"When setting off on an Expotition, be sure to bring Provisions. Or, at the very least, things to eat." - Winnie the Pooh
"When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen." - Winnie the Pooh
"Sometimes a boat is a boat, and sometimes it's more of an Accident. It depends on whether you're on top of it or underneath it." - Winnie the Pooh
"In case of Sudden and Temporary Immersion, the Important Thing is to keep the Head Above Water." - Winnie the Pooh
Darran Wells joined the team in December 1999 after responding to a request for applicants in the Austin area interested in racing the Eco-Challenge. While he spends most of the year working in the Wyoming Rockies and the North Cascades of Washington as a Mountaineering Instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, he was spending last winter in Austin guiding for Austin-based Mountain Madness and visiting his family. It became a perfect opportunity to link up with Team Vignette and train for his first Eco.
Darran's outdoor experience extends back to the mid 1980's when he began racing mountain bikes with his father (who won the Sport Masters-Texas State Mountain Bike Series in 1999 - Yeah Dad!). He spent several years as Head Lifeguard for Six Flags' WaterWorld in Houston and was part of the team that won the Texas State Lifeguard Championship in 1989. As he traveled to bike races in Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, Darran became more interested in rock-climbing and extended backpacking trips. Because he was attending the University of Houston, and could only get out to the Texas Hill Country to climb on weekends and vacations, he started distance running to compliment his bike training and rock gym workouts. He ran his first of several marathons in 1992 (also with Dad) in 3:41.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in Philosophy in 1994, Darran became a certified EMT-I and was a Disaster Relief Volunteer for American Red Cross. He went to Central Africa as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in 1995. While assigned to teach health and agriculture in rural villages in the rainforests of Southern Gabon, he traveled to visit villages by paddling native dugout canoes, trekking, and mountain biking on hunting trails. He used vacation time to do multi-day bike-packing trips and to climb the north face of Gabon's Mount Iboundji. In 1996 and 1997, Darran was promoted to Technical Trainer for Peace Corps Gabon, training new Peace Corps Volunteers in mountain-biking safety and maintenance, staying healthy in tropical jungles, and cross-cultural integration.
After traveling for several months through Central, West, and North Africa, Darran returned to the Texas before being offered a job back in Central Africa with a new division of Peace Corps for experienced development workers, called Crisis Corps. He spent just three months in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Zaire) before a multi-national war spread into the province where he was working. After several days in a war zone, Darran and several other health workers evacuated to Angola and eventually flew to South Africa. He once again returned to the States, but not before going on safari near Pretoria, climbing Table Mountain outside Capetown, and jumping out of a plane.
Darran spent the winter of '98 in Aspen selling mountaineering equipment while learning to telemark, ice climb, and cross country ski. He placed in the top of his age group in several uphill snowshoe races and completed the annual Grand Traverse, a backcountry ski race that climbs 6000 feet while traversing the Elk Mountain Range of the Rockies.
In the Spring of '99, Darran studied Wilderness Medicine at the Wilderness Medicine Institute in Pitkin, Colorado before going to work for the National Outdoor Leadership School. In 1999, he was Patrol Leader for four 30+ day expeditions into the Wyoming Rockies and the Escalante Canyons of Southern Utah. He spent over 250 days in the field teaching Leadership Skills, Back-country Rock-climbing, Canyoneering, Rope Safety Systems, Wilderness First Aid, Climbing Snow and Ice, Navigation Skills, and Expedition Team Dynamics. Between professional expeditions, he led Exxum Direct (IV, 5.8) on the Grand Teton and Tower 1 Gully (IV, AI5) the longest ice climb in the Wind River Rockies.
In 2000, Darran spent the winter training and racing in Austin with Team Vignette. In the spring, he participated in a Crevasse rescue training expedition in the North Cascades before leading two more month-long NOLS expeditions in the Cascades and the Wind Rivers. In August, Darran arrived early in Borneo to climb Mt. Kinnabalu and dive. After finishing the Eco-Challenge in September, Darran returned to the Cascades to attempt a late season climb on Mount Rainier. In October, he ran his first 100-mile ultra marathon in the Bear River Mountains of Southern Idaho on a course that gained over 20,000 feet of elevation--the Bear 100. He finished 8th of 22 starters with a time of 34 hours and 30 minutes. Immediately after the race, he lead an 18-day NOLS caving camp at Big Brush and Little Brush caves in the Uintah mountains of Utah.
In November, Darran led a 30-day rock-climbing camp at Red Rocks Nevada before a personal ice climbing trip in Wyoming and Colorado in early December.
After competing with Team Vignette in the 2000 Eco-Challenge, Darran moved out of Austin to Colorado. He has since found a new lucky team to race with, Team ARgear.com. Team Vignette wishes Darran and Team ARgear.com the best of luck in all their future racing adventures!