Rex Shepard isn't just an ordinary year-round outdoor enthusiast. Even the term extraordinary doesn't seem to adequately describe him. The 30-year-old Bend native has accomplished more than most dare to dream. A coach at Bend's Endurance Academy, Shepard pushes himself to the limits of his outdoor endurance and says his goal is to inspire others. He calls his adventures "rexpeditions," and they include free-skiing, mountaineering, cycling, trail running, hiking, exploring, and traveling. One of his greatest expeditions included a successful multi-sport event that covered the entire Cascade Mountain Range—more than 1,000 miles in 43 days. He successfully climbed most of the major mountains in the range, including Baker, Rainier, Adams, Hood, Jefferson, Washington, the Three Sisters, Broken Top, Thielsen, Crater Lake, McLoughlin, Shasta and Lassen Peak.
"The Cascade Challenge" was the brainstorm of Rex and two of his college friends while climbing North Sister. Near the top, his friend Greg Stafford—looking at all the snow-capped peaks north to south—came up with the idea of climbing all of them starting with Mt. Baker in northern Washington and working their way to Lassen Peak in northern California. After two years of planning and training, the trio set off on their adventure in the summer of 2011. "Every single mile we covered was by human power. We would climb up a mountain, ski down the other side, switch to our bikes for the next 30-80 miles and continue to the next peak, camp, and do it all over again the next day. It was really hard but a fun expedition," says Shepard.
Though the expedition was challenging, the rewards and highlights will forever be etched in his memory. Looking back on the adventure, he says it seems like a 43-day time lapse in his head. "I remember every moment of that trip," he says. One of the major highlights was an encounter with a black bear near Mt. Rainier in Washington. They were approaching the mountain on their road bikes when they came upon a bear right in the middle of the road. It was no more than eight feet away from the three bikers. "It was scary. At first we didn't know what to do, so we just waited it out. When the time was right we moved on to a safe distance." Shepard and his friends captured a great deal of video footage on their grand adventure and, once edits are completed, they will publish it on YouTube.
Shepard, who started skiing when he was three, says he is motivated by his appreciation for the mountains, and he wants to inspire others to enjoy outdoor activities. In addition to his personal adventures, he coaches and is a mentor to youngsters at the Bend Endurance Academy, which connects kids to the outdoors through activities such as mountain biking, Nordic skiing, and rock climbing. "When I grew up in Bend there was no mountain biking academy. I just biked with my friends and my dad. At this point in my life I realize I should give back to the younger community and teach mountain biking." The academy, he says, is a valuable resource for the youth of Bend. He feels that it's important for younger people to understand wilderness ethics such as "leave no trace," in order to protect natural treasures for the future.
Shepard has other aspirations as well. In addition to more travel, he says he would like to become a helicopter ski guide or a ski touring guide. He envisions living in Alaska for a month each year, leading helicopter ski adventures, while using Bend as his base of training the rest of the year. Having passed several avalanche and wilderness safety courses, he feels he is close to his goal. View Rex Shepard's photos and videos at: rexshepard.com.