Endless Mountains Adventure Race (The Grand)

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A Sprint within a Marathon within an Ultra on Day 1

Press Release / 27.06.2023See All Event Posts Follow Event
/ © Nicholas Wynia

The Endless Mountains Adventure Race, the only US-based qualifier for the Adventure Racing World Championship this year, brings racers to the eastern edge of the PA Wilds, an outdoor playground featuring rushing waterfalls, dramatic ridgelines, sandstone scrambles, and the iconic Pine Creek Gorge – dubbed the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

Photo Nicholas Wynia

Before teams could catch a glimpse of the Grand Canyon, though, they had to travel close to a hundred miles by foot, bike, and packraft, using topographical maps to navigate their way through nearly forty checkpoints along the way. 

Photo Randy Ericksen

Following a spirited rendition of the national anthem from Army trumpeter Jesse Tubb (racing with Team Bones Adventure), the race began with Stage A, presented by MRS Packraft, at the Tioga Hammond Lakes, where teams immediately met their first strategic decision point. With five optional checkpoints scattered along the Crooked Creek, racers had to choose whether to trek upriver with their packrafts and then paddle back down to the lakes, or leave their rafts at the start and travel the full expanse by foot. At the pointy end, Bend Racing, Salomon Canada, and No Complaints opted to leave their rafts behind, as Visit Penticton – BC Wild and Bones traveled with their rafts. The RDs went into the stage genuinely unsure of the best approach, but hindsight suggested that foot travel may have been more efficient.

Photo Randy Ericksen

Unlike the inaugural Endless Mountains in 2022, where the first twelve hours served as a warmup for the demanding terrain and navigation characteristic of Rootstock events, this year’s course thrust teams into the challenges of the PA Wilds right from the first checkpoint. By the time they arrived at TA1, teams had battled steep headwinds, which added dramatic flair to the portage over the iconic Hammond Dam, an engineering marvel from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Bend Racing arrived in transition first, edging second place Visit Penticton – BC Wild by 32 minutes. Penticton led a tight chase pack, a cluster of five teams that traded places well into night one. Stage B, presented by Crooked Creek Campground and Crooked Roots Outfitters, offered racers a diverse bike ride through the Tioga State Park and Forest, with stops for a short trek at the Falls Brook Falls and a top-roping challenge at Blue Run Rocks. The Falls Brook trek proved navigationally demanding, with lengthy stretches of offtrail travel – a prelude to Stage D in the Hammersley Wilds, which top teams are projected to begin after dark on Day 2.

Photo Randy Ericksen

Running alongside the five-day race was Endless Mountains Lite, a 30-hour adventure race that offered teams the chance to race alongside the ARWS event up through the town of Wellsboro. In the Lite race, all-male team Ex2/TanZ Navigation took an early lead, matching Bend on the Crooked Creek and arriving as the second full-course team in the TA1, just fifteen minutes back. Behind them, solo racer Tom Martin ran in second place, with the four-person mixed-gender Adventure Enablers rounding out the overall podium into night 1.

Three teams went unranked on Day 1. In the ARWS event, Moonhowlers and Who Dis are continuing on unranked, after each losing a member with non-emergent medical issue. In the Lite race, Team PA-IN elected to retire following similar circumstances. 

As sun rose on day 2, Bend had continued to extend their lead through stage 2, executing a clean, efficient race and setting a blistering pace, foiled only by pea-soup fog at CP22. “Without the ability to see,” said Bend’s Dan Staudigal, we were reluctant to commit too far down the creek. It turned out, after several attacks, that we were right where we thought we were. We just needed to go a little bit further.”

The bobble didn’t slow them down for long. They were the first team to arrive at TA2, overlooking the Pine Creek Gorge at Colton Point State Park. After a swift transition – less than 20 minutes in total, they headed toward Stage 3, presented by Garmin, appropriately named “The Grand.”

Colour photographs by Randy Ericksen

B&W images by Nicholas Wynia

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