Pack Rafting

Olof and Whitney Hedberg will be racing Untamed New England this summer for Team NYARA along with Chris Rice and Bruce Swanson. Team NYARA’s strategy for the infamous pack rafting section is to use two rafts that are each designed to hold two people. One raft is the Alpacka Explorer and the other is the brand new Alpacka Gnu. Whitney and Olof have been busy testing and modifying their Alpacka Gnu. Since neither have ever used a pack raft before they have been focusing on getting up to speed.

Step one: Figure out how to blow the thing up. Then do it faster.


From Whitney: “our first attempt to inflate the raft took a looooong 9.5 minutes. We have gotten a lot more efficient and can now inflate the raft, sort gear and pack the raft in a little over 6 minutes. We feel pretty good about that time”

Step two: Paddle. Then paddle some more.



The pair tried a number of different paddling combinations and have settled on having Whitney using hand paddles (homemade) up front while Olof uses kayak paddles in the back.
From Olof: “This is a good set up as long as we have relatively short distance to cover or are moving downstream. If we have longer, flat water sections we will probably both use kayak paddles.”

Step three: Practice. Practice. Practice!

On the boat: “Although this boat is on the larger size–compared to a single person basic raft–we are super happy with our choice. The great people at Alpacka helped us choose this new model that they designed with adventure racing in mind. It is super responsive and feels fast (especially for a pack raft). The Vectron fabric is really tough and let’s us get the boat really full of air, which helps make it more efficient in the water.”

On modifications: “I love modifying gear to make it work even better, but we haven’t had to do much on this boat. We added some para cord loops in the front and back to make it easier to carry and a couple of extra para cord loops inside the boat for attaching dry bags. The boat comes with lots of sewn in webbing loops and other connectors so we really didn’t do more than tie on some para cord.”

What’s next: “We are testing the raft on flat water tomorrow and will continue training in it on the river. We also want to practice our transition a few more times it get it as efficient as possible” “We are also looking forward to taking this boat on other adventures after the race!”

A big thanks the Alpacka Raft for sponsoring Untamed New England and the sport of Adventure racing.

Training Report — How do you train for a four day race?

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Olof and Whitney Hedberg with Denise Mast at the top of Cerro Pedernal


A common question adventure racers get is “how do you train for a multi-day race?” There are probably as many different answers to this as there are adventure racers — here are a few ideas from Team NYARA.

Team NYARA members Whitney and Olof Hedberg escaped the brutal winter in the Northeast and spent their winter training in the sunshine of the Southwest. Here they talk a bit about their training strategy and share a couple of their sessions as they prepare for Untamed New England this summer.

Untamed New England is a 4 day race and, for us, 4 days is a pretty long time to do anything. So our training revolves around a few different elements: developing strength and flexibility; skills training and getting in some long days.





Strength and Flexibility:

We focus on plyometric strength training — lots of jumps and dynamic strength moves.

For flexibility we practice yoga at least once a week.

Skills Training:

In four words: Bushwack and climb stuff.

Some recent skills-building adventures have included:

Hiking/Scrambling the Rabbit Ears in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Length: ~ 5miles (90% bushw
Start elevation: ~5650 ft
Peak: 8130 ft
Vertical: ~2480 ft
Difficulty: Mostly 3rd class with 2 shorter (~20ft) 4th class sections
Time: ~8 hours with breaks

Hiking/Scrambling Cerro Pedernal in Northern New Mexico

Length: ~ 6.5miles (40% bushwacking)
Start elevation: unknown(maybe 8,000 ft)
Peak: 9,862 ft
Vertical: ~1,800
Difficulty: 3rd class for two short sections
Time: ~4 hours with a lunch break on top

We also take full advantage of La Luz — a trail that starts in Albuquerque and goes to the top of the Sandia Mountains. The 9 mile (oneway) trail gains more than 3,000 and is mostly runable. The best part is it has some awesome scrambling and bushwacking objectives that you can access from the trail — including one of our favorites, The Thumb.

All of these trips involved route finding, bushwacking through some pretty gnarly desert — think cactus, lots and lots of cactus — and scrambling up things. The more time you spend outside exploring, the easier it becomes. Most important, you have to do things that are both fun and challenging.

Long Days:

You have to make your training fun and challenging so for our long days we often use ski mountaineering — Say what?

Ski Mountaineering trips are seriously good AR training, even though most races include little to no skiing. Typical backcountry trips take 8 hours and include miles of skinning or boot packing, downhill skiing and occasionally some climbing. Skinning and booting up mountains are great for overall fitness while hauling skis on your back helps prepare your back and shoulders for carrying a backpack full of AR gear for four days. Route finding and strategy choices are common when you are out in the mountains and especially with ski mountaineering — navigating variable snow conditions, avalanche risk/safety and varying ability levels. A couple of our recent trips include Heaven’s Hill in Santa Fe, NM and Mount Daly outside Marble, CO.

We are spending the month of April hanging out in Leadville, CO and racking up lots of loooooong ski days (and strong legs). Not to mention getting in some high altitude training — the town of Leadville sits at over 10,000 ft in elevation. We will keep you posted on our progress.