March 5, 2004
Canadian Team wins 2004 Fulda Challenge ‘Extreme Arctic Adventure’
Whitehorse, Yukon – There’s still gold at the end of the
Klondike Trail, and Canada’s Greg and Denise McHale of Dawson City, Yukon can
prove it. Each is now the justifiably proud owner of a $5,000 gold nugget –
the prize for Team Canada’s first-place finish in the 2004 Fulda Challenge
Extreme Arctic Adventure. Greg, an RCMP constable and mountain climber, was
also the top male athlete of the Challenge, claiming a 1,500 Euro ($2,500
Canadian) cash prize. His wife Denise, a fitness instructor who runs
marathons, tied for second place in the women’s competition to win 1,000 Euros
(about $1,700 Canadian).
This year’s Challenge pitted nine two-person (one male, one female) teams
from seven countries against 2,000 kilometres of the rugged goldrush route
from Skagway, Alaska, to Dawson City, and beyond to the Arctic Circle. Along
the route, in what has been called the toughest battle in the Fulda’s four-
year history, the McHales competed with the other teams in a variety of
demanding outdoor events that ranged from a half marathon and a snowshoe race
up 3,000 vertical metres, to hovercraft handling and tire changing.
“One of the things that makes the Fulda Challenge unique is the wide
variety of activities – you can’t win it on pure athletic ability alone,” said
Denise McHale. “Having said that, the level of competition amongst this group
was exceptional. The chance to meet all of these other great athletes and
challenge ourselves against them is one of the things that made this event so
exciting – and made winning even more rewarding.”
Based roughly on the kind of obstacles that the gold seekers would have
faced in their rush for Klondike gold in the late 1800’s, the Fulda Challenge
consists of thirteen events over seven days. The individual events are not
publicized, and vary from year to year, so contestants don’t know ahead of
time exactly what feats they have to prepare for.
This year, competitors had to climb an ice wall in Dawson City, cross
Miles Canyon over the Yukon River near Whitehorse on ropes, and pull a two-and-
a-half tonne Toyota 4Runner. They raced mountain bikes, snowmobiles and all-
terrain vehicles in the ice and snow, as well as (in the one event where the
pairs competed as a team) an antique railway handcar. After each gruelling
day, the competitors relaxed by camping out for the night in the minus-thirty-
degree Celsius Arctic winter weather.
The Fulda Challenge competitors had one advantage over the original
stampeders, though; instead of taking the trek on foot, they made their 2,000
kilometre journey in sport utility vehicles – the RAV4 Chili Edition, supplied
by Toyota, one of the event’s sponsors.
“The RAV4 handled fantastically under all the northern driving
conditions, especially on the obstacle course,” said Greg McHale. “I did
pretty well in this event, but if I’d known how well the RAV4 would handle on
ice and snow, I’d have pushed it a lot harder. We were also impressed with the
cargo capacity – we were able to get tons of gear inside.”
Although the Canadian team remained consistently among the front runners
throughout the Challenge, the competition remained so close that the winners
were not decided until the final day. Points were awarded after every event:
nine points each to the top-finishing male and female down to one point each
for those in last place. Together, Greg and Denise accumulated 166 points,
beating the second-place Austrian team by just six points. Individual prizes
were also awarded to the top three male and female competitors.
Sponsored by Fulda, a leading German tire manufacturer, the Fulda
Challenge is much better known in Europe than it is in Canada. Determined
European competitors go through months of trials and elimination events until
the top male and female athletes are chosen to form teams. In 2004, eight
teams qualified in addition to the Canadians: one each from Austria,
Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Italy, and two teams each from Germany and
the United Kingdom.
Plans are already underway for Fulda Challenges in 2005 and 2006. More
information about the Fulda Challenge is available from their web site at
. For more information on the RAV4 and other Toyota
SUVs, visit www.toyota.ca.