“My iPod died two days ago. It was a sad moment. I took a picture,” said Montavon, a 29-year-old mountaineering guide from Palmer. Before his solar charger broke, he could watch movies, listen to his favorite history and comedy podcasts and rock out to rap or bluegrass.
His run began in Deadhorse on May 2 and should end in Homer, 1,100 road miles south, in early June. Wednesday was his first rest day, though he plans to take 10 days off after the run to recover before guiding a trip up Mount McKinley.
Montavon has a bushy red beard and was running in a green T-shirt, blue shorts and new shoes he picked up from the post office in Coldfoot. He pushed a stroller, which he found for $30 in a pawn shop, filled with a tent, hiking poles, an orange safety vest, bear spray, food and water. Montavon, who is originally from southern Illinois, is an ultramarathoner and outdoor junkie.
“I love Alaska and I love mountaineering,” said Montavon, who works for the Alaska Mountaineering School in Talkeetna.
He is raising money for the Wounded Warriors Project, a group that aims to empower wounded veterans. He had been planning to run across Alaska for a year when he led a group of wounded veterans in an expedition up Mount McKinley. He was inspired by their determination and spirit and decided to use the run as a fundraiser. He promoted the event as part of a senior project at Alaska Pacific University (he graduated in December). He is getting close to his fundraising goal of $10,000.
He’s only halfway done and has already run through all the seasons, from snow and sub-20 temperatures in Deadhorse to a windstorm on Atigun Pass.
“I had a big old ice beard,” he said. “Then I get over the pass and it breaks. I’m sitting at Dietrich stream, some caribou are crossing and I’m making some ramen. That’s what it’s all about.”
On the Dalton Highway he would run hours without seeing a car, though he spotted several wolves, a lynx and lots of caribou.
“I woke up one morning at 4-ish and saw a lynx chilling in the road,” he said.
He has been camping on the side of the road, sometimes with an electric bear fence. He has been drinking melted snow and water treated with iodine drops.
He met lots of nice people on the haul road, including the owners of the Coldfoot Camp, who put him up for a night, workers doing pipeline safety checks and a trucker he passed three times who brought him Powerade and food.
“I don’t have a support vehicle, but I’m not above getting a piece of fruit from a truck driver,” he said.
Montavon is averaging 30 miles per day and has avoided injuries or cramps so far. Some days he runs for one six-hour chunk and other days he breaks it up or takes walking breaks.
“I’m all about having a good time. I’m not trying to suffer through this,” he said.
How will he celebrate when he makes it to Homer?
“Eat a hamburger, maybe jump in the water and do a little rock climbing before I start Denali.”
Learn more about the trip or support the cause here