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Athlete Spotlight // Kelly Halpin, Big Mountain Endurance

By Stio Mountain on
 Athlete Spotlight // Kelly Halpin, Big Mountain Endurance

A triathlon in the Tetons is an amazing feat of human endurance, mental power and anything but a picnic.

The Creator Of The Picnic:

David Gonzales in 2013

The Background:

Raised in the Tetons, Kelly Halpin has completed 4 Picnics of various scale and routes. She and Tristan Greszko were the first team to complete the challenge fully self-supported - carrying their own gear, food and water. As a friend of Stio, we talked to Kelly about her drive and passion for big mountain endurance events.

The Course:

Bike from Jackson’s Town Square to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, swim across the lake, climb The Grand and then do the reverse for a total of 42 miles of biking, 2.6 miles of open water swimming and 20 miles of hiking and climbing. Since the inaugural Picnic, others have completed modified versions, choosing other lakes to swim or Tetons to summit.

Q&A with Kelly Halpin

Why Picnic?

"The Picnic was created in 2013. At the time of the inaugural event I was recovering from a blown out knee and could not participate. I was completely inspired watching these athletes - my friends - accomplish the first Picnic and from then on I was hooked. Determined to give it a shot, I started telling people about my plans only to receive mixed reactions and skeptical support. They didn’t think I was up to it. I took the challenge in stride and I was fired up to become the first self-supported team to complete the Picnic."

Why Self-Supported?

"There is something pure and simple about the self-supported aspect of adventure and challenge. As humans we were designed to move through our own power. The body is capable of accomplishing so much without cars but we lose sight of that. We can fuel ourselves to new places and new adventures simply through the basic movements of our natural, wondrous design."

What Does Human-Powered Mean To You?

"For me it’s about mental endurance. I may not be the fastest or the strongest, but I think I’m mentally tough. To be able to go out in nature and adventure without the support of any fuel other than your own is incredibly satisfying. Adventure in the outdoors is instinctual. It goes back to who we are, our human instincts and our desire to hunt and gather and fuel ourselves. The human body can cover so much distance if it's maintained correctly, you can fly through the mountains if you push yourself. I think a lot more people could do what I do but they don’t think they can or are afraid."

What Drives You?

"Big mountain endurance challenges are a really raw experience. It pushes you to your edge. I grew up here in the Tetons and the opportunity to be out there in the mountains, amongst these massive spires in nature feels like home. I feel electrified when I’m in the mountains or way out in the desert. It feels like I'm dancing with the earth in a way you don't get to when you're in your kitchen or living room. I feel a change in myself that's euphoric - a magical sensation."

Are There Low Points?

"Of course, and that’s what chili pepper chocolate is for. There are reserves in your body you never knew you had. You don’t just have a 2nd wind, you have a 6th, 7th and 8th wind. It goes back to mental toughness for me and feeling empowered by pushing the limits of what I’m capable of. It’s often hard to sleep after adventures like this because there is such a natural high that jacks you up."

What's Next?

"I want to continue to race and compete, particularly in self-supported endurance events."

About The Author: Kelly Halpin is a big mountain endurance athlete and freelance artist. Born and raised in Jackson Hole, she is a climber, runner and snowboarder with a passion for mountain sports and the stunning beauty of her home. As an endurance athlete she is able to access wild and inspiring places that serve as her artistic inspiration. For more information on The Picnic visit

Video footage provided by WZRD Media with additional footage from Ryan Sheets || Sheets Studio.

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