Teams choose to participate on either the Advanced or Intermediate course. The two levels vary in physical demands due to course mileage and elevation intensity. Every team starts out on the same course. There will be a decision point on the trail where the Advanced and Intermediate will proceed on different routes. See below for course descriptions and maps.


From the race start, competitors will follow a ski trail to a steep, scrambling climb to a view overlooking the Black Mountain Ski Area. Racers will then descend to the ski area base again to begin their climb through glades and trails, and back into the woods for the Crossroads checkpoint. 

Both the Advanced (long) and Intermediate (short) Courses take competitors to the summit of Black Mountain Radio Tower, and then return to the Crossroads before a steep descent and a separation of the Advanced (long) and Intermediate (short) Courses. Intermediate course participants will have a steady climb over granite slabs with 360-degree views, while the Advanced course racers will reach Whitecap summit with a longer traverse around the bottom of the cliffs.  Racers will cross ledges and scramble over rocks and steep sections before descending the course’s switchbacks and through the woods to the canoe launch.

Teams will cross a field and descend a small bank to begin their paddle on a 5.5 mile winding river segment with slow-moving current. Some sections of the river are very deep, but sand bars may surprise the unsuspecting. The fastest paddlers will be those who can read the river and steer to deeper water through the bends. This river travels through beautiful, undeveloped farm land, with Great Blue Herons often perched on the banks. The paddle ends at the confluence of the Ellis and Androscoggin Rivers.

Day One Elevation Profile



  • Intermediate Course: blue
  • Advanced Course: orange
  • Paddling: purple


Day Two will start not far from downtown Bethel in the Community Forest beginning on a hiking trail that meanders through forests to Picnic Knoll. At this point, racers taking the Advanced (long) course will hike up a winding ascent to the Bingham View. The courses rejoin on snowmobile trails through hardwood forests and the junction of the waterfall trail leading to three different waterfalls on a lollipop loop.

The course will continue on a very steep (at times) and sometimes muddy hiking trails to the ledge summit of Whitecap for 360 degree views of the Western Maine Mountains before continuing on to Spruce Cliffs. While the ascent of Spruce Cliffs takes motivation, guts and problem solving, there is an optional alternative route which will take more time. The course will then descend to North Peak and a “trail challenge.” Once complete competitors continue down to Southridge and another memorable “trail challenge.” The last part of the race will test teams endurance and sense of adventure as they near the finish and the final challenge. 

Day Two Elevation Profile



  • Intermediate Course: blue
  • Advanced Course: orange



SCI takes the safety of all the competitors seriously. Race officials will conduct an onsite safety briefing during the mandatory race meeting immediately following the Welcome Dinner on Thursday, September 30.

Each team is required to carry an SCI Mountain Challenge-issued tracker at all times while on the course (trackers will be provided on site at the race start). The tracker automatically communicates with race headquarters every five minutes with the precise GPS location of the team, and features a “help” button should the team require assistance. In addition, trail runners are placed strategically at checkpoints along the course to provide assistance to competitors if needed. Each team member must also carry several mandatory items at all times as a minimum safety standard. See MANDATORY GEAR section for details. 

A team of medical professionals (EMT and First Responders) will be onsite for support and emergency purposes. Any serious extractions or injuries may require the assistance of the Maine Fish and Game Department. SCI maintains a written safety plan specific to the 2021 SCI Mountain Challenge that includes an overview of the route and identification of risks, as well as contingencies for everything from inclement weather, to accidents, to extractions on the course.


Each competitor must carry a number of mandatory items on his/her person at all times as a minimum safety standard while on the course.

There are additional mandatory items listed that are required per three person team.

For safety purposes, competitors will encounter checkpoints along the course where race officials will check for mandatory gear and issue time penalties for missing items. The following lists outline the mandatory and suggested equipment, and competitors may opt to bring additional gear based on their individual needs. The lists may be subject to change and participants will be notified of any changes in advance of the event.

Each person is responsible for carrying his/her own equipment and clothing for the climate, conditions and activities. SCI will provide Fueling Bags with snacks each morning, but competitors may choose to bring additional food. It is recommended that competitors bring at least 100 oz. of water up the mountain each day.


(one set per individual participant)

  • Waterproof jacket (this is determined by looking inside the jacket at the seams. If the seams are not “sealed” then the jacket does not meet the waterproof standard. Most GORE-TEX® jackets have taped seams)
  • Whistle 
  • Emergency blanket (lightweight, Mylar-type material, thermal)
  • Headlamp or flashlight (cell phone flashlights do not apply)
  • Wool or synthetic cap (NOT cotton; wool remains insulated and will dry more quickly)
  • Capacity to carry a minimum of one liter of water (although it is strongly recommended to carry 3 liters)
  • Official race bib (to be given to each competitor at registration)
  • Face mask (to be worn when social distancing between other teams is not possible)
  • Hand sanitizer

(one set per team)

  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Small assortment of band-aids
  • 3” ace bandage
  • 6 doses of anti-inflammatory medication (e.g. Ibuprofen)
  • 6 doses of antihistamine medication (e.g. Benadryl)
  • Tweezers
  • Sunscreen
  • Pocket knife
  • Epinephrine for those with anaphylactic reactions (venom allergies, etc.)
  • Medical tape
  • Gauze pads
  • Matches, lighter, flint or other fire starting device

SUGGESTED ITEMS (not required)

  • Dry bag for all gear (Ziploc bags will work)
  • Neoprene gloves
  • Hydration pack
  • Extra pair of lightweight shoes (to wear in the canoe)
  • Visor
  • Sunglasses with retention strap
  • Extra socks
  • Anti-blister lubricant (e.g. Hydropel)
  • Moleskin
  • Easy to eat and access snacks
  • Bathing suit for heated pool


The SCI Mountain Challenge will be run in accordance with the following Rules and Regulations. It is the obligation of each participant to review this document. Detailed information on team composition, scoring, penalties, competitor withdrawal, and other essential topics is included.  







The SCI Mountain Challenge is a physically demanding event. SCI hopes that the competitors will view their participation as a chance to push themselves, focus on their strengths, and feel a great sense of accomplishment when they cross the finish line!

How competitors prepare for the Mountain Challenge is up to each individual. Below, SCI has provided a link to detailed, month-by-month training suggestions designed for competitors at three different fitness levels. If choosing to follow personal training schedules, here are some goals to keep in mind in the lead-up to the event:

  • Improvement in cardio fitness: choose any type of aerobic exercises that will raise your heart rate, get you moving and leave you sweating by the time you’re done. Hiking on uneven terrain is the best preparation for the land-based sections of the Challenge.
  • Aim for a minimum of two 30-minute cardio sessions per week, building the intensity of your workouts.
  • Improvement in strength and stamina: strength-building exercises such as lifting weights or bodyweight exercises (push-ups, sit-ups, etc.) will gradually build stamina in your upper body which will help with the paddling element of the course.

Additional Tips:

  • Break in the hiking boots or trail sneakers that you plan on wearing in advance of the event. No one wants blisters – and remember your moleskin as a preventative measure!
  • Train with your teammates to figure out how to make your team as efficient as possible. If you are different sizes or fitness abilities, split up the load of your backpacks proportionally to the size(s) of the team members to help balance things out.
  • Test any new equipment you will be bringing on the course (such as day packs, hydration packs and trekking poles).