Dare Mighty Things

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pemi Wild Ultra

Pemigewasset Wilderness, NEW HAMPSHIRE-- Webster's defines "epic" as extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope. For me, completing the Pemigewasset Wilderness Loop in a single day is an epic trip...31 miles+/-, ten 4k footers, and 9700 feet of climbing. Making it a 2-person team "event" made it an epic race. In 2004, Jay, Ken, and I looped the Pemi (clockwise) in just under 18 hours. We vowed that one day we'd be back and try it in the other direction. Not only did we return on Saturday, we brought friends. Having read a little about team trail racing in the West I thought it would be fun to try to organize a team outing and see what all the buzz was about. And the Pemi Wild Ultra was born. The rules were simple, each team of 2 would have to stay within 50 meters of each other and follow the pre-determined "counter-clockwise" loop around the Pemi Wilderness. First team out "wins". Five teams assembled for a 4:00 am start from the Lincoln Woods trailhead. Mike Wade & Steve Wolfe walked for the first 10 meters and then began running and never looked back. They were followed closely by Jay Myers & Steve Kramer, Kevin Burt & Scott Dodier, Ken Young & I, and finally Mike Sallade & Sarah Silverberg. Not long after getting onto the Wilderness Trail, Ken received his first (of two) "nature calls" of the day. The Mediterranean pizza from the night before had his bowel sideways right from the start. At the West Bond spur we caught a brief glimpse of the two lead teams (Mike & Steve, Jay & Steve) who were running neck & neck. Kevin & Scott were about 10 minutes ahead of us at the time but were looking very fit & strong. We arrived at Galehead Hut (the unofficial 1/2 way pole), in approximately 6 hours to see Mike & Steve on their way out to start the 2nd half of the race. After we refilled our bladders & bottles we dropped our bags for the out & back to Galehead. Less than 100 meters up the trail we ran across Jay & Steve who were descending. The two had fallen back from the leaders after Jay suffered a severly sprain ankle coming down from South Twin (described by some as one of the gnarliest pitches in the Whites). Near the Galehead summit we again ran across Kevin & Scott who were working hard to maintain their lead over us. Although we had less than 17 miles to go, we still had to ascend the two hardest climbs in the Pemi...Garfield & Lafayette. By the time we reached the summit of Lafayette I had burned through my 100 ounces of water and was bone dry with 10.5 miles to go. Fortunately, my father had planned to mule water to the summit of Lafayette by way of Greenleaf Hut. I eagerly accepted his Nalgene bottle of water and after a quick bite to eat we were off to traverse the Franconia Ridge. Right on cue the sun appeared as we trekked across the ridge and afforded us spectacular views of the Pemi Wilderness and beyond. The climb down Mt. Flume was painful as 25+ miles of pounding began to take their toll on both of us. By the time we reached the last 'runable' section of Osseo Trail Ken's knee had flared on him and every step was agony. With running reduced to 15-20 shuffles at a time we attempted to settle into a quick walking cadence as we passed the 15 hour mark and drank our last few ounces of water. Just before 7:30 PM we once again reached the Lincoln Woods trailhead. At an official finish time of 15:28, both Ken & I set PR's for this loop. Back at the condo, the best part of the day was already going on...eating lasagna, drinking Redhook, and hearing all the stories from the day. The individual efforts from everyone involved were nothing short of phenomenal. The Pemi Wild Ultra is and forever will be an epic race, but it's the epic tenacity of an acidotic RACING athlete that will always stand out to me.

1.) Mike & Steve [12:53]
2.) Jay & Steve [14:52]
3.) Kevin & Scott [15:10]
4.) Chris & Ken [15:28]
5.) Sarah & Mike [18:11]

[PHOTO CRED: Chris & Ken on Mt. Lafayette, Franconia Ridge, Mt. Flume summit, carnage]


  1. congrats to the participants of the pemi loop, a truely epic journey. this is a great way to test your physical, mental and emotional fitness level. remember these teammates are doing this for the FUN of it!! more team members should take up the opportunity to pit yourself against the 30 miles next summer. jim

  2. The Pemi Wild Ultra - By the Numbers:

    19,520 - feet of elevation gain & loss
    11,227 - burned calories
    276 - ounces of water/gatorade
    33.3 - rocky, muddy trail miles
    12 - electolyte tablets
    10 - 4000+ foot high mountain peaks
    5 - teams of 2
    4 - granola/protein bars
    3 - pounds of trail mix
    2 - humongous blisters
    1 - heck of a good time

    Thanks for the great adventure, Chris!

  3. Chris and all. Way to go. That sure sounds like an epic run/walk/crawl.

  4. Wow! Great account. That sounds like a blast. I did this a couple of years ago and it was really tough. I think clock-wise would be even tougher. Keep me in the loop when you plan on doing this again.

  5. "The Pemi-Loop in one day?! THATS BULLSHIT!"

    Still one of my favorite stories to tell. Congrats to everyone!
    Glad you enjoyed the day! Wish I was repaired enough to join in!


  6. it sounds like you guys hit galehead (you mentioned 'near the galehead summit'). wouldn't that make 11 4k-ers?

  7. Nope..it's 10. Bondcliff, West Bond, Bond, South Twin, Galehead, Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln, Liberty, and Flume. We did pass them "near" the summit, but they had already tagged it. Guyot and Little Haystack don't count at 4k-footers in this loop because there isn't the 200 foot elevation change.

  8. Ahhh, my confusion is profound. I keep forgetting that Guyot is not on the 48's list. Also, i'm impressed that you hit west bond and galehead. The 'Long' version of the pemi includes North Twin and the 'Short' version skips West Bond, North Twin and Galehead. You guys did the 'Middle'? version. Awesome times. Great work and great blog.