ACEP and ISER Researchers Team for Victorious Wilderness Classic

ACEP and ISER Researchers Team for Victorious Wilderness Classic

Adventure and traveling through rugged country is a common pastime of ACEP researchers. Participating in rugged, remote backcountry wilderness events is research engineer Jeremy Vandermeer’s forte.

Vandermeer and the Institute of Social and Economic Research’s Tobias Schwoerer teamed up to finish first in the 2019 Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic.

The Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic, an adventure challenge that embraces purity of style and zero impact, started in 1982 as a 150-mile (240-km) wilderness traverse. The classic has crossed various mountain ranges throughout Alaska, with some routes covering nearly 250 miles (400 km). Traditionally, the same route has been used for three years in a row, with each year being a different month (June, July or August). Travelers power themselves from start to finish with no outside support, carry all food and equipment, leave no trace and personally arrange any rescues.

Vandermeer and Schwoerer each carried about 10 pounds of food, a simple tarp tent, a packraft and bear spray. The event started in Cantwell and finished at Sheep Mountain in the Talkeetna Mountains. The pair traveled 40 miles by river in packrafts and 100 miles by foot in three days, 15 hours and 15 minutes.

Along the way, the pair encountered whitewater, a lot of elevation gain, porcupines, moose blocking the way in rivers, swamps, fantastic geology and views, wonderful caribou trails, and a charging bear.

“The bear charge initially seemed predatory,” Vandermeer said. “Toby and I were separated at that point, and the bear ran to within 30 feet of me and stopped and couldn’t decide what to do. It seemed like a young grizzly who had never encountered humans before.”

Schwoerer joined Vandermeer, and the pair stood their ground, waving their arms with bear spray at the ready. The bear ran away.

Schwoerer is no newcomer to the classic; he was first victorious in 2017 over the Galbraith Lake-to-Wiseman route in the Brooks Range.


Toby Schwoerer, left, and Jeremy Vandermeer are all smiles after finishing the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic. Photo by Toby Schwoeerer.