New adventure race at Lake Tahoe includes medical twist |

New adventure race at Lake Tahoe includes medical twist

Adam Jensen
A splint is used to stabilize the spine of Caitlin Robinson as her team from Tahoe Center for Orthopedics assists her at a MedWAR Challenge in Mesa, Arizona.
Courtesy Photo |

Responding to medical emergencies will be among the obstacles facing participants in an adventure race making its Lake Tahoe debut this fall.

Tahoe’s MedWAR Challenge takes place Saturday, Sept. 17, and combines trekking, paddling, mountain biking and orienteering with wilderness medical scenarios racers need to correctly address to come out on top.

MedWAR stands for Medical Wilderness Adventure Race, and the concept came to fruition in 2000 through the efforts of medical students at Medical College of Georgia and emergency department physicians. The events are designed to provide a practical, interactive and enjoyable way to learn and improve emergency medical techniques in a wilderness setting. There are now a dozen MedWAR races around the country.

The Tahoe race will include up to 20 teams of four racing over a 20-mile course near Fallen Leaf Lake. The winning team will be determined by how fast it is able to complete the course and how well it responds to the medical scenarios presented.

The idea for Tahoe’s MedWAR started with the son of South Shore Orthopedist Terry Orr, Jeff, who participated in a MedWAR on the East Coast and encouraged his dad to bring one to Lake Tahoe. A requirement for organizing a MedWAR is participating in one, so two teams of three people connected to Barton Memorial Hospital traveled to Arizona to participate in January.

“I’m almost speechless still about it,” said Khristy Gavigan, a registered nurse and the event coordinator for the Tahoe MedWAR.

The event is targeted at outdoor enthusiasts, but anyone able to complete the approximately eight-hour race can take part. There are no aid stations on the course, and the outdoor scenarios can even get experienced surgeons outside of their comfort zones, Gavigan said. There has been a lot of interest from Barton staffers and surrounding medical personnel, she added.

“MedWAR is hands-on way to learn how to prepare for and improvise when medical issues arise in a wilderness setting,” Orr, the event’s director, said in a statement. “Teams come from across the nation to participate in this event and we are fortunate to have the competition here in our backyard.”

Tahoe’s MedWAR is hosted by Barton Health, Tahoe Center for Orthopedics and Tahoe Emergency Physicians.

Teams and volunteers can register online at The challenge costs $350 for a team of four and includes a pre-event lecture, kayak rental, gift bag, team shirt and post-race dinner. Space is limited to 20 teams.

Gavigan will also join Dr. Stephen Bannar for a lecture on wilderness survival at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 13, in the Lake Tahoe Community College Board Room. More information is available at

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