‘The Complete’ Is a Taxing Paddle

Editor’s Note: this article was originally published in the Jackson Hole News & Guide


When mountaineer David Gonzales contrived the Grand Teton Triathlon in 2012, Tim Walther was one of the few people to give the sufferfest a shot.

But the 50 miles of cycling, 2.5 miles of open-water swimming and trip up and down the Grand Teton weren’t enough for Walther.

Last summer he created his own multisport endurance adventure with friend Marshall White. The duo dubbed it “Around the Hole.” And on July 8 Walther teamed up with his friend Scotty McGee to float more than 70 miles on stand-up paddleboards from Jackson Lake Dam to Palisades.

Walther and McGee called the trip “The Complete.” It was more straightforward than Around the Hole, which involved trail running, mountain biking, lake kayaking, open-water swimming and stand-up paddleboarding. Walther and White covered more than 200 miles and 25,000 feet in elevation gain over six days as they circumnavigated Jackson Hole.

The Complete involved just one sport and took McGee 16 hours to finish. Walther, however, bowed out just before reaching the finish line.

McGee had just finished SUP guide training and was comfortable paddling the many rapids that greeted them in the Snake River canyon, just before the finish. Walther, on the other hand, said he had floated an SUP on a river only “a couple of times.”

Walther’s inexperience caused him to take two spills — one at Lunch Counter and another at Champagne rapid — that sent him tumbling beneath the current.

“I got caught in these boils, and no matter how hard I swam I couldn’t get out,” Walther said. “It’s really hard to get out of a situation like that on a paddleboard.”

Dragged down and circulated after his second big spill at Champagne, Walther decided to throw in the towel and not take on the Narrows that lay ahead. McGee finished by himself.

“Tim wanted me to finish, and I wanted to finish,” McGee said. “It’s kind of like summiting for the team when some of the team can’t summit.”

Walther said he made the correct decision, even though the remaining stretch didn’t prove to be as hairy as he thought it could be.

“Things happen in threes,” Walther said. “And usually the third time it’s not good. I just had the gut sense of ‘what if the third time is the time?’ Then of course Scotty finished and told me the Narrows was the easiest stretch of the entire thing. The decision to stop was the right decision, regardless of flat water.”

Walther concocted his plan for The Complete over the winter, when the snow was piling up and the summer outlook called for high flows. McGee, though, was more spontaneous.

“I heard from Tim about two nights before,” McGee said. “It had a certain cachet to it.”

McGee said Walther’s ideas for escapades come from “late-night, adventurer-inspired inspiration.”

Walther said that stoke comes from the place he calls home.

“People here are inspiring,” he said. “The culture of exploration is what Jackson represents.”

The actions of others around him inspired Walther when he devised these two adventures. And when it came to the Around the Hole, the naysayers were an extra source of motivation.

“I can’t tell you how many times mountain bikers and climbers and whoever told me, ‘No you can’t do that,’” he said. “I love hearing that.”

Walther and White spent nearly 18 months mapping out their plan and doing route-finding missions to help them link as many trail systems as possible on each side of the Hole.

Walther doesn’t pick and choose who accompanies him on his adventures. He’s willing to roll with anyone who is up for a challenge.

“He was basically telling everybody about it,” White said. “It was an open invitation for whoever wanted to do it. I was just super gung-ho and motivated and willing to step up.”

White didn’t have a good answer for why Walther is able to contrive these endurance adventures. He said that’s simply who he is.

“Tim’s just a really dynamic, inspired, switched-on guy,” he said. “He just pushes himself, pushes his potential. I think it’s just the challenge and the unknown. The unknown variable, the adventure variable, the challenge variable and the camaraderie variable. When you do anything like this you’re going to have fun with your friend. I think it’s a combination of all that.”