Primal Quest and the Use of GPS
Posted on 06/17/08 11:24 PM| by Kraig

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the decision by the PQ Management Team to allow the use of GPS devices in this year’s race. The decision was not one that was made lightly or without careful consideration. The PQ Staff understand that navigation is an integral part of what puts “adventure” into the race. But above all else, the safety and security of competitors remains paramount at all times.

When the 2008 course was designed, it was expected there would be much less snow in the area at the time of the race. These projections were based on historical data. However, record snowfall over the past two weeks has left 4 - 10 ten feet of snow covering many of the higher elevation areas on the course. The excessive snowfall has increased avalanche and snow slide hazards in the remote wilderness, causing serious concern for teams who may veer off-course or who may not recognize these dangerous areas. Considering that all but approximately 10 miles of this year’s course is in the deep back-country, there is a lot of potentially treacherous ground to cover.

While time trialing sections of the course, we found that most of the roads, trails, and many of the natural landmarks above 6000′ were covered by 4 - 10 feet of snow. PQ Director Don Mann, Course Director Chris Caul, and Course Designer George Rice were forced to use a GPS device to pinpoint their location on numerous occasions. This was the only way they were able to positively identify their location and not venture into potentially hazardous areas. It was for this reason, and with the safety of teams in mind, that the decision was made to allow racers to carry a GPS during the race. This decision has been accepted by some athletes, disputed by others, and misunderstood by some. However, nearly all respondents recognize the safety concerns expressed by race management.

As stated in our message dated 7/16: “Primal Quest Race Management has made the decision NOT to prohibit the use of GPS units in PQ Montana. This decision was made due to the fact that the course still has a great deal of snow covering trail and road markings, and we need to ensure that competitors do not wander into avalanche and cornice hazard areas.”

Since this decision was made, the snow melt has been dramatic and the immediate forecast calls for continued warm weather with a chance of rain. As conditions are rapidly improving, the following guidelines regarding the use of a GPS device have been established.

• All teams are highly encouraged to bring a GPS unit.

• All GPS units will be sealed in a specially designed, tamper-proof bag by race staff. Re-opening the bag leaves physical evidence that the device has been used. Once sealed inside this bag, it will be up to the team to decide when, or even if, they will use their GPS.

• Any team electing to use the device will be charged a time penalty at the end of the race. The decision to take this approach allows teams to still rely on their navigational skills, but have the safety of a GPS should they feel the need to use it.

• If conditions continue to improve throughout the remainder of the week as expected, the use of a GPS will be limited to only specified areas of the course, or maybe not at all. The PQ Management team believes it is better to err on the side of caution and allow GPS units as a back-up safety device for all teams. As already stated, safety is our utmost priority.

• For teams who do not have a GPS unit and are having difficulty in obtaining one, they are available in Bozeman, MT and we will be happy to assist you in locating a local retailer.