Get Out There

Sun Peaks volunteer ski patroller debuts in World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji

 | August 30, 2020

Jasper Edge, who has been a volunteer ski patroller at Sun Peaks Resort for four years, took part in his first ever adventure race alongside fellow wildland firefighters.

When Ben Kwiatkowski caught wind of an upcoming adventure race from friends and race organizers, he immediately enlisted help from his crew of B.C. wildland firefighters, including Sun Peaks volunteer ski patroller Jasper Edge, to create Team Peak Pursuit for the World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji. The group was one of four Canadian teams. 

They were on the fence about their first adventure race until winter of 2018 when they had to make a final decision. They then submitted an application, only to hear back a few months later that they were accepted. Later that year they were off to Fiji and the show premiered Aug. 14 on Amazon Prime Video.

Edge is an avid outdoor person and has volunteered for the Canadian Ski Patrol in Sun Peaks for four years and has been a wildland firefighter for six seasons. 

The race took place over 11 days on the island of Fiji, where 671 kilometres of relentless terrain stood between 330 competitors (66 teams), and the finish line. Components of the race included mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding, trekking, canyoneering, and other adventure activities.

At its core, the World’s Toughest Race is about perseverance, which along with team chemistry, is exactly what set Team Peak Pursuit apart from the rest of the pack, explained Edge.

”We received numerous comments from other team members, producers, race directors, and camera crews, about how well we were working together as a team. We may not have been the fastest but we were always able and never snapping at each other. (We) often had smiles on our faces and looked after each other’s bodies. I think that’s what gave us the edge.” 

The team consisted of captain Kwiatkowski, Edge, Thomas Hardy, Elora van Jarret, and assistant crew member Laure Lejeune. This was the first expedition style adventure race for every team member and began with a comical start for the rookie crew.

“We actually t-boned an American team and put a hole in their boat. We didn’t flip over or sink their boat. The outriggers on the Fijian sailboats (Camakau) are quite large and have a point that sticks out of the water. They came into a corner too hot and turned sideways and we couldn’t stop, we put a fairly large hole in their boat. There were no hard feelings but it was a rough and tense way to start the race off,” said Hardy.

Twenty two teams dropped out of the competition after injuries, illness and exhaustion from the tiring race. 

The format was laid out in a five stage, multi-checkpoint fashion, Hardy explained.

“You’re given maps and you have to find your way from checkpoint to checkpoint and go on the fastest route and every couple days you get to a camp where our assistant would be set up and you’d be able to sort of refuel on food, then you’d head out again and keep going. On average we’d do two to three different activities a day.”

The most memorable stage for Edge involved trekking through the Fijian jungle to the base of a 356 metre waterfall that the team then had to climb via fixed ropes.

“We got to climb up there, which was pretty sweet and just the feeling of standing on top and looking out over the jungle with no civilization nearby, that was pretty cool. And then from there we continued up to this river for about eight kilometres of swimming. That definitely kind of turned our triumph of moving very fast up the ropes and through the start of the river, to really slow moving terrain when we got into the swimming stuff and started getting very cold,” remembered Edge.

The team started out focused, and had their eyes on the top prize.

“I think coming into the race with no adventure racing experience we didn’t really know what to expect but we are all really competitive people and our work fosters that. But, we realized that with a race like this you can’t just go all cylinders burning and firing for the whole thing. It’s an endurance expedition, not a sprint.”

Even though Edge described portions of the race as a struggle at times, when asked if they would race again, or if the race beat them down too hard, without skipping a beat, both Edge and Hardy answered a resounding yes.

“We’ve forgotten about it already, time heals all,” Hardy said with a laugh.

“We learned so much from this race and if the opportunity comes up where we can race again we look forward to taking what we’ve learned and we will hopefully be at the top of the pack next time,” said Edge.

The World’s Toughest Challenge: Eco-Challenge FIji was originally a televised adventure race that ran from 1995 to 2002 and made its return on Aug 14. All ten, 60 minute episodes, hosted by Bear Grylls, and directed by Thompson Rivers University adventure guide alumni, Kevin Hodder, can now be viewed on Amazon Prime Video.