6633 Arctic Ultra: researching the route

Likeys 6633 Arctic ultra 2Prior planning prevents piss poor performance! This was something that was drilled into me in my military days and it's something that will probably stay with me forever, mainly because I truly believe it. With anything I do, I never go into it half-assed, and with that in mind after I entered the 6633 Arctic Ultra I knew I would have to recce the course as much as possible (if that's possible from thousands of miles away!) to ensure I was fully prepared for what is coming my way in March. So I did my own fact-finding mission, I went through the 6633 Arctic Ultra website with a fine tooth-comb, I read every race report I could find (which wasn't many!) and spoke to past competitors; this is what I found: 

  • Leg 1: start to CP1 (Arctic Circle) 23 miles
    • The first stage is the shortest stage of the race at 23 miles (yes, not really that short!). Once the race is started you immediately descend gently through an Arctic stunted forest for about 6 miles to the bridge at Eagle River. On crossing the bridge, the road ascends quite steeply at first and then undualtes for about 6 miles, where upon the landscape becomes more exposed to the notorious Arctic winds. This hilly landscape continues until the first checkpoint, which is right on the Arctic Circle.
  • Leg 2: CP1 to CP2 (James Creek) 48 miles (total: 71 miles)
    • On leaving the Arctic Circle, the route continues to rise and fall and is best described as undulating (although many veteran athletes of this event will suggest that mountainous is a more appropriate description!). As you approach Glacier Creek the route becomes open and flatter and much more exposed, this whole stretch is affectionately known as Hurricane Alley, and with good reason. The potential is there for extremely strong Katabatic winds, with the road often being closed to vehicles for safety. Next up is possibly the toughest part of the route, the 10 mile uphill stretch to Wright Pass which takes you to the border with the North West Territories; upon which you then descend down to the checkpoint at James Creek. 
  • Leg 3: CP2 to CP3 (Fort McPherson) 42 miles (total: 113 miles)
    • On leaving James Creek you’re straight into 4 miles of ascent, after which the route is undulating. After some more miles you catch the first sight of the McKenzie Delta below you and from this point the trail descends to the Peel River ice crossing, after which the route changes to relatively flat for the final 6 miles into the check point at Fort McPherson. You can collect one of your two drop bags here, so it’s a good opportunity to have a change of clothes, restock your food supplies and maybe grab a few hours sleep.
  • Leg 4: CP3 to CP4 (Mid-Point Peel River) 47 miles (total: 160 miles)
    • On leaving Fort McPherson, we'll now be racing on a new route to the finish line at Tuktoyaktuk (new in 2018). This is a remote section of Ice Road, so it's pancake flat, which meanders its way to CP4.
  • Leg 5: CP4 to CP5 (Aklavik) 51 miles (total: 211 miles) 
    • Leaving CP4 you're back onto the Ice Road. This area of the Northwest Territories is very remote, but the proximity of the wooded banks along the route should provide some much appreciated protection from the winds.
  • Leg 6: CP5 to CP6 (Inuvik) 75 miles (total: 286 miles)
    • From Aklavik, the route will again continue with solid ice underfoot, albeit a wider and more exposed section of Ice Road. With this section of the race being approximately 75 miles, this non-stop section all the way to Inuvik is probably the toughest section of the race. This section will take most competitors between 30 and 40 hours, so we will certainly be sleeping out on the trail during this section. Once arriving in Inuvik, we get access to our second drop bag, so this is our last opportunity to have a change of clothes and restock our food supplies.
  • Leg 7: CP6 to CP7 (Gateway) 43 miles (total: 329 miles)
    • Similar to the first 120 miles of the race, this road is a hard packed “forest” type trail that winds its way through the myriad of lakes strewn over the McKenzie Delta. Where any tree cover exists, they will be stunted by the cold and will offer little protection from the winds that can affect the area.
  • Leg 8: CP7 to finish (Tuktoyaktuk) 54 miles (total: 383 miles)
    • The final 54 mile leg is remote, barren, yet stunningly beautiful, which makes its way to the finish line at Tuktoyaktuk on the banks of the Arctic Ocean.

As you can see from my course synopsis, there will be many, many (many) solo, cold, windy, barren miles and this is something that every competitor will have to deal with; this is the mental side of the event, which is as important (if not more important) as the physical side of the race. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be like nothing I've ever encountered before! 

If you missed the first blog post in this 6633 Arctic Ultra series (6633 Arctic Ultra.....setting the scene) you can check it out HERE, if not watch this space for the next 6633 Arctic Ultra training update. If you have any questions about the 6633 Arctic Ultra, the training required for such an epic event or the specialist equipment required, please send them over to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.