View Full Version : 160 mile Alaska bushwack race, time of 3days17hr

John B
08-13-2009, 09:45
From the Fairbanks News Miner, August 13,

There were points in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic that both Forrest Karr and Steve Taylor wondered if they would be able to go on.
For Karr, it was on day four of the 160-mile bushwhack across the Alaska Range.
“We were hiking on a ridge line between Trident and Hayes glaciers,” said Karr, the athletic director at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “I just couldn’t walk because of my Achilles tendon. Every few hundred yards Steve would have to stop and wait for me.
“I took codeine to help with the pain, but that didn’t do anything,” he said. “I just couldn’t keep going. I had to sit down with Steve and explain where I was at.”
After a quick examination of his Achilles tendon, which revealed pooling blood on the back of the tendon, followed by a brief brainstorming session, the two hikers decided to cut off a piece of the back of Karr’s shoe....
For Taylor, the low point of the backcountry race came on day five as they were hiking along gravel bars on the West Fork of the Little Delta River.
“My knee and ankle had exploded in pain at that point,” Taylor said.
Both his knee and ankle were swollen to the point where he could barely walk. He tried soaking his ankle in the ice-cold glacial-fed river, but it didn’t seem to help.
They were on a gravel bar that was big enough to land a Super Cub on, a thought that crossed Taylor’s mind and one he relayed to Karr and Rob Kehrer, who was traveling with the two Fairbanks racers at that point.
“It would have been a place where we could have dropped out,” Taylor acknowledged.
But Kehrer, a Classic veteran, convinced Taylor to tough it out for a few more miles and not make a decision until after they got some sleep.
“The next morning it was still pretty painful but not as bad,” Taylor said. “That and the fact we were a day closer to the finish was enough to keep me going.”
In the end, it took Karr and Taylor 7 days, 6 hours and 1 minute to complete the Classic course. Their time was almost four days behind the winning team of Bobby Schnell, Chris Robertson and Andrew Skurka, who finished in 3 days, 17 hours and 54 minutes, but at least the two Fairbanks racers could say they finished. Fourteen of the 26 racers who started the race ended up pulling out.
Tough event
Both Karr and Taylor said the Classic, a backcountry race in which competitors carry all their gear, find their own routes and survive on minimal food and sleep while hiking up and down mountains, crossing swollen rivers and bushwhacking their way through the wilderness, was the hardest thing they have ever done, both mentally and physically....

“You can’t stop and make camp and snuggle up in a sleeping bag,” he said. “Mentally it was very challenging to stay on top of your game the whole time and to move forward....

“It was one week of just focusing on nothing but surviving and moving across the country as efficiently as possible with some unpredictable challenges,” Karr said.
Some of those challenges included:
• Crossing the waist-deep Delta River in 60 mph winds. Karr was knocked off his feet and ended up swimming and scrambling across the river. Fortunately, he said, he was wearing a flotation device that helped keep him afloat.
• Fording several swollen, glacier-fed rivers such as Jarvis Creek, the Delta River, East Fork of the Delta River and Gillam Creek....
• Nearly getting run over by a caribou. Karr whistled at the caribou as it was running down the trail toward him, only about 15 feet away, to get the animal’s attention and it turned off the trail.
• Trying to stay awake while packrafting the final 20 miles down the Yanert River after hiking 18 to 20 hours per day for six days straight. “You blink once and you’re asleep,” Taylor said. “I woke up one time and I was beached in the left channel.”...

Right from the get go, Karr and Taylor wondered if they were getting in over their heads.
“At the starting line everyone was telling us their packs weighed 19 pounds with everything and ours were 33 pounds,” Karr said.
Karr didn’t know how he could make his pack any lighter.
“I felt like we needed everything we had,” he said.
Karr and Taylor were planning to finish the race in six days. They each started with 11 1/2 pounds of food but by day five they were running low on grub.
“When it became apparent on day five that we weren’t going to get done in six days we started rationing our food,” Karr said.
On their last day, they ate only a “handful of seeds and half a packet of dry, instant oatmeal, he said. Karr, a workout fanatic, lost eight pounds during the race and Taylor, who doesn’t have much meat on his bones to begin with, lost five....
Despite — or maybe because of — the physical and mental challenges, both Karr and Taylor said they are interested in doing the race again.
“The whole route is gorgeous,” said Taylor, who made mental notes during the race how he would do things different in future races. “You’re right up in the mountains the whole time. Sometimes it makes you feel kind of small.
“To overcome some of the obstacles we did overcome in retrospect is pretty gratifying,” he said.
Conquering the Classic, or just finishing it, gives a person a sense of his or her place in Alaska, Karr said.
“I love Alaska, but when you go out and do things like this, you love it even more,” he said. “It’s truly breathtaking.”

08-13-2009, 12:56
that's just downright insane

08-13-2009, 13:18
Andrew Skurka is a Golite sponsored athlete, he also did the Great Western Loop a few years ago (the first person to do so). Schnell and Robertson are both Air Force Pararescuemen:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/race_report_2009_amwc.html?id=VZxDoIdU: 0

08-13-2009, 13:39
That's a hell of a race....sounds like....funpain