Story written and photographed by Greg Stafford.
Flying back to Anchorage, Alaska, the realization of finishing the Cascade Challenge (CC) expedition finally hit home. Sitting in my cramped little airplane seat, my mind flashed like an extended time lapse through all the great moments of that journey. Spotting Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood, I was struck by the immensity of the distance that we had traveled. A smile crept over my face and soon I was grinning from ear to ear, we had done it.
Traverses are hard. We found that out right away, when almost everything went wrong on Mt. Baker. Another very difficult psychological aspect of the expedition was having these volcanoes loom over you as you struggled on your bike. To see the Cascades stretching north and south like snow-covered sentinels of the Northwest was definitely a gem of the trip. But you would also see how far you had to travel, and it was very discouraging at times. One day you were biking up to the trailhead, the next day you were up at 2 a.m., beginning your mountain climb. Then, to top it all off once you finally got on top of one of the mountains, you would have to descend and do it all over again in the next couple of days. The constant physical output of the expedition was something that none of us have ever experienced before.
Looking back, one of the keys to our success of the challenge was our ability to adapt daily. Every day we had to pick the best bike route, campsites, trailheads, and all of our mountain ascents and descents. We knew that if we picked one wrong route and had to backtrack, it could shut us down for days. Our mountain routes were mostly dictated by the bike approaches and how we could get from point A, to the summit, and to point B in order to continue our march south.
Another unsung hero of this expedition was our support man, Cole Iverson. Every time the athletes left on a mountain climb, Cole was left alone to deal with the truck, trailer, bikes and all of the other equipment. Dealing with all the equipment was a major obstacle for the team. It was a constant equipment shuffle dubbed the “junk show.”
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the trip was camping out for a month and a half with my three awesome teammates. It is those moments of laughter around the campfire that I will continue to treasure for some time to come. Generally we all got along great, and had very few family feuds. Having people around you that get along can make or break an expedition. I really can’t say enough about my teammates.
After we finished the CC expedition on July 25, the whole team needed a much-deserved break from everything. The success of this project was due in a large part to a year and a half of planning and training. Personally, this expedition was a culmination of three years of climbing, skiing and biking in the Cascades for me. It has been very refreshing for me to take some time off from the CC and return to a bed and normal life for a bit.
The Cascade Challenge was also a different type of expedition. Instead of one mountain objective we had 14, and we also had to bike to and from those objectives. Generally we stayed away from technical routes because of equipment and traverse difficulties. As new routes and mountains are climbed, you have to get creative on new ways to explore. Multi-mountain and human-powered expeditions are becoming more and more popular as people find new ways to enjoy the outdoors. Instead of one route and one mountain, why not try to climb the bulk of an entire mountain range?
Looking forward, the next step is to edit and produce the Cascade Challenge Movie. The movie will take some time, as most good things do. It will not only tell our story, but will be a celebration of the Cascade Mountain Range and the beauty it possesses. Through time lapses, interviews, and nature shots, in addition to the story of the CC, the movie will be a celebration of the Cascade Mountain Range and all that we enjoy about it.
The premiere of the movie will be in Bend, Oregon, sometime next spring. We will also be entering a number of film festivals and will be touring selected spots across the Pacific Northwest.
Looking forward, I am excited for an awesome year of backcountry skiing, photography, and climbing in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. I do have another couple of projects similar to the CC in the works and I look forward to the next adventure to begin.
Some Expedition facts:
• In 14 days, we climbed 74,878 feet.
• In those same 14 days we skied 52,007 vertical feet and biked 118 miles.
• Mustaches make you more aerodynamic.
• Total miles biked on the route: 937
• You can live off Cytomax and pasta for a month and a half.
• Total elevation biked to: 56,200 feet.
• 5 self-arrests made, using whip-it poles.
• Over 100 mosquito bites.
• 3 flat tires.
• Total expedition length: 43 days, with 5 rest days
• Mustache Contest: 1st place: Cole; 2nd place: Rex; 3rd place: Greg; 4th place: Will.
• 3 athletes became the first people to traverse the Cascade Mountain Range!
—The Cascade Challenge Team signing off.
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