PINEDALE – Adventure-seekers have all the more reason to be in Pinedale this July, as the Wind River Mountain Festival is set to add an adventure race to test the limits of even the most hardcore outdoor enthusiasts.
Named the Surly Pika – after the small, mountain-dwelling rodent– the three-part race will feature mountain biking, trekking and paddling across the waters of Fremont Lake as teams make their way from White Pine Ski Area down to Lakeside Lodge later in the day.
According to Laura Hattan, co-owner of Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale, she has been working closely with Darren Hull to take all the necessary steps in making the race a reality.
Hull is experienced in planning adventure races, as he has a history of assisting in similar events in Alaska. Up there, he was part of a grassroots, low-key group that set up 24-hour events. Pinedale’s event will be much smaller in scale – expected to run around eight hours.
He says bringing a rugged race to Pinedale will help both local participants and outside visitors get a unique experience of the surrounding area.
“Our goal is to highlight some country around Pinedale,” he said. “We have really good terrain that is rarely utilized. I want to introduce people to areas and new experiences. That makes it more fun.”
The mountain biking portion will mainly stick to trails and two-track roads, but things could turn interesting once participants reach the trekking leg. At that time, teams will have to locate waypoints and make their way to them to increase their overall score. Just missing one waypoint could make or break the winning team, so teams will have to decide if venturing to a waypoint that is out of the way of their current path will be worth the extra time involved.
The final leg of the race will take participants down to Fremont Lake, where they will use flatwater canoes to paddle from an unknown location to the finish line at Lakeside Lodge. The race was built around that eight-hour timeframe, and is expected to fill most of the day for attendees.
Hull says he built the course to be beginner-friendly, while also taking note of surrounding boundaries present in the wilderness to help guide individuals and ideally, keep people from getting lost. For example, missing a checkpoint would, in turn, have folks bump into a roadway so they don’t stray too far, Hull said.
“Racing around Pinedale is relatively safe,” he noted, stating the surrounding rivers and lakes will serve as hard boundaries.
While stating the race will be beginner-friendly, the race designer also wanted to make it difficult enough for more experienced teams to still have a challenge.
“I might throw in a few outlier checkpoints,” he said, adding that teams will be forced to make decisions. “Teams will have to race smart. You could go for (the checkpoint) or skip it and hope other teams didn’t.”
Hattan says participants need to be somewhat experienced in mountain biking, navigation and paddling the lake to see success.
Teams will be forced to develop strategies, thrive with team dynamics and make decisions together.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest gave approval for the race last week following a public comment period that Hull said saw very positive feedback and support.
To give back, racers must commit to volunteering to help out the U.S. Forest Service in four hours of community service. If they do not wish to volunteer, participants are required to pay an additional fee that will go back to improve local trails and overall maintenance.
“We’re not just taking resources, but giving back to the community,” he said. “Lots of races do that.”
Hattan said the race should be an exciting venture, and was designed to be a celebration of the Wind River Range and the area surrounding Pinedale.
“Pinedale doesn’t really have a race,” Hattan said. “This is a good opportunity for people to enjoy the terrain in a different way and it fits with the festival and promotes the area.”
Hattan says they are still in the early stages of preparing for the race, and to stay tuned to the Surly Pika Adventure Racing Facebook group for updates, as they are still in the process of launching a dedicated website. Folks can also call the Great Outdoor Shop, or swing in to chat with Laura in person.
“As we continue to plan and organize the event, we will get information out,” she said. “We’re in early planning, so people can give suggestions.”
In addition, Hattan hopes the additional event will make the draw to Pinedale from outside communities even greater than last year’s event that brought in around 2,000 people to town.
“We hope it will boost our numbers even more,” she said.
The Wind River Mountain Festival will take place July 21-23, with the Surly Pika taking place on Sunday, July 23, starting at 8 a.m.