Congratulations to all the mushers and dog teams that successfully completed this year's Yukon Quest! The 19th and final team crossed the finish line late on Sunday, Feb. 19th, with Michael Telpin taking the red lantern award.
Kristy attended the awards banquet on the 18th and has just gotten back to her home kennel in Kasilof, Alaska. She's tired but happy with how the race went and says she would definitely run the YQ again. There were challenges along the trail, from going down Rosebud Summit without her primary brake to the exhaustion that always accompanies a race of this length. And it sounds like the first half of the race on the Alaskan side was more technical in nature, with plenty of "X" markers on the trail warning approaching teams of something tricky ahead. But the challenges are part of the intrigue of running a race like this, and when paired with a happy and healthy dog team, beautiful wilderness, northern lights and shooting stars that would take your breath away, and a successful finish, it was well worth it.
If you've looked at the pictures that both we and others posted to Flickr (we've added a few new ones today), you'll notice that many are of Kristy on her hands and knees tending to her dog team. Kristy takes exceptional care of her dogs, and it has been recognized! We're proud to say that Kristy was awarded the prestigious Veterinarian's Choice Award for this year's Yukon Quest!
An emotional Kristy steps to the podium to accept the Veterinarian's Choice Award.
To all of our fans out there, thanks for supporting Kristy during her rookie run of the Yukon Quest! And please check back soon... The 40th Iditarod is less than 2 weeks away and we'll be posting a blog like this so everyone can keep tabs on both Kristy and Anna as they tackle another 1,000+ mile race across the frozen north.
A couple closing video clips ~ Anna leading Kristy's team and Kristy coming into the finish.
Kristy and her remaining team of 8 dogs pulled into the finish line in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada this morning at 6:42am local time. With an official race time of 10 days, 17 hours, and 33 minutes, she secured a 9th place finish. Congratulations on a fantastic rookie run!
It will be a while before we get final updates from the trail, but here is what we know about the last legs of Kristy's journey. The stretch from Carmacks to Braeburn took longer than expected. Apparently there were high winds and drifting snow overnight on that stretch, leaving Kristy and her team breaking trail for much of the 77 miles. The dogs must have had about enough at this stage, as one of Kristy's primary leaders ~ King ~ kept stopping until eventually she had to switch him out. Both of these factors gave a distinct advantage to Abbie West, who was able to catch up to and then pass Kristy before reaching Braeburn. Kristy's dogs were running a little flat until the other team passed them, but most race dogs hate getting passed, so the close proximity of competition put a renewed spring in their paws. The team looked good pulling into Braeburn and the dogs were content when Kristy fed and bedded them down.
There are still 10 teams making their way to Whitehorse. We'll be back with final updates from Kristy, a closing round of pictures (and hopefully more video), and a final report on all the mushers.
Kristy and Anna reunite in Braeburn.
Kristy and her team pulled into the 2nd to last checkpoint, Braeburn, in 9th place at 8:15am Yukon time today. Here she'll enjoy her final 8 hour mandatory layover and can hit the trail again as early as 4:15pm this afternoon for the last 100 mile run to the finish line in Whitehorse. She pulled in, and thus can pull out, 5 minutes behind Abbie West, so the home stretch could make for an interesting competition between these two mushers. They have been jockeying positions the majority of the race, and given how close they have been running, it is still anybody's guess which of these two ladies will be the first woman to the finish. Will they both leave Braeburn on schedule? Will either musher drop a dog or will they both have 9 in harness? Which team will recharge best during this last respite? How much of an advantage does trail familiarity give Abbie over Kristy as a rookie? Only time will tell!
Speaking of time, precious little separated the first two mushers to cross the finish line in this year's Yukon Quest. That's right, we have a winner! Hugh Neff managed to shrug off his previous 30 minute forgotten axe penalty to squeeze a first place finish past Allen Moore by a paltry 26 seconds (the closest race finish in its history)! It took Hugh and his team (finishing with 9 dogs) 9 days, 16 hours, and 5 minutes to race the 1,000 miles of wilderness.
With Hugh Neff and Allen Moore officially into Whitehorse, there are still 17 mushers on the trail. And one must admire the perseverence of the teams bringing up the rear, particularly as the final two just pulled out of the halfway point in Dawson City yesterday.
Before closing out this posting with some updated pictures from the trail, we did hear from Leon, one of Kristy's handlers, after she came through the Carmack's checkpoint. Apparently she and her team "came smoking into the Carmack's checkpoint" and looked great, musher and dogs alike. They had had a great run the night before and were in high spirits. Kristy took about a 6 hour rest in Carmacks and appears to have taken a couple hours rest along the trail to Braeburn. I suspect her competitive spirit is bubbling up through the exhaustion and there's some strategy forming. Stay tuned...
Here is footage of Kristy and her team pulling into Carmacks.
And here are some shots from Dawson City, Pelly Crossing, and Carmacks.
Team Berington's Camp in Dawson City
Kristy in the distance out on the Yukon River
King and Buffalo nap in Pelly Crossing
Dog Tent in Dawson City, home of some very tired - but happy - pups.
Content dogs in Carmacks watch to see if Kristy is bringing lunch their way
Kristy examines Fawn while making sure she knows what a good dog she is!
Kristy methodically cares for each member of the dog team in the Carmacks checkpoint.
It looks like Kristy was recorded officially reaching Carmacks at 12:03pm Alaska time today. That puts her about 77 miles from Braeburn (where she has an 8 hour mandatory stop) and about 177 miles from the finish line in Whitehorse.
Sorry for any trouble our "armchair mushers" had watching Kristy's personal SPOT GPS tracker recently. We've embedded a new Google API key in our code, so hopefully that fixes things. (And, frankly, you're lucky we figured that much out... we're far more fluent in "canine" than we are in HTML!)
Kristy and her team checked in to the Pelly Crossing checkpoint late on Sunday night and hit the trail again just after 2am Alaska time on Monday morning. One more dog was dropped in Pelly, leaving Kristy with 10 in harness. She left in 9th place but pulled out less than 20 minutes behind her closest competitor, Abbie West, and Kristy has the benefit of one additional dog still on the team. In total, there are still 19 mushers in the field with no additional scratches. We have seen a few penalties assessed, however, with two mushers penalized 30 minutes for lost axes (including one of the front runners, Hugh Neff), and one musher penalized an hour for receiving prohibitied outside interference in Dawson.
Per the GPS tracker, Kristy is about halfway between Pelly Crossing and the dog drop in McCabe Creek. From there, she'll have another nearly 40 mile run to the next checkpoint of Carmacks. Trail reports are still good, although two items to note ~ one, the unusually warm weather hovering around freezing is likely impacting the dogs (who prefer it much colder) and thus each musher's strategy. Two, there have been photos of some of the front runners hitting ice and overflow near Carmacks.
Anna will be heading for Whitehorse today so she's in place to greet Kristy and the dogs when they cross the finish line.
Kristy and her dog team pulled out of Dawson City, roughly 540 miles into the Yukon Quest but considered the race's halfway point, in 9th place at 11:23pm Alaska time on Friday night (2/10). She hit the trail about 1 hour behind Abbie West. With a blanket of stars and northern lights overhead, Kristy was allegedly in good spirits when she pulled out. She got 7-8 hours of sleep in Dawson and spent a lot of time with the dogs. Of the original 14 dogs, 11 were in harness leaving Dawson. Two were previously left in Eagle ~ Copper (suffering from a sore wrist) and Tessa (in heat and too much of a distraction to the other dogs). Arthur arrived in Dawson in the basket, so we weren't surprised to learn he was dropped due to a sore shoulder. The remaining team looks good, with only a few suffering from mildly sore wrists which we know Kristy will be watching closely.
It was unusually warm in Dawson, hovering around freezing, but reports of trail conditions for the rest of the race were good (aside from some wolves supposedly making off with a few trail markers). Some mushers were expecting very windy conditions crossing the race's final and tallest peak between Dawson City and Scroggie Creek ~ King Solomon's Dome at 4,002 feet.
Kristy's official race standings have not been updated since she left Dawson City, but per the GPS tracker, she appears to have successfully climbed King Solomon's, gotten through Scroggie Creek, and is closing in on the Stepping Stone hospitality stop. We do not yet know if any dogs were dropped in Scroggie. From Stepping Stone, she'll have about 30 miles to Pelly Crossing and then 250 miles to the finish. The stretch between Dawson City and Pelly Crossing, at 201 miles, is the longest stretch between two checkpoints of any sled dog competition in the world.
Kristy and her team have now been out on the trail for the better part of 7 days. During that time, they've covered about 700 miles. Kristy's probably gotten a grand total of 14 hours sleep since she started the race the morning of the 4th and we suspect the dogs are eating more regularly than she is.
What have you done lately?! :-)
Even the handlers have a tough job in this race. Check out this interview with Leon Mensch
, one of Kristy's handlers, from Dawson City.
Very cool video of mushers arriving at the halfway point in Dawson. Turn your volume up, it's got a neat soundtrack! And Kristy's 30 seconds of fame starts around the 2:50 mark.
By most accounts, the brutal weather many feared as we neared the start of the Yukon Quest has been oddly forgiving this year (so far... things change quickly out there). As noted in a prior posting, the stretch between Central and Circle City goes along Birch Creek and is notoriously frigid. Last year, mushers saw -50 degrees F air temp (don't forget those pesky windchills ~ reference the windchill chart on our main YQ page
). This year, temps were reportedly "mild", only getting down to about -20. And there were few reports of the overflow that challenged mushers on this stretch in years past or earlier on this year's trail.
So, where did we leave off? Ah yes, with Kristy and her team pulling out of Circle City...
Kristy & her team pulling out of Circle City (photo by Sam Harrel of the Fairbanks News-Miner; click on the photo to view the source site).
And what do we know at this point? Well, we have since learned that the next stop, the dog drop at Slaven's Roadhouse, it not able to serve as a dog drop this year. Due to complications with the pilots that transport dropped dogs from Slaven's, any musher needing to leave a dog here will pay out of his or her own pocket to transport the pooch back to civilization (and the cost is prohibitive). So, largely at the request of the mushers, the vets in Circle City checked nearly every single dog very thoroughly to make extra sure each was in good shape to cover the nearly 160 miles to the next official checkpoint in Eagle. It should also be noted that while Slaven's still offered hospitality for the mushers, with it no longer being a dog drop, mushers were heavily loaded with extra provisions of food and straw when they pulled out of Circle.
The 58 mile stretch between Circle City and Slaven's took Kristy 8 hours and 43 minutes per official YQ standings, with Kristy and all 14 dogs arriving and departing in a respectable 8th place. Per the GPS tracking information, it looks like Kristy just finished camping out on the river for a bit, roughly two-thirds of the way between Slaven's and Eagle, just before the Trout Creek hospitality stop (which regretably is unmanned this year). It also looks like she is now in 6th place, but this early in the race, there will be a lot of changes in positioning. There have been no reports of major weather problems on this section of trail, so the -9 degrees F around Eagle and roughly 15 mph winds should be the norm for this section of the journey.
When Kristy gets into Eagle (anticipated around 5pm Alaska time today), she'll have nearly 400 miles under her runners and get to enjoy a mandatory 4 hour rest, good parking for dogs, and allegedly excellent musher facilities (although, having seen pics of mushers sprawled asleep on top of a fire truck in Circle, one has to wonder what "excellent" means in musher terms...) . After that, she'll have nearly 150 miles to conquer which takes her into Canada and eventually to the official halfway point in Dawson City.
As for the rest of the mushers on the trail, it looks like we've had a couple more scratches leaving 20 teams in play. Jason Weitzel scratched in Circle City after a flare up on a pre-race back injury made him worry about his ability to properly care for his dogs should he continue. And this just hit the offical YQ site, but it looks like Maren Bradley pulled out of Circle City only to return shortly after and scratch. We wish all the mushers and dogs no longer on the trail a swift and safe return to their home kennels.
We're doing our best to track down all the great pictures folks have taken of Kristy and her team during the Yukon Quest and posting many of our own. To see our submissions, visit Seeing Double on Flickr
. To honor all those hard earned copyrights out there, you can click here to view our Favorite Submissions by Others
(and we're also adding a quick link to get back to this posting later under Categories to the right).
Kristy and her team have pulled out of Circle City and, with about 240 race miles under their runners, are now making their way along the Yukon River. But, first, what we know about her journey so far...
Thanks to Leon, friend of the kennel and dog handler extraordinaire, we know Kristy made it out of the start in great shape, got into the first checkpoint in 2nd place, and took about a 4 hour rest. The 82 miles between Two Rivers and Mile 101, though, were more challenging. Somewhere along the way, she encountered overflow and open water, and portions of the sled froze. A part of the sled also broke (per an article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the bottom of Kristy's sled separated after hitting a frozen piece of driftwood near the bottom of Boulder Summit). Recall from the YQ rules, mushers are only allowed one sled (barring a few exceptions), which is a noteworthy difference to the Iditarod. But, never fear, although we don't have many details, during another 4 hour rest Kristy was able to fix it and went charging out of Mile 101 in 5th place and good shape.
Kristy & her team in the mid-ground after leaving Mile 101.
We haven't received any updates directly from the trail since she left Mile 101. But we do know she has since made it in and out of two more checkpoints ~ Central and Circle City. Along that stretch, she would have tackled all 3,685 feet of Eagle Summit. Although weather on Eagle has been exceptionally blizzard-like in the past, conditions this year were clear (although there was a cow moose spotted guarding a calf, which can prove more dangerous than the weather). When she left Circle City, she was officially in 7th place and had all 14 dogs still in harness. That means she has about 50 miles until she's into Slaven's Roadhouse (a dog drop known for having great musher facilities). After that, there's about 100 miles of what could be some icy terrain before she's into the checkpoint of Eagle and has another mandatory 4 hour layover.
Of the 24 original mushers registered for the race, one did not start, and one veteran musher has since scratched, leaving 22 mushers in the field. Mike Ellis, making his 5th attempt at the Yukon Quest, scratched in Central after dislocating his shoulder near the base of Eagle Summit.