Games extol Boulder Park
Food, music complement mountain sports event.
A paraglider takes off from the top of Snow King Mountain during the OuterLocal Summer Games on Saturday. With storm clouds approaching, the paragliders competing in the fourth and final event of the games launched right before the rain started to fall. JACLYN BOROWSKI / NEWS&GUIDEView our entire photo gallery >>
By Miller N. Resor, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
July 11, 2012
People swarmed around the man-made boulders in Phil Baux Park on Saturday afternoon, bobbing their heads to the electronic beats of DJ El Jefe, who was perched on top of one of the massive faux rocks.
The music — and the throng of spectators sporting sunglasses and tank tops and mingling with long-haired climbers in torn T-shirts — made the second event of the Outerlocal Summer Games feel like a rave.
The Summer Games, the brainchild of Outerlocal founder Christian Beckwith, also consisted of a run up Snow King, a mountain bike race and a paragliding competition. The multidisciplinary games were inspired by and a celebration of the Teton Boulder Park.
During opening ceremonies earlier that day, Beckwith, a founder of the park, recalled how Snow King has a history of intense activity by hikers, bikers and paragliders. He told the crowd how he hoped that one day the boulder park would offer another reason for people to gather at the base of the ski hill.
The boulder park, Beckwith said, is for our children. A place for them to learn to climb and to learn about Jackson’s climbing heritage.
In addition to the climbing boulders, the park contains a memorial to the lives that have been lost in the mountains and a wall documenting historic achievements in Tetons climbing.
As the crowds grew, the bouldering competition shifted into full swing. Climbers laid in the shadows beneath the routes, resting their arms and studying the climbs marked with colored tape. Other competitors gasped and grasped for holds on the routes.
“There are not many places like this, where you can get an outdoor bouldering venue with space for a DJ,” said Nate Chartrand, who lives in Wilson but is originally from Seattle. “The boulders are rad. Nice and grippy, with interesting features.”
Routes were assigned point values based on difficulty. After two hours, scores of competitors’ five most difficult climbs were totalled.
Micah Rush, owner of Casper-based 307 Bouldering, the first organization to create a statewide bouldering competition in the country, designed the routes.
“These outdoor boulders are so cool for this community,” he said. “It’s a great site for an event like this. It’s super-spectator friendly.”
Miles Every, 12, who comes to Jackson in the summer with his mother, a Grand Teton Music Festival cellist, took first place in the men’s recreational division with 9,600 points. He impressed the crowd by completing a 2,800-point route around an overhang using miniscule hand holds on the The Guides boulder, the easternmost of the three rocks.
Nearby, on The Boxcar, the largest boulder, a group of climbers took turns attempting another overhanging route. Although they were competing against each other, they also encouraged one another, even offering suggestions.
“That’s how we learn, watching other people,” said Indra Magar, who lives in Jackson but is originally from Nepal.
Eventually, to applause from other competitors, Magar reached the top of the route. He finished 11th in the men’s competitive category with 17,200 points.
Although bouldering was the latest attraction, it was just one of the events at the games. Earlier that morning, mountain bikers completed two to three laps, depending on their division, of a 3.66-mile loop on Snow King. The race gained more than a 1,000 feet on each loop and dropped down steep single track and loose dirt on the descent.
Competitors crossed the finish line exhausted and, in some cases, bloody.
Amanda Carey — the leading National Ultra Endurance Series racer in the nation who normally races mountain bike courses that are 100 miles long — said the Outerlocal course “was actually one of the most challenging cross-country races I have done in a while.” She said there was nowhere to rest on the uphill and the downhills were steep.
“I haven’t spent that much time riding behind my saddle in a long time,” said Carey, who won the female individual pro division with a time of 1 hour, 20 minutes, 55 seconds.
The bouldering competition was the second event, after which it was back to the mountain. This time racers ran to the top then turned around and ran back down. The race gained more than 1,600 feet and covered 4.75 miles.
Rickey Gates, a Salomon-sponsored runner, won with a time of 37:24.2. Gates is a five-time member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team and holds the record in the 80-mile Canadian Death Race.
Gates made the run look easy. He said his favorite part was the final push to the top beneath Snow King’s summit. He breached the top at the same time as a wedding party.
“They were the best cheering squad,” he said. “I look forward to how the games evolve in the future.”
The final leg of the games truly set the competition apart from any other in the country, said Nick Greece, editor of the United States Hangliding and Paragliding Association magazine.
“There used to be other events that combine paragliding with other outdoor adventure sports,” he said, “but as far as I know, this is now the only one in the country.”
Competitors hauled their parachutes — which when properly packed fit into backpacks that weigh between 25 and 45 pounds — to the top of Snow King and set sail for Karns Meadow. Upon landing, they repacked their chutes and ran back to the base of Snow King.
For the winner of the men’s pro division, Roy Morris, the paragliding was the best part of the day.
“I’d met all the pilots, because I am here visiting friends who paraglide,” he said. “It was really fun to hike with those guys.”
Morris, who is from Washington, climbed Snow King in its entirety twice and rode three laps of the bike course. He was the only person in his division to do the entire race by himself and only one of three in all divisions.
“It just came together because these are the activities I do all the time,” Morris said.
The first year race was “really well put together,” he said. “It would be really sweet if more people got involved and gave it that competitive edge next year.”