GET OUT: Jackson X-treme

By on July 28, 2015

Rendezvous Hill Climb in honor of Onufer

Calling hikers, runners and ‘X-treme’ folk to Teton Village this weekend for the Rendezvous Hill Climb. The race also is a way to pay tribute to iconic mountaineer and tram mechanic Chris Onufer.(Credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Calling hikers, runners and ‘X-treme’ folk to Teton Village this weekend for the Rendezvous Hill Climb. The race also is a way to pay tribute to iconic mountaineer and tram mechanic Chris Onufer.(Credit: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – For those of you locals who remember when Jackson Drug had milkshakes, you may remember the long-standing sprinting event to the top of the tram. The old race to the top of the tram has changed a bit this year, and the competition has adjusted its name to the Rendezvous Mountain Hill Climb (X-treme Edition!). The inaugural race began in 1988 and the contest, held this Saturday at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, is being revamped in coordination with the Teton Trail Runners and JHMR.

But, why the X-treme? The race is being held in honor of the late valley fixture: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort tram mechanic, Chris Onufer, who died in an avalanche in March of 2012. His friends knew him for pioneering mountain challenges of his own design. Long before the days of Instagram feat-posting obsessions, he was biking from the Village and swimming the length of Jackson Lake with some mountain climbing in between. Chris was always gallivanting around in the hills, so it is only appropriate for the organizations to dedicate the vertical race to the memory of such a unique and wonderful soul.

In previous years of this challenging race, the course has been predominantly on a service road. This time around, race coordinators dreamt up a more scenic selection of trail and the course has been changed to hosting single-track variations (and the wildflowers should be spectacular).

The new route entails starting from the base of the Bridger Gondola and cruising to the top of Union Pass chairlift. From there, the Wildflower Trail will take you past Casper restaurant to Mr. Toads Wild Ride back up to the Bridger Gondola. Gaining elevation, the scenic route goes to the top of the Headwall to the East Ridge, hosting views of boulder fields and high alpine forests. This is where the course really gets the “X,” gaining the East Ridge and scrambling past Corbet’s Couloir to the top of the tram.

150729GetOut-2I have only gone from the bottom of the resort to the top of the tram a handful of times. One good friend always tells me the same two things to help with a big journey: eat food and have pleasant company. A good meal with lots of protein two nights before a big jaunt is the most effective approach in making sure the body lasts all day. Also, bringing people with you to chat can make time and vertical feet fly by.  There is always something to be said about the people you surround yourself with in the mountains. Rain, shine, sleet or snow, they can make or break the day.

For the non-runners, the hill climb has many other options.

Yes, it may sound daunting but there are other alternatives for the average Joe. There is a non-competitive class for hikers and walkers that begins an hour before the competitive race.

For the X-treme athletes, this is the first year of the new course, so that means no record has been set. Tom Borschel holds the old service road course record with a time of 58 minutes and 49 seconds in 1995.

For the curious, heed the words of the late Chris Onufer: “You don’t know if you don’t go.” Take this however you will, but be prepared for some “suns out, guns out” type of fun. The joy is in the journey, not the destination. Plus, there will be beer afterwards for racers. PJH

More beta: Registration available online at RendezvousMountainHillClimb.com for $25; $35 in person for day-of registration.

Route info: 6.1 miles, 4,104 vertical feet

All proceeds benefit the Jackson Hole High School cross-country team.

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