These Students Traded Red Bull for a Stunning View

Arizona State's Wing Women discuss the ups and downs of their Can You Make It? journey.
The Wing Women
By Alex Herrmann

After a week of bartering and begging, trekking and trading, Red Bull Can You Make It? has come to a close and all the teams have made it. We checked in with Katie Knoepker, Caira Button and Emily Poes of Arizona State University's Wing Women, to see what it's really like to travel Europe using cans of Red Bull as currency. What was the biggest trade you pulled off? How did you make it happen?

Katie Knoepker: The biggest trade we pulled off was taking a cable car to the top of Piz Gloria in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. It's usually 100 Swiss Franks ($105) per person and we traded 10 cans for our entire group of three teams to go up. We ended up building snowmen there, which you can see in the photo we posted (see below). It's the one where I'm in a tank top in a snowstorm wondering if it would be my death.

Caira Button: It wasn't on our adventure list, and didn't contribute any points, but it was easily the coolest thing we did the entire trip. It was so beautiful — I can't even put it into words.

We were really lucky that the campground we were staying at had a good relationship with the city of Lauterbrunnen, because they were able to help us talk to the gondola managers, who in the end were the ones who let us up.

What were your favorite countries along the way?

Emily Poes: I think Switzerland, hands down, was the best country we visited. The people were so nice and sweet, the country itself is beyond beautiful and breathtaking, and the challenge there was the most unique!

Knoepker: First, the country was absolutely stunning. Anywhere you went there was beauty. Secondly, the people were extremely receptive and kind. That's where we got the best food, accommodation and easy travel. The adventures in that country were unforgettable.

Enjoying the View Near Piz Gloria

What was your biggest challenge during the competition?

Knoepker: My biggest challenge was trying not to kill my teammates when I got hungry. They have a joke that I get "hangry" and I worked hard on the trip to make sure I never actually showed that side of myself. I think I did pretty well too — we all made it home alive.

Button: We paired up with two other teams, which was a major strategic move for us when it came to traveling on trains. Conductors are much less likely to kick off nine people than three, and they don't really want to contact three embassies if they want to fine us. But in turn, traveling in groups takes forever. It’s like herding kittens when everyone is trying to get food, go to the bathroom and complete adventure list challenges. I wouldn't have changed it, but it did make us lose a lot of time.

Poes: I think our biggest challenge at first was making it out of Barcelona. It was beyond challenging, but thank God for the local university students that ultimately helped us get out. Beyond that, trying to check off the large tasks on the adventure checklist was difficult. We tried to get on an airplane, to stay in a five-star hotel, to skydive, but it just didn't work out in the end.

Were there any trades you tried to pull off but couldn’t?

Button: We really thought we would be able to go in a plane and it didn't work out. We were on a train heading to the airstrip with the Red Bull TV crew when we got ahold of the pilot who said he’d take us, and he changed his mind and didn't have time anymore. It was such a huge disappointment, but having so many people with us really lightened our spirits. We ended up hopping off the train, turning around and heading to Paris, which ended up being so exciting! We felt like we were accomplishing something huge by getting to the finish line city.

What was the craziest moment of your journey?

Poes: I would definitely say the three of us standing under the waterfall in Lauterbrunnen. It was dangerous and forbidden to do, and freezing! But we did it!

Knoepker: I was in the most beautiful city I've ever seen, in a valley between two mountains, standing under a freezing waterfall with two of my best friends. How could life be better than that?

Button: There was a moment when I realized I was being rained on by icy slush, not water. We danced on a rock, singing at the top of our lungs trying to get the 30 seconds to go by as painlessly as possible. In the video you can see that we are literally dancing right next to a giant pile of snow. It was one of the most insane things I've ever done, and looking back I still can't believe we did it.

What will you remember most from Can You Make It?

Poes: I think the thing I will remember most was the feeling of triumph each time my friends and I were able to secure a trade. Just thinking about the three of us strolling along streets we had no idea about, in countries we'd never been to and being completely down for any adventure makes me so happy. I loved every minute of it.

Button: I learned that you can do anything — and I’m not just saying that to sound cheesy. You literally can do anything, you just have to put your mind to it and commit. I did more insane stuff in one week than I had in my entire life. I never in a million years thought we had a shot when we first saw the application. But if we hadn't taken the chance and applied, I would have never had this adventure, which was truly the adventure of a lifetime.

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