Eco-Challenge 1996 Archives
The War-Stories and Fish-Tales

Maryann Karinch of Team Real, listed originally as Team United, was on the only 4-woman/1-man team in the 1996 Eco-Challenge. Here is her view on this year's particularly brutal race.




AUGUST 27,4:15 PM







SEPT 1, 3 PM

SEPT 3, 2:30 PM















The First Event: The Ride and Run
In a frantic start at day break on August 24, member of 74 teams took off from the starting line with 140 competitors on horseback and the rest running on foot. Some were clearly there to win, but most just wanted the experience of the legendary race.

The Mountain Zone is following Team Live Hard in their racing endeavors. So far, the environment has been "like a circus," says team member Davor Novoselac. As runners were herded into one area of the starting field, the riders were sent to the strict Wrangler Head to retrieve their horses. Many of the horses were uneasy about the abundant crowds and noise and congestion. One rider nearly got bucked off in the saddling area, while an observing camera crew nearly lost their lens to the hoof of an irritated horse. The start was much like the early 1900's land claim rush when people and horses headed out in a mad dash to be the first to... wherever.

The extensive media coverage will air on the Discovery Channel as a five-part mini-series this spring.

-- Cameron Martindell, Mountain Zone Staff

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River Rescue DQ's Team Endeavor
The EcoChallenge continues to live up to its name as teams battle disorienting undergrowth and unseasonal heat. The top three teams were lost for more than 9 hours on Sunday while trying to bushwack through thick trees and slide alders. The delay has caused the event organizers to shorten the mountain bike leg (now under way) from 77 miles to approximately 57 miles. Team Endeavor, in 4th place as of Monday afternoon, was disqualified yesterday after one of their canoes capsized, forcing an assisted rescue. The team is apparently continuing on as an unofficial participant with only 4 members. Of the original 70 teams, 56 are still officially participating.

Communication between on-course officials and event headquarters has been hampered by satellite phone problems and the thick undergrowth, which has made spotting the teams by air difficult.

-- PR News Wire/Michael Harding, Mountain Zone Staff

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AUGUST 27,4:15 PM
EcoChallenge Field down to 45
As of Tuesday afternoon only 45 of the original 70 teams that began the 1996 Eco-Challenge were officially still competing. According to Curtis Hall - media relations director for the Eco-Challenge. Nine teams have dropped out altogether, and the rest are continuing unofficially. By some estimates the event is over 20 hours behind schedule, causing some to wonder if the course is actually too challenging. For the top teams, however, the event is a real competition, with less than one hour separating the top three teams.

-- Michael Harding, Mountain Zone Staff

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On The Glacier
The 45 remaining teams are spread out along the rigorous mountain biking course, some way back in the water canoeing, and the leaders have moved on to glacial battlegrounds. All competitors are from 9 to 20 hours behind schedule with dramatically close times between the leaders. Stay tuned for more detailed updates throughout the day.

3 pm PDT
On The Glacier...continued
Team Eco-Internet/Reebok still holds a marginal lead over the French Hewlett-Packard Team as the 1996 Eco-Challenge field continues to dwindle. The pack now consists of only 41 teams, down from the original total of 70. Fifteen teams have actually dropped out of the race, and fourteen more are disqualified, but are continuing on as unofficial entries. Approximately 2 days separate the first and last teams at this point.

Although the challenging terrain has set back most teams from their original estimates, race organizers have adjusted the remaining legs to keep the event on schedule. Event director Diane Korman discussed the course changes; "We shortened the mountain bike leg, removing the single track portion, and that gained us 3 or 4 hours, and we have removed a significant portion of the second glacier leg. We expect the first teams to finish late Friday night, which is pretty much on schedule."

Although the course has exceeded some participants expectations, there have been no serious injuries or mishaps. Disqualifications have resulted from a variety of complications, including one team member swallowing a bee. Team Eastwind had the misfortune to spend 18 hours route-finding only to end up right back where they started, bringing their total time for that leg to 30 hours.

-- Michael Harding, Mountain Zone Staff

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41 Eco-Challenge Teams Tackle Second Glacier
The 41 teams still in the running on day five of the Eco-Challenge Adventure Race received a reprieve from the record-breaking temperatures that had taken their toll on a number of the 70 teams that started the race. The top 10 teams arrived on mountain bikes to the transition area for fifth leg of the 323 mile endurance event-a mountaineering and glacier traverse.

In anticipation of the impending bad weather with potential white out conditions, the course has been revised to travel a lower elevation route along Ipsoot Glacier and Longspur Peak in the Pemberton Ice Field. The 55 mile route will include several fixed rope climbs and a tyrolean traverse across wide crevasses.

First place team Eco-Internet/Reebok with team members from New Zealand and the United States, arrived at the transition area in the evening of August 27 and set out in darkness for the glacier.

Team Hewlett-Packard of France, winners of the inaugural Eco-Challenge in Utah in 1995, arrived in second place at the transition area at 3:00 a.m. Team Hi-Tec Adventure of the United States and New Zealand, bumped Team Southern Traverse of New Zealand and Australia out of third place.

Of the 29 teams that have dropped out of the race or have been disqualified 14 have elected to forge on to the finish as "unranked". A number of unranked teams without a full complete have join up with other teams to complete the course,

The Eco-Challenge is sponsored by Tylenol Sinus, Land Rover, Hi-Tec Sports, Columbia Sportswear, GT Bicycles, Avid Technology, Met-Rx, and Leek-Sport USA. Eco-Challenge Official Suppliers are Starbucks Coffee, Advanced Base Camp, Adventure Medical Kits, Avocet, Benchmark Knives, Canadian Electronics, Counter Assault, Mirage Hydration, Motorola, Powder Resort Properties, Princeton Tec, Reax, Skyblazer Signal Products, and Windmill Lighters.

The mountaineering and glacier traverse should take the top teams at least 24 hours to complete, arriving at the next transition area the morning of August 30. From there, they will start the white water rafting leg. The first teams are expected to cross the finish line early August 31.

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Reebok/Eco-Internet team is Lost
Leading team, Reebok/Eco-Internet, has been missing in action since early morning when the weather in southern BC turned nasty with rain and wind. Some observers are predicting a repeat over last year's event in Utah when the same team got lost for 15 hours late in the race - eventually winning anyway.

Now down to 15 teams from an initial 72, the remaining competitors must reach the put-in point for the rafting leg of the race by 4 pm PDT today, or they will be caught by the mandatory dark-out at the river's edge and lose serious time to those who clear the rafting section. While there is growing concern that team Reebok/Eco-Internet won't make the deadline, teams Hewlett Packard and Hi-Tech faced an unexpected hazard last night -- caught by nightfall in the same area, the bitter rivals were forced to camp side by side... presumably, neither got much rest.

-- Peter Potterfield & Anya Zolotusky, Mountain Zone Staff

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Team Reebok/Eco-Internet Found!
Team Reebok/Eco-Internet expected to finish tonight!

Teams race against the elements as mother nature takes its toll on the sixth day of the Eco-Challenge. Mountain weather will cause a delay for several teams in the final days of the race. Having passed the peak of the Ice Caps, the first four teams will continue toward the finish line.

As of Thursday evening, Team Reebok/Eco-Internet was seven hours ahead of the second and third place teams. The team slept most of the night in the bush realizing that they would approach a rafting dark zone. Dark Zones are pre-selected checkpoints along the course where night travel is prohibited and competitors must remain until specific morning hours. Team Reebok/Eco-Internet finally began rafting at 1:04 PM. If they continue to push beyond their limits, they should reach the finish line at midnight tonight.

Early this morning, mountain weather set into the Sea to Sky region causing thunderous precipitation along the ice cap. Currently, 16 teams must remain in this mountain zone to wait out the winds. All teams are hunkered down at the nearest PC. The organizers plan to move the competitors by helicopter to a safe PC further along the course and allow them to continue the race. However, the weather is not permitting any helicopter movement at this time.

Teams Hi-Tec Adventure and Hewlett-Packard have cleared this mountain zone and are navigating down the mountain to the rafting put in. They have until 4:00 PM to begin white water rafting, or they will be forced to wait until tomorrow morning. Team Southern Traverse New Zealand has cleared the zone and is about to begin their final climb through the fixed crossing along the ice caps.

-- Chris Helms, Mountain Zone Staff

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Team Reebok/Eco-Internet WINS!

At 12:50 am PDT on Saturday morning, just over 6 days and 320 miles from the start, Team Reebok/Eco-Internet crossed the finish line to win the 1996 Eco-Challenge. Having led the race most of the way, they didn't surprise anyone by winning, but in the Eco-Challenge, nothing is a given. Some highly competitive teams have fallen days behind, others (including Team Reebok) have gotten lost along the course for 5 to 30 hours, and all faced some pretty nasty weather.

Not having made the rafting drop-in before the mandatory 4 pm dark-out, the teams following Reebok/Eco-Internet had to camp at the river's edge and are expected at the finish line today after 5 pm PDT. Currently only the top three of the remaining teams are still on the move while the others are not being allowed on the glacier until the dangerously miserable weather lets up.

11 pm PDT
In the Home Stretch
With an ever-widening gap, Team Reebok/Eco-Internet continued its dominance of the grueling 323 mile Eco-Challenge Adventure Race for the third day in a row while a slew of other teams dropped out, or at least dropped down to unofficial status. At the end of Day Six, only 36 of the original 70 teams remain to face the last two legs over the next two days. Some teams have become lost, others tipped their canoes, still others are just wasted by the non-stop, full-tilt-boogie nature of the race.

The front-running teams spent most of day five and six on the mountaineering and glacier traverse leg. The original course of 55 miles was shortened by event organizers to a 40 mile route along Ipsoot Glacier and Longspur Peak in the Pemberton Ice Field. That shortened course that was even more technical than the first glacier traverse of the second leg, and including ice-falls, crevasses and thousand-foot cliffs that required fixed rope climbs and a tyrolean traverse. Fortunately, stormy weather that threatened the competitors never materialized.

Team Reebok/Eco-Internet will spend the evening waiting for 6:00 a.m. to set off on the 44 mile, six hour river rafting leg. For safety reasons, river rafting has been designated a mandatory dark zone requiring teams to travel only in daylight. They will ride the Class IV rapids of the glacier-fed Elaho River, battling the raging chutes and troughs, hoping to make it through Devil's Elbow which has earned the reputation for being one of the most treacherous river crossings in British Columbia. Where the Elaho meets the Squamish River the rapids change to class III and teams must navigate through towering canyons of sheer granite to reach the final transition area.

While only a major and unexpected disaster can stop Team Eco-Internet from repeat victory in the grueling event, a fierce battle is heating up for second place between Team Hi-Tec Adventure of New Zealand and the United States, and Team Hewlett-Packard of France, winners of the inaugural Eco-Challenge held in Utah in 1005. Team Hi-Tec who started off the day six hours ahead of Team Hewlett-Packard, will be caught in the glacier dark zone and have to wait until dawn to continue, allowing Team Hewlett-Packard to catch up. The two teams will be neck and neck as they set off in a race to the rafting launch.

Eco-Challenge organizers, media, and the community of Squamish including the Squamish First Nations Band, will join forces with the teams that have dropped out to participate in the Eco-Challenge Environmental Service Project held at each Eco-Challenge even. In Utah in 1995, more than 70 tons of scrap metal was removed from a dump site. This year's project is the clean up of the Mamquam Blind Channel-an estuary and wetland area vital to the spawning cycle of the salmon and the winter home of the trumpeter swan, only recently taken off the endangered species list.

For the final leg, mountain biking, it will be uphill all the way for 45 miles over four hours to the resort town of Whistler, BC.

-- Peter Potterfield & Chris Helms, Mountain Zone Staff

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Their Mammas Raised 'em Right
After several days of intense drama and head-to-head competition for second and third place, there will be no third place finisher at this year's Eco-Challenge. Teams Hewlett Packard and Hi-Tec Adventure, fierce rivals over the past seven days, mountain biked across the finish line together in Whistler, BC to tie for second. Having faced the last of these grueling days together, neither team wanted to try for a break-away at the end and leave the other behind. You just know their mothers couldn't be more proud of them tonight.

The second-place teams finished 18 hours behind two-time champion Team Reebok/Eco-Internet. Fourth place is expected to be claimed by Team Southern Traverse this evening or early tomorrow morning. Friday's mandatory halt, which stopped many of the teams until weather cleared on the Pemberton Ice Fields, has been lifted, and officials still expect to have as many as 14 finishers.

-- Anya Zolotusky & Chris Helms, Mountain Zone Staff

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SEPT 1, 3 PM
What a Long Strange Trip
Seven days into the self-inflicted hardships of the Eco-Challenge, things seem to be winding down as one after the other, survivors find their way across the finish line. Buzzing on the energy of triumph, the exhausted competitors are exchanging war-stories and fish-tales.

First-place finishers, Team Reebok/Eco Internet, back in the relative-safety of civilization, casually remarked that they found the course to be great fun and especially enjoyed the scenic views. When you finish 17 hours ahead of the pack, you've earned the right to be a little cocky.

The rafting leg of the race featured an unproportional share of the excitement this year. About a dozen teams were held up at a mandatory dark-out prior to the rafting event which allowed slower teams to catch-up through the course of the evening. At day-break, they all hit the water at once. "There's like a dozen teams in the river right now, so they'll all probably finish at about the same time... it's gonna be like a scene out of Ben Hur over here in a couple of hours," said one official.

Leading teams who made the rafting leg a couple of days ago had their own share of adventures. One boat capsized in the freezing water, and as team members scrambled onto shore, they stepped on an active bee-hive. In the excitement of fighting off (ok, running from) the enraged bee colony, many of them suffered stings, and one team member actually swallowed a bee.

Caught up in the competitive frenzy of the last days, second-place finishers Team Hewlett Packard, went over the line. Reprimanded by officials who stumbled upon the team covering their boat with WD-40 before the rafting event, they nodded sheepishly when reminded that this was the "ECO"-Challenge.

Rafting was one of the last events, and if competitors were getting a little punchy, well, they'd had a long week. Team SCAR out of California offered a nice commentary on the competitor state-of-mind late in the race. Officials found the whole team lying in the middle of the road at 1 am laughing uncontrollably -- mountain bikes and gear strewn all around. They made remarkable time afterwards passing some 20 teams to get into ninth place.

Weather at the finish-line is sunny and warm, and all teams still on the course are expected to make it, though one official carefully hedged the bet saying, "hey, in the Eco-Challenge... you just never know."

-- Anya Zolotusky, Mountain Zone Staff

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SEPT 3, 2:30 PM

Erin Bassett of
Team Live Hard.
"You Just Can't Stop..."
That about summed it up for Blain Reeves, as he reflected on the fundamental requirements for completing the 1996 Eco-Challenge adventure race. Reeves was a member of Team Livehard, one of 72 teams that started the event early on the morning of August 24th in Pemberton, B.C. Of those original 72 teams, only 14 officially finished, and only three of those actually completed the course without assistance. This year's course, "a butt-kicker" according to Reeves, was tough enough so that race officials had to fly 11 of the teams ahead so that they would finish the race under the time limit. This left the top three, winning Team Eco-Internet/Reebok, and the two second place entries (tied) Team Hewlett-Packard and Team Hi-Tec, as the only teams to complete the designated course within the time limit.

Most valuable piece of equipment for Team Livehard? The Leki telescoping trekking poles. "Worth their weight in gold" testified Blain Reeves of Team Livehard. These unassuming accessories provided balance and stability to the weary competitors in every section of the land legs. Almost everyone on the team broke theirs, but Reeves wouldn't leave the starting line without them.

-- Michael Harding, Mountain Zone Staff

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[Click for Eco-Challenge 1997 from Australia]