The Wisconsin Triple Direct

Name: Todd Mei

Birthday: Aries, 1972

Occupation:   Philosopher, Executair, Climbing Gym Manager


Climb 30 leads at the East Bluff (climbs repeatable)

Run 30 miles of the Ice Age trail in the Kettle Moraine

Drink 3 martinis

Eat 3 all beef bratwursts

3 pull ups with 100 lbs. attached

3 two finger, one arm pull ups on each arm lock-off at the top of each one and drink a 7 oz. beer

         The only music to be listened to (with the exception of the party) is the Steve Miller Band

30 people at the end at my bar


Todd Mei, Executair Nacirema Drinking Society Founded 1999


Twelve 5.12 top ropes at Devil’s Lake East Bluff

24 miles of mountain biking

2.4 apple fritters

2.4 La Bamba “As Big As Your Head” Burritos

         Wear a mullet and moustache for 24 hours


Name: Tim Halbakken

Birthday: April, 1978

Occupation:   Giant


Provide support for both Todd and Tim setting top rope and rap anchors along the East Bluff

Run Todd’s 30 mile trail run

Eat 2.6 La Bamba “As Big As Your Head” Burritos

Drink 26 oz. of Knob Creek

Lie prone for 26 hours

Name: Nate Emerson

Birthday: April, 1976

Occupation:   unknown

The year 2002 came to early fruition amidst the dull and cool Spring season in Wisconsin.  Local climbers Tim Halbakken, Nate Emerson, and Todd Mei set their minds to what was a magnificent display of physical fitness vision.  Sturdy, unwavering, and invaluable support was provided by Rudy Espino, Tim Lindl, Paul Lottridge, Patrick Neuman, Adam Siner, Patricia Strach, and Matt Tenny.




photos (clockwise from here): todd climbs through the night, eating, tim sports a mean mullet, just where the hell are we?

As all birthday challenge veterans know, challenge is a big part of whether or not a day’s events go well.  While Tim and I were set on tackling the traditional style of birthday challenge, Nate was looking ahead to his 50 mile race.  Instead of doing an outright challenge, he opted for some stout supporting for the both of us.   

ate set some of the anchors for Tim’s climbs and a few of the rap lines to make my descents quicker when attempting the 30 pitches.  This was all done the afternoon before my challenge.

A cold evening fell upon the Lake.  While being chased by unforgiving rangers (for not being in our campground by 11pm), we ascended the tiring East Bluff trail without headlamps.  Neuman, who shuttled us to the bluff, had to return to the camp (since there was no overnight parking by the bluff) and hike back with Lindl.

My climbing finally began at about 1am with temperatures in the low twenties.  The bulk of the belaying was provided by Matt Tenny, though Neuman and Lindl helped out.  Nate was running atop the bluffs setting more anchors.  All in all, about 2200 vertical feet were climbed.  And the ending was perfect: making the final ascent of Brinton’s Crack as the sun rose at 6am.  With the sun, I realized that climbing at night helps reduce the sense of exposure, and so running things out didn’t seem as appealing: 30 pitches climbed, 7 of those soloed.

Tim finally arrived as I was making my descent of the trail.  Adam Siner was his key support and Matt Tenny was going to pull a rather stoic feat by staying at the bluff to help Tim.




left: one of many raps


Since I wasn’t there to watch, Tim noted the key events:   

Cold weather determined the order:

7:30 – “warm up” on Acid Rock (flash pump and screemin’ fingers), Hour Glass Direct, Peyote Blues.
9:30 – Cheap Thrills; two failed attempts on The Angle of Dangle
Thereafter – All the Way, Double Clutch, Asleep in a Fuckness Dream, Tom Cat, Couch of Pain, Weasels Ripped My Flesh(6-7 attempts), 1 futile attempt on In Search of Lost Libido.

”As I realized it was possible I may succeed on the previously
perceived ‘impossible’ part of my challenge, I decided to devote all
daylight to it and cop out on the biking.  In the end, the weather
turned nasty and morale was shot.  So clean up began and we pack muled it down the CCC trail and arrived at the cars at 7:00 pm.”

Highlights of the climbing:
redpoint of Cheap Thrills 12 b/c
redpoints of All the Way, Tom Cat and Couch of Pain – all climbs I'd never been on.
I had a mullet, a mustache and I was wearing a blue jump suit.

It should be noted that given the style of Lake climbing (which is often reported to be stout and even sandbagged but most of all intricate), Tim was attempting a feat only a few of the legendary locals had every accomplished.  The successful ascents of 10 twelves is a damn fine laurel to be resting on.





right: Tim on number 12

In the meantime, I headed to the beginning of the 30 mile trail run in the Kettle Morraine.  Paul Lottridge was called just as I was topping out on the last pitch.  That was his cue to head out to the Morraine and stash food at strategic locations.  Rudy Espino also accompanied us on the run.

At about 9:40am, we headed out, starting at the Whitewater campground.  The last time I had been on the trail was almost a year ago when Nate and I performed a night run of 30 miles.

It was very quickly that I began to realize the 30 pitches of climbing had really taken a toll on my legs.  On top of that, since the night had been so cold (the water in my Nalgene had frozen a bit), I didn’t drink as much as I should have and was not properly hydrated.  The martini after the climbing most likely didn’t help. 

So by mile 11, I cramped up in both quads severely.  We ended up sporadically jogging, running, walking, hiking.  I was already the slowest of the bunch, and this made things a bit boring for the rest (even if the support team never let on to this!).  The cramps would stay with me for the rest of the run. 

Paul had actually stashed mini picnics that included Pringles, Gatorade, water, apples, bananas, veggie chips, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, snickers, power bars, beef jerky, and almonds.  After leaving a cache he would remark, “Wait til you see the next one!”




 left: first martini of the day, 7AM

At about mile 20 the Gatorade seemed to help.  Running into Neuman and Lindl was a bit of relief, especially since navigating and estimating where and when we might cross certain roads was near impossible.  We saw them pulling up just as we reached a major road.  With 10 miles left on the run, they decided to go play pool and drink beer before heading to the finishing area.

The last part of the 30 mile trail I remembered to the worst.  Consisting of small and steep hills with a noticeable lack of trail contouring, I remember tripping and feeling rather weak when jogging downhill the first time I had run it.  Rudy had none of our caution as he charged the first switchback.  Paul followed and then Nate.  I reluctantly hobbled as my pace looked something like that of an old man.  But the energy was infectious and soon I was running with a decent stride.  Rudy clapped in a spirited rhythm, and we charged yet another hill and another, with me bringing up the rear.

 The hills faded, the ski trails emerged, and we ran the final miles to the Pinewoods campground.  There, not too far away, we found the support vehicle with Neuman and Lindl asleep.  We finished just before 6pm.  


 left: is that a fritter i see before me?

The final leg was the party.  I was a wreck.  I didn’t even notice the Steve Miller part of my challenge.  Some pre-guests at my house thought I looked dead.  Patty, my girlfriend, thought I was going to throw the towel in.  I showered, rested, and felt a small rally of esprit after consulting with my pet pig and badgers.

Tim arrived with his 24 beers, 2.4 fritters, and 2.4 burritos.  Nate had not yet arrived, but as we learned had consumed 1.6 burritos at his apartment and then passed out.


Patty made my final two martinis which went down without a hitch (love that Beefeaters!).  Two brats for nourishment, and I was ready to perform the pull ups.  The ponies of High Life were called forth.  Everything went down like a dream.  The last time I was able to do a one arm pull up on my right arm with two fingers had been almost a year ago.  My left arm was not even possible.  And there it all came together, beer and all.  The 100 lbs. pull ups weren’t even an issue but more like a warm up.  I finished the eve with the last brat.

Nate arrived and tried to tackle the 26 ounces of booze (all of it Knob Creek).  He finished ¾ of a 750ml bottle and then stumbled home.


 photos: wisconsin style two-finger pull-ups; there's plenty more where that came from; birthday at whisky todd's

Tim finished 1 burrito, drank 12 beers, and in fine tradition, finished all three fritters.  A very good choice! 

The only low point, only 27 people showed their faces at the party. 

So next time you’re in Wisconsin looking at fat Packers fans, just remember that this state is home of the Triple Direct Challenge.