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SALT LAKE CITY — After moving from North Carolina to Salt Lake City in February of 2020, lifelong athlete Anna DeMonte was in awe of Utah athletes. Little did she know, three years later, she’d finish the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup (WURL) in under 24 hours— a feat in itself to complete, but under 24 hours is remarkable. The WURL is a 30-mile technical and exposed ridge traverse.
Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, DeMonte was a competitive swimmer for the University of Tennessee. She also grew up road biking and learned to love mountain biking. But upon her move to Salt Lake, mountaineering, rock climbing, and backcountry skiing was a whole new world.
In the summer of 2020, a friend took DeMonte out on the south ridge of Mount Superior, where they encountered athletes training for the WURL.
“I remember a few people passed us, and we chatted briefly,” DeMonte said. “I asked, ‘What’s the WURL?’ They said, ‘It’s a traverse, kind of like being on this ridge for 30 miles.’ I don’t know why it had such a profound effect on me because I just couldn’t fathom doing what we were doing for 30 miles because it was really scary for me at the time. I thought, ‘Wow, I don’t know if I’d ever be able to do something like that.’ I kept thinking about it just because it seemed so unattainable.”
By the end of that summer, she made it her goal to complete the first third of the WURL from Ferguson Canyon to Superior. She laughed and said, “I took my friend Dane, and neither of us had done it before, and we got super lost. It took about 10 hours, which was much longer than expected. But I loved it.”
DeMonte continued in the following years to tick off more and more sections of the WURL until she attempted the full monty in 2021.
“I felt physically ready, but I didn’t prepare very well for the nutrition, and I ended up getting super nauseous. I was so malnourished,” she said. She started too strong and too fast, without eating enough. DeMonte knew she needed more time but recognized these complications as a humbling and growth experience.
When DeMonte decided to try again this September, there were some marked shifts in her mentality. She matured as a mountain athlete, guided by Sam Novey, a mentor and coach. But the most significant shift was that completing the WURL was for her.
“I was a competitor before, but one of the reasons I moved here is just to enjoy the mountains and push myself for myself and no one else. So I just quietly started [the WURL] at 3-3:30 in the morning.”
On her first try in 2021, she had a whole team of crew and support; this time around, she stashed her water and snacks along the ridge and told only one person she was going to race.
“[This race] was more for that girl that I was when I was on the ridge, and I couldn’t believe people could do this. This time was a reminder of all the progress I’ve made. Look at all these mountains that I live around now. I learned them, and I’m ready to close the chapter by rewriting how that ending goes.”
She was better prepared mentally and emotionally this time around. Her stashes of water and snacks, electrolytes, goos, and a Snowbird club sandwich (she highly recommends) from roommate and primary support crew Tim and Supertrac RC 2 shoes got her to the finish line at 23:51. Her snack fuel of choice is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or really anything Reese’s.
“I wear the Supertrac RC 2s for anything technical. I love them. I wore a brand new pair that day because I knew the route would shred any shoe to pieces,” she said.
The journey was not without its trials. DeMonte encountered icy conditions and had to navigate technical terrain. She found her flow state, allowing her to savor the solitude and beauty of the ridges.
“I actually felt like I was not going to break 24 hours because the ice slowed me down so much. It was really dark and if you slip you’re in trouble. So I gave up on under 24 hours and tried to get through safely. Then I looked at my watch and had an hour to get down the Bell’s Trail; I ran down as fast as I could to make it.”
Looking forward, SCOTT athlete DeMonte will go to Ecuador in December for ski mountaineering in preparation for a Denali trip in June. She told TownLift she’s open to completing another WURL, but right now, she’s hoping to cross a few other things off her bucket list, especially because she completed the grueling race in under 24 hours.