(Jackson, Wyo.) - Last Thursday, July 28 at 4:24 a.m. while many people in Jackson were sleeping, Julia Heemstra headed out on bike ride to Grand Teton National Park, a swim across Jenny Lake and a run to the summit of The Grand Teton, and then did it all in reverse.
This is part of an epic journey called the Grand Picnic, an idea by David Gonzales that was first completed in July 2012. In 2013, Gonzales asked a group of friends to join him on the adventure. Heemstra was part of the group, but she declined because the time wasn't right.
This spring, Heemstra decided that it was her time to attempt the Grand Picnic and last Thursday, she was the first woman to complete the Grand Picnic solo and unsupported (according to the Picnic website).
"This was a perfect time to demonstrate to myself that I could do something like this on my own, with only emotional and spiritual support from those who love me," she said.
Heemstra is an experienced climber. She also ran in high school and college and was on a masters swim team. When she began training, she finally combined the sports.
"I started biking up to the park and swimming and running," said Heemstra about her training. "It would depend on what felt good that day, the conditions of the trails, the temperatures of the lakes, and I just started stacking different adventures on top of each other in order to train."
The week before the Grand Picnic, she free soloed The Grand Teton one day and got turned around due to ice on the second day all within a single week on the Owen-Spalding route. On her last day training, she swam Jenny Lake accompanied by a climbing partner in a Kayak, climbed The Grand Teton Open Book route, and then swam Jenny Lake again.
"In a strange way that was actually a harder day than the Picnic itself, just because climbing [on Open Book] was so much harder than the climbing is on Owen-Spalding," she said.
Photo: On July 28, Julia Heemstra summited The Grand Teton at 12:17 p.m. h/t Julia Heemstra
But on the day of her Grand Picnic adventure, everything came together.
"I had the most miraculous day that went so smoothly," said Heemstra. "The weather couldn't have been better. Really, I was just incredibly fortunate."
According to Heemstra's watch, she biked 22 miles each way for a total of 44 miles roundtrip, swam a total of 2.6 miles on Jenny Lake, and ran and climbed 20 miles to the summit of The Grand Teton and back. She finished in 14 hours and 47 minutes.
Photo: Julia Heemstra after her return swim across Jenny Lake. h/t Julia Heemstra
"It was really a pretty transformational day in the mountains. I happen to love time alone in the mountains, so the opportunity to spend 14+ hours alone, just moving at my own pace through the mountains, to me felt like a gift," she said. "Leading up to it, I was like a child on Christmas day, I was just so excited to put it all together and have that amount of time in the Tetons on my own."
So what's next for Heemstra? She is planning a climbing trip in the Winds.
"Thank you to David Gonzales for thinking of these incredible challenges and just a shout out to anyone who has completed one of them or even tried one of them because it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," said Heemstra. "Anyone who has dipped their toe in the Picnic realm should really be commended."
Feature Photo: Julia Heemstra with Glacial Moraine behind and climbing ahead. h/t Julia Heemstra / Pitchengine Communities