 Wilderness Classic application is ready! Please follow the link below and print your forms. If you choose to email your application to me, please scan a paper copy so that the signatures are legally binding. Please bring the paper copy to the race start as well.

I need rookie applications as soon as possible and no later than July 2.

I need all applications and entry fees (payable to 'Luc Mehl, AMWC') by July 6. Please let me know if you are a returning racer intending to participate this year. Previous winners are now allowed one fee waive. If you have already raced free since your win, you will need to pay this year.

A few comments regarding the Chakina River exit:
A few weeks ago I floated by the Chakina confluence with the Chitina. The burned area looks highly variable for hiking- some of it looked like easy going, some looked pretty miserable. To my knowledge nobody has floated the Chakina since Embick - I have asked everyone in the area and other likely suspects. The forest fire was followed by massive flooding and the potential danger from log jams is very high. I will add some photos to the website soon. The Chitina was pretty pleasant, fast and without rapids to speak of. It will be significantly higher in July, but should be pretty straightforward.

Please let me know if you have any questions-


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Another Great Wilderness Race

Here's another great Alaskan wilderness race to check out.  Send an email to for more information. 
AlaskAcross moves out of the Yu-Tan highlands to the Ahtna plateau:
the country calls:

begins June 16, 10am

   there is no entry fee; the cost/benefit is out in the country. 
there are no "rules";  
there is a release form:  
           Reply to this note for the form.
a "code of conduct" does apply in this AKX event.
please contact an AlaskAcross veteran for more information (previous AKX event: HotSprings100,  2007-11)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

1987 Pre-Race Article

Check out this article from the Fairbanks newspaper 25 years ago just before the 1987 race.  It has some background info about some of the racers who ran the earlier races.  These guys were tough.  I had to cut out part of the article because of copyright considerations but I left in the relevant stuff.  

The Alaska Mountain and Wilderness Classic is not for the Weak of Heart. 
August 18, 1987

In fact, some say you have to be crazy and insane to even attempt participating in the grueling 235 mile race from Mentasta Lake to the Denali Park Hotel. 

The third annual Wilderness classic will start at 9 a.m. Saturday at Mentasta village.  Race organizer Roman Dial, who also will participate in the event, expects the winner to reach the finish line in about five days. 

In the wilderness Classic each participant must find his way to the finish line without the help of any motorized vehicles or pack animals. 

Generally, there are two different routes a person can take to reach the finish line.  One involves travelling through swamps and valleys while the other includes crossing several glaciers. 

No matter which route a participant takes they must negotiate the treacherous Nenana River to reach the finish line. 

Once the race starts, the only checkpoints are at Fielding Lake and at the Nenana River.  If racers decide to follow a different route they must tell the race marshal of their intentions prior to the start. 

This year’s Classic is actually split into two different events-a “short” jaunt of about 100-miles to Fielding Lake and the annual 235 mile race to Denali Park. 

Two time defending champion Hank Timm of Anchorage heads the field for this year’s race.  He holds the course record of five days and 23 hours. 

Dial and Dave Manzer of Nelchina, who crossed the finish line together in second place last year, are also entered along with Adrian Crane of Ohio and Tom Possert of California, who also crossed the finish line together in fourth place. 

Possert and Crane are both considered ultramarathoners.  Crane has run from the floor of Death Valley in California to the summit of Mt. Whitney. 

Others expected to be at the starting line are Fairbanks runner-mountaineer Dave Dixson, Dave Innis another ultramarathoner from California, Howard Akens of Ohio, David Poppe of Delta Junction, UAF rifle coach Randy Pitney and 60 year old dick Griffith of Anchorage.  Dick was the guy who introduced us to pack-rafting in Alaska,” Dial said. 

Contestants will be competing for a variety of prizes including a four pound Sherpa packraft and a half ounce gold nugget donated by the Gold Prospectors Association of America. 

As of Wednesday, there were three competitors expected to compete in the shorter 100 mile race.  They are Claire Holland of Delta Junction, Bruce Bench of Eielson Air Force Base and Bruce Smith of Anchorage. 

The race has been cleared by the Bureau of Land Management. 

The rules for the race are fairly simple.  All travel must be self-propelled and self contained.  In other words, each competitor must carry everything needed from start to finish without the benefit of pre-planned caches or aid stations. 

Racers may not use any portion o the Alaska Highway system with the exception of that portion of the Parks Highway between McKinley Village and the first Parks Highway Bridge crossing of the Nenana River downstream of Riley Creek. 

Littering is grounds for disqualification.  Purposefully dropping gear is considered littering. 

All racers must reach the Fielding Lake checkpoint by 9 a.m. Aug. 19 or they will be disqualified.  Those competing in the longer race also must check in at the Nenana River by 2 p.m., Aug. 22 or they will be disqualified.  All racers must reach the finish line by 6 p.m. Aug. 23. 

All participants dropping out of either event are required to notify appropriate race personnel. 

There will a post-race banquet at 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 23 at the McKinley Denali Salmon Bake at 238.5 Mile Parks Highway.  The banquet is free to race participants and checkpoint personnel.  There will be a $10 charge for all others wishing to attend. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Poll About Blog Content

I posted a new poll on the side of the page about what type of content you prefer to see here.  Feel free to vote for more than one thing and I'll use the results to guide what type of stuff I post.

For everyone planning to do this year's Classic, you should be in the middle of long days of training by now.  It's almost impossible to overtrain for the Classic because the long, slow days that are necessary are self-limiting.  So train hard.  Harder than you think you should.  Add another five miles onto your day and see what happens.  Go for an extra hour.  Throw an extra liter of water into your pack to add more weight. 

If you think you're exhausted after two back to back 12 hour training days imagine how you'll feel after four back to back fifteen hour days when you're doing the race.  In other words, suck it up, bro because no matter how much training you do, you're going to feel out of your element and stressed when the race starts. 

Above all, be safe.  It's possible to push the envelope and still come back home at the end of the day.  Cheers. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

2012 Venue Poll Results

Brooks Range: Gates of the Arctic Wilderness
  13 (26%)
Wrangell-St. Elias: Nabesna to McCarthy
  8 (16%)
Kenai Peninsula: Hope to Homer
  9 (18%)
Chugach Mountains - Whittier to Eklutna or similar
  9 (18%)
A completely new route
  10 (20%)

The later addition to the poll:  Eureka to Talkeetna 3 votes

Here are the results of the long-standing poll about where the next Classic race should be.  I put up the poll before I realized the venue had already been decided.  Check out recent posts for more information on the awesome and gnarly looking Thompson Pass to McCarthy route.  It's bound to be a doozy.

Also, I'll be putting up a new poll soon so check it out and vote.  Train hard and enjoy the journey.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Another Great Historical Article Coming Soon

Quick update:  the date for the start of the 2012 race has been set for July 8.  This is the time now to start training if you haven't already.  Do some long days of continuous movement like skiing, hiking or climbing.  A twelve hour day is a good place to start.  I've been paging through some of the historical Classic files I have and I'll be posting another great article soon.  Train long and safely!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1988 Roman Dial Article

Here's a newspaper article from August of 1988 by Craig Medred about Roman Dial.  Craig is a Classic veteran himself and his weekly articles about the outdoors were always amusing.  This one is no exception.  He is also an author.  Here's a link to his book on Amazon.  Graveyard of Dreams  I had to cut this article down quite a bit to make sure I was within fair use copyright limitations but what I've posted will give you the gist of what it says.  If you want to read the whole thing you can read it by accessing Daily News Archives through your library.  Here's a blog post I wrote a little while ago that tells you how to do it.  Daily News Archive Access

Alaska Wilderness Has a Million Ways to Teach Humility 
Craig Medred, August 1988
Roman Dial is a trim and slouchy sort of guy who doesn't look like any of the things he is. A rich intellect hides behind the too friendly face of the proverbial boy next door. His jeans and opencollared shirt hide the lean, muscular frame of a wild animal.  He sprawls into chairs in a very relaxed, very open, very undignified way that is certain to disarm anyone who might, by chance, recognize him as an almost mythical creature of the Alaska backcountry.

Nothing about his dress, behavior or movement offer a clue to this unique fellow with the strange name.
There is certainly nothing that identifies Dial as the guy who twice won the 155mile, Hope to Homer footrace through the wilderness.

And there is even less to mark Dial as a scientist who has been given a grant to pursue a doctorate in biology at Stanford this fall.  Here is a man who blends the worlds of physical and intellectual fitness without being affected by either. Dial feels no need to impress anyone with his conditioning or his intelligence.
In a world that hinges on packaging, it is refreshing to meet someone so distinctly unpackaged. This is an Alaska gold nugget in a plain, brown wrapper.

Dial doesn't prance around in muscle shirts or tights to show off his body or babble on about his times in this sport or that. His conversation doesn't slide into scientific technobull in an attempt to illustrate his education.

Dial doesn't seem to care that he knows things you don't or can do things you can't.  Why he is this way, I don't know, but I'd like to think the mountains and the wilderness had something to do with it.

Alaska's wild country has a million ways to teach humility. It is particularly good at beating up braggarts, loudmouths and hotdogs. Sometimes it spits out decent people when it's done. Other times it just sends them packing.

Take a good man, send him into this wilderness , and he only comes out better. There's something educational in being forced to recognize how stupidity, accident or even fate can kill you in the blink of an eye. It alters your perspective. It takes your perfectly normal, highfalutin, overinflated self-opinion and makes a joke of it.

We talked last week, me getting ready to go sheep hunting and he preparing for this year's running of the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, a 160mile footrace through the WrangellSt. Elias National Park and Preserve from Nabesna to McCarthy.  What we talked about in some detail was plain, old brush.

Dial swore he'd found a route through the mountains and canyons between Nabesna and McCarthy that only required busting through 100 yards of brush. I shared some secrets about a bear trail through one of the brushy sections of country between the Russian River Trail and the Skilak River valley on the Kenai Peninsula. 

If you've ever spent days in the wilderness fighting your way through alders, willows and devil's club on the road to exhaustion and madness, you will know what we were talking about.  For there in the tangles, when the going just goes to hell, it becomes obvious that there's nothing particularly important about humans. We're not much different than all the other animals grunting and sweating to stay alive as long as possible. And the best thing we can do for ourselves is to never forget it.