Following the recent action and images online from the Patagonia Expedition Race has been pretty inspiring and certainly got the travelling itch tingling all over again. I’m not one for bucket lists in general – I much prefer a good equipment list! – but I’ve been giving some thought to what adventure races around the globe would be my dream to go and compete in. Below are my pick of the top 5 adventure races around the world if money and time were no object. As you’ll find out, I’ve opted for long, unsupported, team expedition races with epic scenery, mountains and generally colder environments. Now it’s just a matter of making it happen.
Before we get into my Top 5 though, what would your pick be? No rules – they can be local or international races, team or individual races, mountain biking, trail running or adventure races, supported or unsupported races, expedition or sprint races. Feel free to comment below.
After stepping off the plane on holidays in El Calafate, Chilean Patagonia last year, I instantly knew this was a place that I would want to come back to and explore again and again, and I hadn’t even been in the region for a whole five minutes. The Wegner Patagonia Expedition Race has a long history of staging true “expeditionary” races in one of the most remote regions of the world. The field of competitors is strictly limited to 20 teams each year, however the course is set up with a number of very tough rolling time cutoffs which generally sees an attrition rate as high as 60%, making this race a true wilderness test for experienced teams only. The race is also known for its mammoth stages: the 600km long course in 2012 only had 6 legs in total, some taking up to 3 days to complete. This, along with the epic and remote scenery and the sheer challenge of it all, makes the Patagonia Expedition Race my number one pick.
Although 2012 will be the first running of the Godzone Adventure Race, the race location out of Queenstown, New Zealand, promises to make this an amazing competition that is sure to be a main-stay on the international adventure racing calendar. The unsupported format, the provision of kayaks (both fiberglass doubles for flat water and inflatables for white water paddling), the moderate gear list requirements and the close proximity to Australia make this a very easy race in terms of logistics for teams. The race organisers are racers themselves and are sure to put on something special for the first running of this event, which we as team Rogue will be lucky to be a part of. The race has also attracted some top competition at the pointy end with three or four kiwi teams boasting former world champions in their ranks as well as arguably Australia’s top three teams in Blackheart, Mountain Designs and CBD cycles.
Coming in at number 3 on my bucket list of international expedition races is the Alpine Expedition (Apex) Race in Switzerland. Also a relatively new comer to the ARWS series, the Apex Race touts itself as “the most beautiful adventure race on earth”. Looking at the images from last year’s race, it is hard to argue with that statement. Run during the European summer from Interlaken, the adventure capital of Switzerland, the Apex Race is organised, in part, by Untamed Adventure who also run another ARWS race in the US. It is a four day, non-stop expedition race for teams of four involving trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting and ropes work. In an adventure racing first, the 2011 edition of the race also included a paragliding leg for one competitor from each team.
North America hosts a number of top expedition adventure races including the Gold Rush Mother Lode in California, Expedition Idaho, Untamed New England on the continent’s east and Primal Quest which was at one stage rumored to make a return in 2012. However, making the cut on this list is Canada’s Raid the North Extreme. With a long history including a previous hosting of the AR World Championships, Raid the North Extreme ticks all the boxes for amazing mountain scenery over an unsupported expeditionary challenge.
The final spot on this Top 5 list goes to a more obscure choice, the Endurance Quest Adventure Race in Finland. For a long time the Explore Sweden Monster AR was high on my dream list of races. This race lived up to its title of “Monster” with courses over a 1000km long in the past! Kayaking the Fjords of Sweden and Norway and traversing their mountains on fixed ropes during a race of that proportion would be an amazing experience. Not to mention the 20+hrs of daylight to race with everyday during their summer. However, there is no current news on when the Explore Sweden AR is set to make its return, hence the nomination of another Scandinavian race in its place, the Endurance Quest Adventure Race in Finland. Again, another unsupported team expedition race, the Endurance Quest is high on the novelty factor, introducing canoeing, fixed ropes ascending and descending, roller blading, kick biking and sailing to the traditional AR mix of trekking, cycling and kayaking. It does, however, make for a very busy mandatory gear list.
So, that’s my dream Top 5 adventure race list. I’ve tried to cover a breadth of continents while opting for big expedition-length team races. I know there are a bunch of great races that haven’t made the cut. Has anyone done any of these races? Any thoughts on what it takes to make your Top 5?