– the blog –

A Mount Hood Picnic

Update: Read about our Mt. Hood Picnic!

A couple years ago, REI produced a short video titled "A Walk in the Park", where Kelly Halpin attempted a Grand Teton backcountry triathlon, where she biked 23 miles, swam 1.3 miles across an alpine lake, and climbed up 6,000 feet...and then turned around and did it in reverse. Oof, right?

The REI video led to me discovering Outside Online's "The Picnic: A Teton Triathlon", which explained that the original Grand Teton Triathlon, or Picnic, was the brainchild of David Gonzales, who did it first in July 2012. Since then, there have been multiple people attempting the original Picnic and then a number of variations. A website is now dedicated to keeping track of the stories and accomplishments of these attempts and there are multiple videos out there, most of which are pretty damn inspiring. A recent favorite is Outside TV's Beat Monday episode.

Naturally, a question arose in my mind, what about a Mt. Hood Picnic? We have plenty of backcountry trails for running and hiking. There are a few lakes and even a large river fairly close to the mountain, and some of my favorite biking is near the Hood River area. It seemed like there was an opportunity here. On the Picnic website, there is this tantalizing blurb as well:

Last summer I nearly finished my most outlandish meal yet, the Mt. Hood Picnic: a double swim of the Columbia River, 75 miles of bicycling, 11,000 feet of elevation gain, 4,000 feet of downhill skiing, and a miraculously zesty grocery store steak sandwich. There are innumerable magnificent picnics we could have. The possibilities tantalize, even as they terrorize.

So, thanks to MapMyHike, Strava, and a few hours of research, I put together a number of possible options. Some that seem doable. One that makes my heartbeat just a bit faster thinking about it. Even found a couple in Central Oregon that might work too. I present to you, the Oregon Picnic options:

Mt. Hood Options

Hood River - Cooper Spur Picnic

  • Swim across Columbia and back (~2 miles)
  • Bike from Hood River to Tilly Jane TH (25.5 miles; 4400 ft elevation)
  • Hike Tilly Jane to Cooper Spur Crest (6 miles; 4800 ft elevation)
  • Return
  • Totals: 65 miles; 9,200 ft elevation

Hood River - Lost Lake - McNeil Point Picnic

  • Bike Hood River to Lost Lake (28 miles; 4100 ft elevation)
  • Swim across Lost Lake (1 mile)
  • Hike to McNeil Point (12 miles; 4100 ft elevation)
  • Return
  • Totals: 82 miles; 8,200 ft elevation

Hood River - Mt. Hood Summit Picnic

  • Swim across Columbia and back from Hood River (~2 miles)
  • Bike to Barlow Pass (37.5 miles; 5,400 ft elevation)
  • Hike/Climb to Mt. Hood summit (7 miles; 6,700 ft elevation)
  • Ski/hike back down back to Barlow Pass
  • Bike back to Hood River
  • Totals: 91 miles; 12,100 elevation gain
  • Alternative: Bike all the way to Timberline (47.4 miles, 7,600 ft), climb: 3.4 miles and 5,100 ft

Central Oregon Options

Sunriver to South Sister/Broken Top via Elk Lake

  • Bike Sunriver to Elk Lake (31 miles)
  • Swim across Elk Lake (1.2 miles)
  • Hike to South Sister or Broken Top (11+ miles?)
  • Return

Crater Lake to Diamond Lake to Mt. Thielsen

  • Bike Rim Visitor Center to South Shore Picnic Area (19.5 miles)
  • Swim across Diamond Lake (2.6 miles)
  • Hike and Climb Thielsen (4.2 miles)
  • Return

So far, I have only convinced two other people to even consider one of these.

The one that appeals most to me is the Hood River - Mt. Hood Summit Picnic, which I think is the one hinted at on The Picnic website. That one is tricky as you have to swim the Columbia River and climb Hood on the same day, which makes it very conditions dependent. It could be a very windy day on the Columbia (with a fast current if there is rain or snow melt happening) and then Mt. Hood has to be in a good state for climbing. Further, you are trying to climb Mt. Hood after over 2 miles of swimming, at least 37 miles of biking, and a long hike up to Timberline.

Tina finds the Sunriver to South Sister/Broken Top via Elk Lake one a bit more appealing. I cannot disagree that it has a higher chance of success given it seems easier to do physically and has a far wider weather and conditions window.

The training is going to be key here, which I think is a bit of a concern. I have spent most of the last year focusing on bouldering with only the barest bit of maintenance for biking, hiking, and trail running. Swimming is something I have not seriously done in many many years. I am not out of shape, I am simply a fair distance away from the shape I need to be in to accomplish one of these. Is it worth it to spend this much time training for such an outlandish goal? I mean...why not?