August 7, 2011 in Outdoors

Expedition Idaho will push teams to edge

By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane resident Jeni McNeil
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Expedition Idaho adventure race

Begins Aug. 14, ends Aug. 20 at Silver Mountain Resort.

About 15 four-person co-ed teams must stay together.

Teams navigate to checkpoints on uncharted course covering roughly 400 miles in six days.

Travel includes mountain biking, rafting, paddling, trekking, orienteering, running, climbing, plus surprises.

Teams travel more than 20 hours a day and sleep rarely.

Entry fee is $4,000 per team competing for a purse of around $40,000 in cash and prizes.

Volunteers are needed to staff remote checkpoints, standby for search and rescue and other chores.

On the Web: More information can be found at

Adventure racing masochists are trying to put North Idaho on the outdoor endurance map with the likes of Primal Quest and Eco-challenge.

A team race covering roughly 400 uncharted miles will debut as Expedition Idaho, beginning Aug. 14 at Silver Mountain Resort. Six days later, the race will end back near the ski resort’s summit at the start of the Blues and Brew music festival.

The event is the brainchild of David Adlard, an Athol, Idaho, hard-body who had no time to rest after completing the recent Ironman Triathlon.

“I finished Ironman, and now I’ve been working on Expedition Idaho 24 hours a day, setting the course on my mountain bike and four-wheeler,” he said. “The late snow in the high country was a real setback to work around.”

Indeed, he sent out a notice two weeks ago to competing teams advising them to be ready with crampons and ice axes for crossing snowfields in mid-August. But as the heat finally melts the snowpack, he revised the warning Thursday and said trekking boots and poles would get them over the snowfields the racers will encounter.

Adlard will keep the course a secret, giving the competitors only clues to checkpoints they must reach along the way as they pedal, paddle, row, hike, run, climb and who knows what else.

Only Adlard and a couple of helpers.

“I can’t say where it goes, but I’ll tell you it’s a comprehensive tour of North Idaho,” he said. “They’ll get as far north almost to Sandpoint and a lot of places in between.”

Teams will be warned at the start: It’s not a question of whether you’ll be lost, but rather for how long and how badly.

“How a team deals with being lost is a strategy,” he said. “You can’t lose time worrying. You might have to cut your losses and go back to a checkpoint and start over.”

They’ll need to be proficient with their compasses and the map they get at the race start to navigate the route and find more than 100 checkpoints.

In an email to competitors, he said they would not have to carry their paddles during the race, but they’ll need to pack their climbing gear for the distance.

And they’d better be ready for North Idaho whitewater.

“I would DEFINITELY bring a dry bag big enough for your pack, shoes, etc, as you will FOR SURE get wet … boat, water, rocks … hmmmm what could happen here?

“In 25 panting breaths or less, the course is certainly ‘high alpine,’ but could also be described as ‘yo-yo.’ ”

About 15 teams from several countries are registered, including the world champion adventure racing team from New Zealand, he said.

The event calls for each team to race for the same amount of time. “The winner will be the team that goes the farthest,” he said.

“The top teams will finish the entire course in six days. Other teams will have to take cutoffs if they don’t hit certain checkpoints in the allotted time.”

Adlard said North Idaho can deliver the racers a week full of world-class mountain biking, trekking, rappelling and water travel, and they’ll get to enjoy it for about 22 hours a day.

“Consider this,” Adlard said. “Expedition Idaho spans 144 hours. The top teams will race for 130-132 of those hours. They’ll average about 20 minutes a mile during each 24 hours for six straight days.

“That includes their sleeping, transitions, ropes course and rappelling and the heart of darkness trekking segment.

“Ironman is tough, and I don’t belittle their claim that it’s the world’s greatest test of endurance,” Adlard said. “But for sure there are other events that are world class tests of endurance, and Expedition Idaho is one of them.”

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