Just got off the phone with Don Mann, the CEO of Primal Quest. He’s ramping up for Primal Quest Montana, the 5th edition of the world’s toughest adventure race, to be held June 21 to July 2 this year.
But my conversation with Mann was about next year’s event, the 2009 race, where Mann’s company plans to take the PQ international, potentially with a race that climbs one of the Seven Summits as part of its course.
In January, Mann and his wife, Dawn, traveled to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, a 19,341-foot stratovolcano that claims prize as the highest point of elevation on the African continent. The pair made the summit at 6:45a.m. on January 11 after a seven-day trek and climb. “It was more wonderful than any of us ever dreamed,” Mann wrote in a web post.
Indeed, the experience seems to have inspired something in Mann. When we spoke, he said Primal Quest in 2009 will be held at an international destination (i.e., not in the United States), mentioning Iceland, Vancouver Island, B.C., Costa Rica, and Tanzania as options.
But it was the last option, Tanzania, about which Mann seemed most excited. “It’s expensive to get there,” he said. “But once you’re in the country everything is very cheap, and the people are wonderful.”
Though its very much in the drawing-board stage, Mann had obviously thought through the logistics of incorporating a Kilimanjaro summit bid into the race. He said a race in the Tanzania might last 12 days, of which four to five days could be committed to having teams climb the mountain. There’d be mandatory stops at huts on the way up the mountain, he said. Each team would get one porter. At each stop a doctor would assess the health of all racers, allowing only those who showed no sign of altitude sickness to continue. “You could leave a teammate behind at a hut if he or she was sick,” Mann said. “That way the rest of the group could still make the summit.”
Mann said the fastest team could make it in four days. “That’d still leave a week of racing time outside of Kilimanjaro.”
We’ll have to wait and see what materializes. As noted, this is just one of many options for PQ 2009. But the concept intrigues me: Tick off one of the world’s toughest races while at the same time climbing a Seven Summits mountain. Sign me up, Don!
The Gear Junkie Archive is a vast repository of information on outdoors gear and apparel, including more than 200 gear reviews stretching back to 2004. All reviews were written by Stephen Regenold; they originally appeared in his nationally-syndicated newspaper column, The Gear Junkie.
"On the morning of February 6, 2006, in the Kabetogama State
Forest of northern Minnesota, the ground was frozen and dead, a chalky
medium that squeaked when I walked from the car pushing my bike. The
air was sharp, elemental and shrill, hurtful to breathe even through a
mask. It was predawn on the Arrowhead State Trail, a multiuse track
that connects International Falls to the town of Tower more than 100
miles to the south. My hands ached from the cold, fingers going numb
within minutes that morning as I got on the bike to pedal into
wilderness as desolate as the dark side of the moon."
Thus starts my story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on my experience in the Arrowhead 135 Ultramarathon, a race held each February through the woods of far northern Minnesota. It kicked off for its fourth running yesterday, February 4, and goes through the cut-off time tomorrow night.
As ultra races go, the Arrowhead 135 is an odd fish, more akin to an Alaskan sled dog epic than the Ironman. The race requires competitors to combine athletic strength with survivalism, sending cyclists, trekkers and skiers solo and unsupported on its namesake 135-mile course.
I did it in 2006 on a bike, braving temps down to 20-below and deep snow that kept my wheels spinning for traction, mile after mile. (That’s me in the above image somewhere around Mile 40 on the first day.)
I pedaled a bike custom made for the snow, four-inch-wide tires and racks to carry gear. The trail, primarily a snowmobile route, was packed and solid for the first few miles of the race.
From a trailhead near International Falls, the course began with a prologue there-and-back leg west about nine miles into the woods. I tagged the checkpoint intersection after an hour of motion, then turned around to pedal east and south to the inner reaches of the Kabetogama State Forest.
It took me almost two days, and along the way I made a wrong turn that cost 20 miles of wasted time. But I finished far under the cut-off, indeed taking 9th place that year out of the 30+ people who started. The race was a formative kind of thing for me, and I’ve written on my Arrowhead experience a couple times, most recently in a story last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (click here). Two years ago I also wrote this piece for the New York Times.