The IGO W114° Montana Challenge takes place in big sky country; a land of pristine wilderness where elk, bison, grizzly bears and antelope outnumber humans. Imagine skies that stretch uninterrupted for as far as you can see. Calm lakes rippling in the breeze. Trails winding through miles of untouched forest. The sound of your wheels and the feeling of air rushing past your face as you descend through the forest. The feeling of being stronger and fitter as your body adapts to the motions and exertion. And the satisfaction at the end, knowing that you and your teammates have experienced something truly remarkable.
THE 4 STAGES ARE:
DAY 1: SWIM & RUN
DAY 2: MOUNTAIN BIKE
DAY 3: KAYAK
DAY 4: MOUNTAIN RUN/TREK
Taking Lewis and Clark as his muses and their famous expedition of the early 19th century as his inspiration, the IGO founder, Bobby, took to notebook and pen and kept a diary, the contents of which follow.
Montana Diaries – Day 1
The Montana Challenge 2018 kicked off with a 2.2 km swim across Whitefish Lake followed by a 10km run into the first of three camps. The quickest was 2hrs 10 mins and set the pace for the rest of the expedition challenge. Participants travelled over 140km over the 4 days and sleeping in three different camp spots. With minimal wind the swim was beautiful and light cloud cover gave some respite from the sun. The camp was on private land next to a stunning lake with nothing but golden eagles and chipmunks with the silence only broken by the odd black bear munching on huckleberries in the distance. Everyone bedded down in tents after expedition rations and our team sports masseuse, Leah, helped aching muscles. A few cold beers were enjoyed as we watched the sun go down over the lake… ready for day 2.
Montana Diaries – Day 2
At 8:00 am everyone in camp emerges from their tents and goes about prepping for a big day ahead. Today is the mountain bike stage – 62 km with a 3000 ft ascent of Warner Peak. After some freeze-dried expedition food and hot coffee followed by a gear check, the stopwatch begins and they are off! Luca Kuhn immediately takes the lead up the mountain and reaches the halfway point closely followed by the Scot, Bruce Macfarlane. The route goes into the wilderness of the Flathead Forest where the participants will be likely to see deer and bear. Between 4 and 7 hours, everyone is back in camp. The evening’s entertainment is a talk on the local area by the Glacier Institute with bison burgers and salad. We had some rain but it passes and we go to bed under a sky full of stars and the Milky Way. A tough day, but the kayak tomorrow is a little easier and the participants can rest before the marathon on day 4.
Montana Diaries – Day 3
Today is a 26km kayak of the North Fork of the Flathead River, voted by Conde Nast as North America’s number one stretch. Participants kayak in inflatables or ‘duckies’, which are very safe and great for amateur kayakers. There were some minor rapids which at this time of year (the fall) are great fun. The kayak stage splits up the mountain bike and the run giving participants legs a well-earned break. The quickest time was the Scot, Bruce Macfarlane, in 3 hours flat. Bringing up the rear – as per every stage – is Derek the doctor and local Demi from Glacier Guides making sure everyone is safe and lending support.
With everyone in camp, the afternoon is spent fly fishing and chopping wood. We then had a yoga session by the river and a hot chilli with marshmallows roasting in the campfire. Stephan, the local Whitefish guitarist came to camp and played some country blues while the group looked into the flames contemplating what they’d accomplished and the final day ahead – the trail running marathon stage to the finish line and back into Whitefish.
Montana Diaries – Day 4
Another misty, moody morning greets the group as everyone starts to emerge from their tents on the bank of the North Fork River. It’s the last day of the 4… marathon day, the big one. There is a nervous mood around the morning campfire as everyone gets coffee, and in camp chef, Michele, cooks up some eggs on the stove. Bobby prepares The rhino all-terrain vehicle with route marking kit, Derek the Head Medic straps up a couple of participants and Rob, Head of Camp, starts to load the trailer for the final time. At 9:30 am everyone is on the start line and ready for the hooter to sound. It’s a beautiful morning start as the mist lifts to show the sun and they are off. The marathon route takes participants through the national forest and some private land before finishing through fields of Montana mustangs and redwood houses before finishing in the depot park of Whitefish where they started 4 days ago. As they come through the finish line the heightened emotions are palpable. With hugs and cheers from locals and teammates alike, this group have achieved something quite extraordinary that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
The Results from IGO Adventure Montana Challenge 2018
A momentous week full of first time experiences for many who have never kayaked or run a marathon before. They are true examples of courage and bravery to take the leap of faith into the unknown and come out the other side transformed. Whilst they all departed this beautiful land as friends for life, holding their heads high, there are some results to share…
The IGO Montana Challenge Winner – Luca Kuhn
Endeavour Award – Mark Bamford (presented for an incredible personal achievement)
Spirit Award – Gemma Sissons (presented for embodying the core values of IGO – wilderness, camaraderie and challenge)