Widely known for his extreme skiing and birthday launches into S & S Couloir, “Wild Bill” Bowen is truly a multi-dimensional athlete. An expert spelunker and dedicated thru-hiker, his curiosity is insatiable. “I get in these ‘child Bill’ moods,” he says. “I’m on a constant search for the unknown.”
Bowen splits his time between the Tetons and Alaska, and serves as a mentor to those seeking the caving experience. “I like when people ask me to take them caving,” Bowen says. “Caving empowers me. There is an unmistakable energy deep underground.”
Bowen and his caving partners have traversed from Wind Cave to Ice Cave in Teton Valley, Idaho’s Darby Canyon. The journey involves six rappels, one rope ascent, two crawl zones, and waist-deep water. He has also toured Bone Cave, which involves crawling through a nineinch crack, and Avalanche Cave. “I’m absolutely fascinated by 300-foot icicles and fossilized animals in the limestone,” he says.
His long-standing favorite is Wyoming’s Columbine Crawl. “It’s 1,600 feet down, with 1,400 feet of rope,” Bowen says. “Only four people have been to the bottom, but I haven’t made it there yet.”
When he’s above ground, Bowen considers the thru-hike from Teton Canyon to Lupine Meadows a gem of the Teton Range. “When you crisscross the mountains in the shadow of the Tetons and see the dried up sea floor and fossilized algae, it gets your imagination going,” he says. “There are 3.5 billion years of history in the geology here.”
When Bowen isn’t caving, thru-hiking, or extreme skiing the Tetons, he works at Tordrillo Mountain Lodge in Anchorage, Alaska, pursuing another passion: building and carpentry.
“My love is still building log houses,” Bowen says. “They are en vogue in Alaska, and are not monstrosities. They are for subsistence.”
As a resident carpenter at Tordrillo, Bowen works an average of 77 hours a week building docks, decks, wakeboard racks, and custom loft railings. “At Tordrillo, I have a job for life,” he says. “I love to work, which is a really huge advantage. I have never had to look for work. It comes to me.”
People request photos with Bowen at least three times a day, but he doesn’t mind.
“If you give joy to someone else, it should give you joy,” he laughs. “Einstein said that in the pursuit of beauty and knowledge, we will stay young forever.”
At 65, Bowen is hardly losing pace. “I follow my wild streak,” he says. “I’ve got another 50 years left. I don’t want to slow down. Life’s an adventure—live it.”