Quick Note: We Made It!

Team Beast Shad probably wrote it best as we all sat back on our couches this week, so we’ll leave it at this until we can get a longer race recap up:

“Thanks to all our that supported us for the REV Cowboy tough. Special thanks to Wind River Visitors Council, Gannett Peak Sports, NOLS and Chuck. I’m still dazed and amazed and the strength and perseverance of our team members. Captain Casey Adams lived up to the title, making key decisions when needed. Marina Fleming is a horse and has the shoes to prove it now. Karla Wagner is a living definition of “Cowboy Tough”. It was an honor to ride, paddle, swim, trek, run, repel and generally suffer with these women. From the bottom of my heart– thank you all!!”

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Marina to the Rescue

It takes a certain type to sign up for a three-and-a-half-day adventure race through the wilds of Wyoming. We’ve heard that, and we’ve certainly come to appreciate that.

But it takes something truly special to sign up three days before the race starts because a team needs a new fourth team member. NOLS Marketing Representative Marina Fleming is that kind of person. Up for anything, adventurous, and, to the Wind River Country Team, a hero.

Marina Fleming


When an injury benched Chuck a little over a week before the the starting gun was going to go off in South Pass City, a frantic search began for anyone who could fill in. Hopeful breath-holding was followed by heavy recruiting, which led to a tentative yes, then a no and subsequent brainstorming sessions. Then came a simple Google chat to Casey:

“okay, I want to do it,” Marina typed, and with that, the team would be able to race, as only four-person and two-person teams are permitted.

The Wind River Country Team couldn’t be more grateful to Marina for rising to this challenge just three days before the starting gun goes off in South Pass City. She’s made Lander her home recently, and we’re excited to show her so much of what Fremont County has to offer in these four days and 400 miles.

A special thanks goes out today to NOLS, who helped Marina secure the perfect shoes, piles of food, and some locking carabiners at the last minute.

Team Trek: Leg Lake/Stough Creek Pass Loop

Leg Lake Cirque Pan

We embarked on another training adventure this weekend, this time to get miles on our feet and navigational practice. We would like to thank our sponsors this week. This adventure race would not have been possible for us were it not for the Wind River Visitors Council. Our feet, faces, and calves wouldn’t be so happy if Brooks hadn’t come through with a pile of gear including shoes, compression socks, and caps. We carried all our gear in backpacks donated by Deuter. Both of the previous relationships were facilitated by NOLS, who has also contributed a great deal to the race and to our team. Continued support in our training and preparation from the Lander Cycling Club and Central Wyoming College have all helped us sleep better at night going into this endeavor.

Enjoy this video from our latest adventure and browse the photos below, all courtesy of team member Shad Hamilton:


Checking the map, planning the next course.
Casey scouts possible routes.
Casey and Karla look for Chuck’s elk that he spotted on the rim of the cirque.
Elk? Shad went home with this photo and found that if you zoom in, you’ll see it’s a rock.
It was pretty convincing, though, from a distance.
Starring in awe!
Approaching the snow field that was our ticket out of Leg Lake or Roaring Fork Canyon.
Up we go!
Snow field and tennis shoes don’t mix too well.  Fortunately this field was not too steep and our grippy Brooks Cascadias held tight.
The view of the Stough Creek Lake drainage/ cirques unfolded as we popped up over the snow field.
A beautiful view of Wind River Peak awaited us after we clear the snow field.
More checking the map, figuring out where we wanted to go next.
We decided to go scope out the Leg Lake cirque and couloir.
Chuck looks for fish in Leg lake.
Beautiful spot for lunch!  We left Worthen Meadows around 7:30 a.m. and ended up here around noon (about 7 or 8 miles in).
Another look at the cirque (Chuck’s elk rock was still grazing in the same spot).
Shad points to his cabin, you could see it from up there.
Arrow indicates Shad’s cabin.
Leg Lake couloir. Shad has skied it twice, and this got his juices primed from another attempt some day. It’s pretty thin now, a couple of weeks earlier would have been better.
It’s classic line in Winds and a very dominant feature visible from Riverton.
The view on our way over to Stough Creek Pass.
On the move. Stough Creek Lake basin in the background.
Stough Creek Lake drainage
Wind River Peak
Around 4 p.m. or so we finally made it back down to Roaring Fork Lake. We ended up cover 15 miles in 8 to 9 hours.  We climbed about 3500 -4000 vertical feet.  A good day’s trek no less, especially since half or more of it was off trail.
Casey crosses the Roaring Fork.
 Go Wind River Country Team!

Teton Ogre Adventure Race

Brad Young, Shad, Chuck and Karla… shortly before the race began.
It worked out where folks in the Teton Valley (Driggs, ID) were putting on an one day adventure race this year.  They called it The Teton Valley Ogre Adventure Race  Since we needed the practice for the REV Cowboy Tough Adventure Race, we decide to head over to Driggs and give it a whirl.  Casey Adams couldn’t make this race with us though because she was competing in her first Ironman in a different part of Idaho.  So… Chuck persuaded one of his co-workers, Brad Young, to join us.  Prior to this race, Brad had never pedaled more than miles on a MTB.  He also had never really ever paddled anything down a river before.  It was definitely going to be an adventure.
The first leg of the race involved paddling pack rafts down the Teton River for a few miles and gathering points along the way.
Chuck and Brad scope out the pack rafts before we start.  Using pack rafts would be a first for all of us.
Turned out to be pretty easy for most of us.  The water was flat- experience in kayaks seemed to translate well.  Brad didn’t have that experience- but he learned fast.
The race started at 6:30am.  We had to run count some bird houses and words on a plaque, so we probably didn’t get in the water until a little after 6:30am.  It had rained all afternoon and the night before, but the forecast for today was looking much better- though early in the morning the storm clouds still lingered.
Chuck throttles up.
After collecting a check point, Karla, our head navigator, heads out to the next one.
After an hour or so on the river, we hopped on our bikes to begin the first MTB leg which probably ended up being 15 miles or so.  Not too far.
Our first big climb.  Almost immediately Brad figured he’d be walking it.  I told him Chuck didn’t like walkers.  He stayed on his bike and climbed the whole thing.  Impressive!
Finally started catching up to some other teams on the bike.
At this point we started wondering where the other teams got their numbers.  Apparently we had over looked those.  Just weren’t used to little ones like that.  Oh well.  The race was small enough, it didn’t matter.  At this point, we didn’t realize we were the only 4 person team… I thought the girls in front of us were a 4 person team… there were four of them, and they all were together all the time.
Finding our first bike checkpoint, one that wasn’t mandatory.  Also found a frying pan on the way up.  Turns out gathering points is how you win or place in an adventure race- not how fast you can go.  The main way you get points is to go around and find as many check points (little flags with a special card puncher to verify you found them) as you can.  They only look at times if there’s a tie.  However, the theory is, the faster you can go, the more time you have to gather the most check points… thus the term “race” is still appropriate.  You’re on the clock.
Pedaling down into a lake, we spotted another mandatory check point.  This one would be interesting.  Glad Chuck was carrying our card.
Trail conditions in and out of the lake were pretty technical.
Chuck walks (or rides) the plank to get the check point.
Monkey. See his skills in action in this film:
After finding our first check point on the trekking leg, Chuck flashes gang signs.
On our way to finding our first 2 pointer.  Some of the trekking points were worth more, presumably because you had to work harder for them.  We decided to go for them, in lieu of lots of lower point ones closer together.  Not sure that paid off… but it was fun.  Plus we got to see some beautiful country!
Navigator was kicking butt!
Chuck spots another check point- way out on a cliff band.
I’ll take responsibility for the route… probably not the best.
It got us there though!
Karla plots a course to our next check point… a three pointer.
Didn’t take us long to get to the general area of this check point, but it took us quite a while to actually find it, since it was hidden in a large crack.  Brad was actually the one who found this one- saved the day, as we were getting close to giving up.  I climbed down for the punch.
Nearing the end of the day, we’re back on our bikes… back going up hill.
We had to make it back before 7:30pm, or risk time penalties or even being DQed.
After the trek, we had a rough time navigating and staying on course.  We didn’t get any more check points- basically ran out of time to look for them- just had to concentrate on getting back.  At one point, about 7:12pm… I didn’t think we were going to make it.  We were kind of lost in the flats.  Then finally, we saw the finish… and made it, with 10 minutes to spare.  Whew!
Wind River Country Team finishes!
We actually took 1st place in the 4 person team category (because we were the only 4 person team).  Ha!  Over all, I think we garnered enough points (24, I think) to place 4th or 5th though, out of 10 or 15 various 1, 2, and 3 person teams… which was pretty good, we thought- four our first one anyways.  It was great fun!  Good times!


‘Let’s ROCK’

With these words Karla emailed echoing in our heads Thursday afternoon, the team scattered to squeeze in quick workouts before converging at the sandstone buttress in Sinks Canyon State Park. Chuck and I (Casey), on foot and bike respectively, exchanged a quick wave at a stoplight in town. Upon our arrival at the buttress later that evening, we met Shad, whose bike was leaning against a sign while he changed from his cycling helmet to his climbing helmet. Karla joined shortly thereafter with a car full of climbing gear and some fresh shoes for Chuck.

Meanwhile, NOLS instructor and experienced adventure racer Darran Wells set up some fixed lines so we could practice ascending and rappelling. Though we all have past experience climbing and rappelling, we thought it best to get some guided refresher sessions before we found ourselves racing up and down cliff sides.

We’ve all (with the possible exception of Shad) discussed moments of anxiety surrounding this race, whether it be keeping up with Shad when he bikes up hills, keeping up with Chuck and Karla when they bike down hills on the tandem, or keeping up with any of them on the flats (just a hypothetical example), or being able to make quick work of skills we all use less frequently like ascending fixed lines. We’re all aware of the challenge we face in the Cowboy Tough Adventure Race in July. Consequently, the intensity and focus in each team member’s eyes almost burned as we watched Darran demonstrate knots both familiar and new and offered insight into techniques with prussics and ascending.

Karla ascends. Photo credit: Shad Hamilton

Karla ascends. Photo credit: Shad Hamilton

However, after a few hours of tying, untying, going up, going down, and checking and backing up systems, the mood shifted.

Chuck raps. Photo credit: Shad Hamilton

Chuck raps. Photo credit: Shad Hamilton

Smiles were easier. Shoulders dropped a little. The blend of the peaceful setting of the canyon with the river rushing by in the distance while cicadas cheered us on and the confidence-boosting practice round worked wonders for our stress level. However, I can’t speak for my confidence the next time I’m sucking wheel behind Shad on the bikes …