A couple of weeks ago The North Face teammates Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote finished a 23 day, 600 mile “run” from Missoula, Montana, to Banff, Alberta, traversing the region known as the Crown of the Continent. Together they traveled 600 miles, climbed 165,000 feet, crossed 13 mountain ranges, an international border, and only 3 paved roads along the way. All from the front doorsteps of their homes. They called this adventure the Crown Traverse. Apparently a lot of people must have been wondering why someone would take on such an arduous adventure (just watch the video and you’ll see what we mean), so here they try to answer the question, why?
1. To flow through a landscape – The trip was never about just running. It was never about breaking records. It was about moving through terrain with ridgelines and game trails as our guides. It was about choosing a route that challenged all of our mountain travel skill sets. It was about getting tired but not broken. It was about soaking up an experience at a pace that whittled down our energy, but didn’t extinguish the flame. It was about continuing north day after day after day after day. It was about having a simple and clear goal every morning for weeks on end.
2. To reduce the noise – I’d rather not say how long it has been since I’ve spent significant amounts of time away from my phone, my computer and my email inbox. Let’s just say its been years. Multiple. Every day I feel more tethered to technology and like so many others I fear its negative effects on how I exist in this world. Selfishly, I wanted to unplug to limit my distractions while thick in an experience. I savored the time I had without knowing what was going on in the outside world. It allowed me to quiet my mind in a way it has not enjoyed in far too long. It allowed me to ask different questions, experience higher quality daydreaming, and to just slow the hell down in general.
Ultrarunner and The North Face athlete Mike Foote studies the daunting route
3. To immerse myself in a place- To know a place well, I need to exist in it physically. To love a place I need to experience it. My three plus weeks in the Crown of the Continent region no doubt furthered my love affair with the Crown. I have seen the way light plays in the early and late hours of the day on the high peaks of a dozen mountain ranges. I have followed the trails that the wild residents of the Crown use to travel from ridges to valleys. I have noticed striking similarities in the geology of mountain ranges 400 miles distanced from one another. I feel I see the Crown as a whole now, and not in its small fragments I have only known in the past.
4. For the adventure – Who doesn’t yearn for a proper adventure these days? More and more I crave the unknown, the loose parts, the out-of-your-control nature of an adventure. Perhaps it is my way to balance a life that has with each year become more cluttered with professional and financial obligations. Sure, we planned a lot for this journey. We had a timeline, we had a general route, we had resupply points. But in the end, we left enough of the discovery to happen in the moment. This led to both moments of elation and frustration, which are key ingredients to any good adventure, right? You can only prepare so much, and adventure usually lies in the thin margin between success and disaster, which makes for a higher quality experience all around as far as I’m concerned.
5. To peel back the layers – Each mile run scrambled or slogged, each mountain range traversed, I felt I was able to look back on my life in its current state with a more objective lens, than during my day to day life while at home and amidst work. It wasn’t a reason I was aware of before this trip started, but after 2 weeks straight of running, I noticed my thoughts were more coherent, linear, uncluttered. Peeling back the distractions with each night camped under the stars, each snow storm survived and each mountain steam forded.
Leaving from their front door in Missoula, Montana
6. To explore our backyard- Missoula lies at the southern end of a beautiful and wild expanse of land that goes on and on and on with little human development. I’ve known this for years, but to experience it first hand was a special thing. Although Banff, Alberta is hundreds of miles away, we essentially share the same wild backyard. By connecting these two communities on our trip, it put into perspective how fortunate we are to live where we do, and that is something worth seeing, experiencing and celebrating.
7. Why not? – Maybe there was no reason. Maybe it just felt like the right thing to do. Maybe I’ll never know. Maybe that’s ok.
–Interview and images courtesy of The North Face.