Simply put, some people just do it better.
By Rachel Anderson
Maximizing mental and physical strength isn’t easy. Hell, if it were we could all do it. The five following individuals are the elite: chasing their desires and accomplishing inconceivable tasks. From circumnavigating the globe to redefining the adaptive sports world, these athletes are sending it above and beyond. Why? Because they’re tough.
Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote
Traversing the Crown of the Continent from Missoula, Montana, to Banff, Alberta, ultrarunners Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote, accompanied by photographer Steven Gnam, accomplished a feat never before attempted.
“The Mikes,” as they’re known, ran the Crown’s 13 major mountain ranges while scaling 150,700 feet of vert. Wolfe and Foote ran for 22 days carrying packs with sleeping bags, winter clothing, a small Jetboil stove, a tiny two-man tent, and all their food. They cleared nearly 600 miles of uncharted territory in just 24 days.
“We essentially dreamed up our route,” said Wolfe, 37. “We were not relying on trails, just a vision of traveling light and fast in the mountains while using the highest, aesthetic ridgeline terrain we could find.”
Wolfe and Foote, 32, bushwhacked as many as 50 miles a day through demanding and technical terrain and mastered innovative route-finding techniques. When they arrived in Banff, the Mikes had logged 599.7 miles. So they took a few laps on Main Street to get them to 600.
A three-time Olympian and 14-year veteran of the U.S. Ski Team, slalom specialist Resi Stiegler tears through gates faster than most.
Growing up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and ripping since the age of6, Stiegler is the daughter of Olympic gold medalist Pepi Stiegler. Fierce competition runs in the family, but the course hasn’t been easy.
After suffering multiple broken bones and ligament tears, she bounced back again in 2015 to showcase true grit. “It’s hard to keep coming back, but it also gives me a really good reason to keep pushing myself,” said Stiegler, 29. “I love the accomplishment of getting my body back to the highest level and trusting my mind.”
Representing the U.S. at the highest levels of alpine ski racing, Stiegler finished 11th in Aspen’s 2015 World Cup slalom. She’ll be back this winter, displaying the unbreakable nature of a true mountain beast. After all, she used to sport tiger ears on her race helmet.
There’s no stopping native Montanan David Poole from tackling any adrenaline-infused extreme sport. Excuses aren’t part his vocabulary.After sustaining a T7 complete spinal cord injury in a 2006 skiing accident, he’s redefining the adaptive sports world, and pushing every boundary he can find. “I tell people I didn’t get in a wheelchair by being careful,” says 30-year-old Poole, nicknamed “Madman.”
Returning to the mountain the following season, Poole hit it hard on his alpine sit ski, and has since expanded his badassery. Nordic and alpine skiing, biathlons, adaptive wake surfing, off-road hand cycling, whitewater rafting, ice and rock climbing, you name it and Poole is willing to go faster and launch higher.
“It’s easier for me to accept who I am and the injury if I can continue to enjoy my life,” Poole said.
Now engineering a new sport called downhill bucket biking, an adaptive version of downhill mountain biking, Poole is inspiring everyone in his path.
Routes of Change founder Markus Pukonen is circumnavigating the entire planet. Big deal? He’s not using a motor.
Pukonen, who shoved off from his native Toronto, Canada, last July, expects his journey around the globe to take five years, andis using any motorless method possible. From pogo sticking across Winnipeg to rowing the Atlantic – which he’s done before – Pukonen is embracing environmental and social justice for the next 50,000-plus miles.
“Life can be short and we shouldn’t waste time doing something we’re not passionate about,” said Pukonen, 33, who hatched the plan after his father passed away from leukemia in 2009. “I needed to figure out my dream by calling on this planet and pursuing it completely.”
A team of fellow adventurers will support Pukonen on various stages of the journey ahead, raising awareness for impactful change and a wiser world.
Pukonen was skiing across the southern Canadian Rockies through British Columbia in early December en route to San Francisco. Then it’s across the Pacific, stopping for a breather in Hawaii.
This story was first published in the winter 2016 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.