Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Taking on the Cloud Peak Duathlon

Worland's Chris Klinghagen attempted a bike/run from Worland to Cloud Peak in under 24 hours


September 26, 2018

COURTESY/ Chris Klinghagen

Chris Klinghagen is about to begins his summit of Cloud Peak on July 28 at West Ten Sleep Lake.

WORLAND - As we get older athletic achievements tend to dwindle and/or be targeted to more manageable challenges, like running a marathon or competing in a triathlon. For Worland's Chris Klinghagen those are all well and good, but marathons, triathlons, are sort of training events for the challenges he has laid out for himself.

Klinghagen enjoys pushing himself, whether that's biking the equivalent of the Bozeman Trail (A slight exaggeration but you get the idea) or entering 50K runs. Wanting a new challenge for the summer, the plan was to find something that would test him in multiple facets. That's when he remembered a story published in the Northern Wyoming Daily News in 2011.

The story was about an adventure that Worland's David Frahm and Roger Howe undertook. Frahm and Howe biked from Worland to West Ten Sleep Lake, from there they hiked to the top of Cloud Peak, elevation of 13,171 feet, climbed back down, hopped back on their bikes and headed back to Worland. Adding to the challenge Frahm and Howe wanted to complete all of this under 24 hours.

While most of us would look at a trek like that like, "The terrorist wants me to do what? Why don't we just negotiate a ransom payment for my family instead?" Klinghagen saw what he's dubbed the Cloud Peak Duathlon (CPD) as the perfect summer challenge.

"It was something when I read that article that I thought would be fun and I could replicate. I'd been trying to do it for some time but the timing never worked. On the times I was close to trying it, there'd be a full moon but it was going to rain all night," said Klinghagen.

Getting ready for the CPD was, of course, chalk full of running in the mountains or running in 50Ks for Klinghagen, but throwing a wrench into things was an injury. Earlier in the summer, he had a bike accident that limited his bike training for close to eight weeks.

Not getting in the level of training he wanted on his bike was worrisome for Klinghagen and understandably so, because a total of 106 miles of this adventure was going to be spent on his bike.

"I was a little concerned about the bike section because this summer I had a bike crash and had my arm in a splint for six, seven weeks and I wasn't able to get any bike training in. Coming into it I had maybe 50 miles on my bike all summer."

"I'd been running quite a bit this summer," said Klinghagen. "I have a couple 50ks, marathons and shorter distances that I used to help to prepare. I was also doing a lot of running in the mountains and tried to stay up as high as I can on my long runs on the weekends. I had been up to Lost Twins, Bomber Mountain, Cloud Peak and on the Buffalo side, I ran up to Lake Angeline. We spent a lot of time ski touring up in the Tetons during the winter and all of that just builds on itself and adds to summer fitness."

The day before starting something like the CPD, resting would be a premium. Most of us, wanting to get our family back, would have rested before setting out for Cloud Peak. Not Klinghagen. He went to work on Friday, got off at 5:30 p.m. then went home and packed for the CPD.

In fact, it wasn't until the day before on July 26 that Klinghagen decided when exactly he was going to head out.

"That morning I was up about 5:30 in the morning, I went about my day. I worked a full day on Friday and it wasn't until Thursday night that I decided when I was going to leave. I got off work at 5 o'clock on Friday, went home and packed a backpack," said Klinghagen.

At 10:20 p.m. on July 27, a day after his 42nd birthday, Klinghagen set out on his bike from Pioneer Square to West Ten Sleep Lake. The plan included to then run/hike to the peak of Cloud Peak, climb back down, grab his bike and head back to Pioneer Square before 10:20 p.m. on Saturday July 28.

Things were going smoothly for Klinghagen at the start, he had a full moon and good weather. But this is Wyoming and whenever you have plans the weather decides to test just how committed you are to those plans.

Five miles outside Ten Sleep, the weather took a turn. It started to rain, thunder and lightning during the hardest part of the biking portion. The ride from Ten Sleep to West Ten Sleep Lake is a continual climb.

Klinghagen pushed through the rain and cold to make it to West Ten Sleep Lake where his family was staying in a camper, and he could rest before starting his climb toward Cloud Peak.

"When it started raining and lightning outside Ten Sleep, my thought was just to get to West Ten Sleep trailhead because I had a camper setup there in case I needed to bail out. I had some crew there to help me transition, but I woke them up at 5 in the morning when I rolled in and they were all sound asleep," said Klinghagen.

Needing to regain his energy from riding in the cold and rain most the night Klinghagen took a two-hour break to warm up and refuel. Although, while he was taking his break, the thought of quitting did cross his mind.

"I sat there, after riding in the rain for a couple of hours, contemplating if I wanted to keep going or not. The sky started to break up and I decided to go for it. Took off up Cloud Peak, I was a little slow on the top because it was super foggy up there and I couldn't see much.

"There were also times when I was on Cloud Peak, with the fog, I couldn't see 50 feet in front of me and I thought 'Why am I doing this? I'm not going to make 24 hours, this isn't going to happen.' But it would break up enough and I could advance faster. Once I summited and made my way back down to runnable terrain again, I looked at the watch and knew if I could get into camp with five hours left I'd be OK," said Klinghagen.

What kept Klinghagen motivated to keep with the trek were all the hours and hours of training he had in his running. Having the confidence in his running he knew when that portion of the adventure started, it was going to give him a mental boost.

"I knew once I started running, that part would kick in and I could mentally get back into it once I was on foot and running. I was able to run all the way up to Misty Moon comfortably and was able to boulder hop all the way up to Cloud Peak."

Once Klinghagen reached the top of Cloud Peak he sent a text to friend Jeff Yule to let him know he was on his way back down. The plan was to have Yule ride back to Worland and provide some company.

Having company for the return to Worland was very welcomed by Klinghagen and turned out to be a critical aid in making it back to Pioneer Square.

"He rode back with me on the return leg and that was helpful to have someone else to ride with," said Klinghagen. "It was helpful to have Jeff there and someone to talk to. If I'm by myself, it would have been really easy to pull over somewhere in a pile of sagebrush and take a nap."

Getting back to camp Klinghagen knew the first portion of the return trip home was going to be the easiest part of the whole CPD. West Ten Sleep Lake to Ten Sleep is all downhill, but as most of us who have made the trip in a car from Ten Sleep to Worland know, that road offers plenty of hills, actually, too many, according to Klinghagen.

"The hills were tough. It seemed like you got to the top of the hill you looked up the road and there was another one. Then as soon as you got over that one there was another and another, and another. I just thought, 'How in the world?' I don't remember there being this many hills on the ride out here. Where did they all come from?' You just got to keep grinding through and keep pedaling."

Powering through the hills with Yule, Klinghagen made it to Pioneer Square at 9:16 p.m., an hour and four minutes to spare of the 10:20 p.m. mark. The total trip took him 22 hours and 56 minutes to complete.

All Klinghagen asked for after conquering the CPD in less than 24 hours was a pizza and beer. Pizza, beer and a good night's sleep were part of his recovery and most of us would have slept until Sunday of the following week, but Klinghagen isn't wired that way.

The next morning, Klinghagen was up by 8 a.m. and on his way to Beartooth Pass with his daughter, Kyra, to hit the slopes.

"When I got to the park I said I wanted pizza and beer. I ate almost an entire pepperoni pizza and got a good night's rest, those were my two big requests," said Klinghagen.

"As far as Sunday, we were up bright and early and on our way to Beartooth, getting our July turns in. She and I are working on a project to ski every month of the year and it happened to be the last weekend in July, so I didn't have much of a choice."

All in all, the entire adventure was worth it for Klinghagen and might be something he takes a crack at in the future because there's always room for improvement. And if he doesn't do the CPD next year, there's always some other new adventure out there to give a whirl.

"I think I left some time out there, but it was wild and overall was fun. It was something I said I was never going to do again but I may, especially if someone else wants to do it," said Klinghagen. "I look to try more of these adventures in the future. I want to try and pick a few more of these, for a lack of a better term, personal projects. I have a few more crazy ideas up my sleeves."


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