Steens Mountain High Altitude Mountain Running Camp, the popular youth running camp for runners ages 13 to 18 held since 1975 in Southeastern Oregon’s remote Steens Mountain Wilderness, is now offering a camp for adult runners from July 24 to 30, 2022. Max King, 2011 World Mountain Running Champion and accomplished elite runner for Salomon Running, will direct the camp. King has worked at the Steens Youth camps for over twelve years as a counselor and assistant camp director, and looks forward to taking on his role as director of the adult camp.
King shares his excitement for the development of this camp, “Steens Running Camp is such a large part of many athletes’ cross country pedigree in high school. It changes lives. Now, these same athletes have the chance to return to Steens Mountain as a more experienced runner, or others who never had the chance to come to the camp when they were younger can also experience it.”
King shares how the format for the adult camp will differ from the established youth camps, “The youth camp is designed for cross country runners, but it is no typical cross country camp. We don’t specifically mention trail running to the kids, yet we have them doing a 27-mile run on trail through canyons, a 5-kilometer race through sagebrush, and many activities that could be considered pure trail running. There’s also a large focus on competition throughout the week. For the adult camp, it will be even more trail running focused and less competition-driven. Think relaxed trail running versus competitive cross country running.”
What Makes This Camp Unique?
The history of Steens Running Camp and the Wilderness area in which it’s held make it unlike any other trail running camps in the country. In 1975, Harland Yriarte, coach of the Brooking Harbor High School cross country team developed the camp as a way to bond his team together. The camp operates under the motto “overemphasize to trivialize,” bringing athletes face-to-face with extremely hard running challenges and conditions, so that when they return to their cross country season, their training and racing feels easy.
The camp was eventually opened up to kids from other schools and grew in popularity, attracting high school cross country athletes from across the nation. Since its inception, the camp has been a part of many incredible athlete’s journeys including Chris Hollis, the current Global Sports Marketing Manager for Hoka One One, and Ella Donaghu, member of the Distance Medley Relay (DMR) World Record setting team.
Steens Mountain Wilderness is one of the most interesting geographical destinations in Oregon, featuring expansive sagebrush in the surrounding Alvord Desert, as well as high-alpine environments over 9,700 feet above sea level. There are large, lush aspen groves as well as dry gorges and canyons. In the 1880s, Steens Mountain also served as a resting place for Basque settlers who carried over many of their cultural traditions from the Pyrenees Mountains including sheep herding. Remnants of this history remain a part of this area today.
In 2000, Steens Mountain was designated as a Wilderness area. This would normally prohibit camps from being organized on such lands, but due to the historic nature of Steens Running Camp, the camp grandfathered in with permission to take up to 200 campers for three weeks during the summer through the Wilderness area. Traditionally, the Steens Running Camp organization has only used two of the three weeks designated in the clause, allowing an opportunity for the upcoming adult camp to be held in the same Wildness areas.
On the camp’s decision to host a third camp King says, “We finally pulled things together to host a camp during the third session. It made sense to bring in a new staff and format for this adult camp and this year will be a pilot program to discover what we can do with this extra week.” In addition to King, several other well-accomplished runners will be assisting the camp including 2012 US Mountain Running Team member Melody Fairchild, one of the greatest high school runners of all-time and Footlocker Nationals course record holder.