Team WEDALI paddles 25+ miles of open water during an early section in the USARA National Championship race
Justin Bakken, Mari Chandler, and Brian Mayer (left to right) paddle during the 2021 USARA National Championship race; (photo/Ann Illagan)

US Adventure Racing Champs Return and 5 More Can’t-Miss Stories This Week

From the inspiring to the tragic, ‘Adventure News of the Week’ presents a wrap-up of top news in the world of exploration and adventure. Here’s what you missed this weekend and a few things to look forward to.

This past weekend marked the return of the annual Adventure Racing National Championships, a true test of interdisciplinary athleticism. With a course comprised of paddling, trekking, mountain biking, and navigation to 50-plus checkpoints, the USARA National Championship Race was held in the woods of northern Wisconsin.

Teams from around the country shot off from the start-line at 8 a.m. on Friday for the 30-hour competition. The 2 p.m. cutoff on Saturday meant an effort through the day and night, with orienteering and map-work a constant on the course. It demanded both extreme physical output and exacting navigation skills.

In the end, Team WEDALI came in first, with its three racers (Justin Bakken, Brian Mayer, and Mari Chandler) clearing the course in just under 25 hours of continuous motion. Fun fact: Team GearJunkie put up a strong entry in the race. Out of 55 teams in total, Team GJ claimed third place (male division) and 13th overall.

Moving on, September is proving one helluva month in the ultra-endurance sphere. First, Runner Becca Jay is attempting something crazy — to summit the 14,000-foot Grays Peak six times in 24 hours on Sept. 17.

Her goal is to summit Grays Peak (14, 270ft) as many times as she can, but she’s aiming for at least six laps up the 8-mile, 3,000-plus-foot-gain peak. “My intention is to move in community while helping to restore land to the stewardship of Tribal Nations and helping to fund environmental protection and healing efforts led by Indigenous organizations,” wrote Jay.

This is also the mission of Jay’s running team, ReNew Earth Running. Her attempt is part of her effort to fundraise for ReNew Earth. She welcomes all Colorado runners to join her in raising awareness and funds for the adventure-based nonprofit.

And, just yesterday, Canada’s own Karen Holland blew past the overall (that’s right — men’s and women’s) Bruce Trail FKT in Ontario. Holland scorched the ultra-trail run in 8 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes, paving over record-holder Kip Arlidge’s time by more than 4 hours. Notably, Holland also knocked out the previous women’s record, set by Chantal Demers in 2017, by more than 3 days.


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Good news for the powder-hungry crowds: Colorado’s Bluebird Backcountry ski area just added twice the terrain for its 2021-2022 season.

Specifically, the addition brings four fresh uphill skin tracks and 12 downhill trails to the Bear Mountain location, which the company says “runs the full spectrum, from low-angle green/blue runs to extreme gullies.” More information, including a laundry list of updated and pass options, is available at

2022 New Terrain Bluebird Backcountry
(Photo/Bluebird Backcountry)

And here’s a way to scratch that shoulder-season itch: on Sept. 18, Teton Gravity Research will debut “Stoke the Fire,” a feature-length showcase of premiere-league freeskiing and snowboarding. The film will then go on tour across the U.S. and Europe from September through November. Get psyched for the slopes with TGR’s teaser video and check out the official Stoke the Fire” tour schedule.

Alex Honnold just can’t stay out of the news. The “Free Solo” star announced his next (and perhaps most challenging) project to date: parenthood. The famed climber and wife, Sanni McCandless, took to social media on the first anniversary of their marriage with a characteristically straightforward announcement. The GearJunkie crew congratulates Alex and Sanni on their upcoming arrival. Send it!


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Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.