Armchair Musher: The effects of weather

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

2-12-2019 5:45 PM

First off congratulations to Paige, Torsten, Denis, and Jessie. Nathaniel appears to be on his way to rounding out the top 10, with Ryne right behind him. Bet he glances over his shoulder a bit on that run. Cody and Brian are also in the relative safety of Two Rivers, but the race isn’t over till you reach the finish chute, which I saw on FB blew over today. Tad windy out there.

Getting caught up on all this as I am just now back from a beautiful overnight where the heavy snows in the trees blanketed our tent and the wood stove crackled. But today as the weather turned a bit. The wind picked up and falling snow was blowing and it can almost feel as though you are mushing in a snow globe. But in the back of my mind I knew the weather on the summits would be a far cry from the idyllic snow globe day I had.

Seeing these photos from the teams that crossed over Eagle Summit today you can clearly see I was right. So Curt, Deke, Jason, Andrew, and Rob, I hope you and your dogs are eating well and enjoying the hospitality at 101.

Please let me be perfectly clear, in no way are these photos supposed to alarm you. In spite of how it may look to you sitting at your laptop following along, these are not alarming photos. Deke is practically smiling in the photo above. The point I hope to make relates to a conversation I had with Rob’s wife Louise. Who is right now in a position I am all too familiar with. Watching the person and dogs she loves on the Tracker. We were commenting on how hard it can be sometimes not being there with them. And how the Tracker allows people to feel like they are following every little step, and yet she pondered, “Do you think the trackers distance people from reality? Some people seem to treat it like they are watching a video game.” By that we mean, you can watch the little blips move down the map, like pieces in a game. You can cheer for teams and see their speed and progress. But hopefully folks never lose sight of the fact that this is so much more. And I want to thank the excellent photographers working the trail this year for getting out there and getting the photos that remind us how much is really going on out there making those blips move on the screen.

Now back to 101. I would not be surprised to see the teams currently at 101 stay for a good long time; the extra rest helping prepare the teams, while they wait for a window of opportunity. It is not at all uncommon in long distance races for groups of teams with similar traveling speeds to decide to travel together in extreme weather. In addition to added safety in numbers there is a real benefit to the dogs. With multiple teams traveling together they can take turns being in lead. No one set of leaders has to take on the extra task of trail breaking for that entire leg. 

Out of 101 Martin and Dave spent some time on Rosebud, but both are on the move toward Two Rivers now. And I am sure will be most happy to be taking at least an 8 hour rest. When we refer to mandatory rest on the race, technically it means mandatory minimum rest. Teams may elect to take additional rest above and beyond that. There is a Competitiveness Rule, rule #22 which states “The Race Marshal shall at any time withdraw or disqualify a Musher they feel is not making a true attempt at running a competitive race or is in a position to not keep up with the race thus endangering themselves, their dogs and/or causing undue burden upon the Yukon Quest organization.…”  The rule goes on to explain criteria for consideration, and makes it very clear that this decision is based in concern for safety and welfare. But I don’t need to tell you that, since anyone reading my posts has already taken my advice and read the Quest Rules right ;)  But in case you haven’t there is still time; and they really do have a lot of valuable information about how the race is run.

Misha is the only one on the trail headed to 101, and she appears to have turned back, at least part way to regroup, and it remains to see where she will go from there. And with the arrival of Hendrik, the remaining mushers are all in the Central Checkpoint. Again I might guess for a while, and possibly traveling out together in groups.

After reports of trails blowing in, which also inevitably means markers being blown down I was super happy to get a report that the trailbreakers are riding between Central and Two Rivers to ensure the remaining teams will have a visible trail.

Also seeing on the Alaska Traveler Info Website, that the Steese Highway is now closed. So until morning when plow trucks come and open Eagle Summit handlers are also camping out and waiting for a window of opportunity. The road closing is not a big deal, and can happen multiple times a winter. But during Quest it means handlers may end up at checkpoints longer than expected, or even miss their musher’s arrival while waiting for the highway to open. This is one of those times the traveling roadshow that is the Quest family really shines. Other team’s handlers take over to meet mushers, help clean, and do what needs to be done to keep teams supported. And at this point you have most likely been road tripping with the same group of dog trucks for long enough to have bonded over the unique experience of living in a dog truck, consuming way too much coffee, raking straw, which is handling for the Yukon Quest. So it is just natural you are going to look out for each other and help each other. Met some of my favorite people in the whole world thanks to this race. Great friendships get made on and behind the scenes on the Quest trail.

Mush Love


Jodi Bailey