By Ashley Lodato

Many of us have been enjoying the fresh air and clear skies by taking hikes or doing short camping trips. But a select few hardy souls are embracing the great outdoors at extreme levels of activity lately, such as Mitchell Harter, son of Methow Valley residents John and Sheri Harter.

Mitchell is currently competing in an elite adventure race, Primal Quest, which is described as both “the most prestigious expedition event in North America” and “a brutal combination of ultra-endurance sports combined with mental and emotional fatigue, in a trial of human-powered adventure.” In a nutshell, in a Primal Quest expedition race like the current one in the Squamish/Garibaldi area of British Columbia, co-ed teams of four navigate a 500-plus mile course that traverses mountains, glaciers, rivers and rocks. They backpack, mountaineer, rappel, whitewater raft, mountain bike, swim, and run, jog, walk, slog, stumble and stagger across punishing terrain, confronting technical and navigational challenges all the while.

Mitchell’s team, Quest Racing, is currently in first place, and by the time you read this they will probably be finished with the race, having begun on Sept. 6. But the standings change by the hour, and for parents and family members following the teams’ progress online through GPS tracking, it can be suspenseful.

John and Sheri don’t worry too much about Mitchell during these adventure races. After all, John was an adventure racer when he and Sheri were raising their kids in Missouri. “We all know that there are risks involved in outdoors adventures,” says John. “There’s always a chance you’ll get hurt. But you can get hurt anywhere.”

Mitchell is “extremely good at outdoor sports,” says John, “and he has really great judgment.” Mitchell’s sound judgment is built in part on a childhood spent outdoors, and also on a career of working for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) and Outward Bound. “Mitchell always had good endurance, and then he started running longer and longer distances,” says John. “He loves the challenge of new and different events. When he dove into adventure racing, he went in deep.”

Still, Primal Quest is nearly in a league of its own in terms of the grueling schedule, the length and technical difficulty of the course, and the challenges of the terrain. Sleep deprivation, among other things, can quickly take a toll on the athletes’ morale, not to mention their wits. But John says that Mitchell has learned that “the human body can do a lot more than the mind says it can,” and he believes that Mitchell and his fellow team members will make good progress and good decisions. Still, John says “Primal Quest will put the hurts on him.”

To find out about how Mitchell and the Quest Racing team fared in Primal Quest 2018, and to learn more about this epic adventure race, visit


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