May 30, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

Cold to be cool 

Do you really need to know how to ski to finish a winter adventure race in the Arctic? Not if you're from South Africa.

click to flip through (9) PHOTO BY LESLIE ANTHONY - Teams raced a total of 77 kilometres over two days.
  • Photo by Leslie Anthony
  • Teams raced a total of 77 kilometres over two days.

Page 7 of 7

Next morning, in windless perfect weather, course radios crackle. Teams are already arriving at the zip-line section near CP 20; the race should be over by early afternoon. In fact, last-place Monts-Torngats clears the zip-line by 2 p.m., about the time Spin Sports crosses the finish line out and Out There, 33 minutes behind, clips CP 25, the final checkpoint, with Endurance-Mag 10 minutes back. There's much cheering when l'equipe Quebec crosses the line and with good reason: despite its largesse in obviating Out There's Air Canada handicap, they've beaten the world's acknowledged best — clearly an adventure for both teams.

The community turns out in force that night for a massive potluck dinner followed by a prize ceremony, with mounds of schwag for kids who participated in the Prologue, and Inuit art for the pros. There's throat-singing and traditional dancing and wild fiddling, the locals happy to share with outsiders who appreciate both their culture and efforts. For the racers' part, they're feeling both fulfilled and connected to the harsh but achingly beautiful world of the Inuit. They're also tired, in some cases too worn even to replace lost calories with the mounds of bannock, smoked char, and caribou stew on offer. Mike Kloser falls asleep sitting against a wall. Others converse with babbling children and stoic elders, pumping the hand of Tommy George and photographing a beaming Daniel. A good news story indeed.

And, of course, the ever-smiling South Africans beam the stoke of a lifetime back to all, putting the first Nunavik Adventure Challenge International into a happy context of experience versus competition.

"Moments out there on the tundra were for me quite emotional," says Hugo, his steel blue-eyes misting over even in recollection. "Having done something I've never done in such a place. It was like, well... a dream."

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