Temperatures tonight will reach slightly above -10F. Highs on Thursday will be in the mid to upper single digits.
Tonight, winds will remain out of the north to northeast at 10-25 mph. On Thursday winds will continue to be out of the north to northeast at 10-20 mph. These high winds will put wind chills into the -30's tonight and in the -10's on Thursday. The high winds are in association with a low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska.
No snowfall is expected; however, the possibility of a pop-up snow shower is possible tonight into Thursday.
I'm pleasantly surprised to see Kristy and Anna pulling out of Unalakleet far earlier than I would have expected, just before 4pm Alaska time. Kristy dropped one dog, leaving both twins mushing down the trail with 12 dogs on the line. It will be a cold, windy 40 miles to Shaktoolik.
On a personal note, as much as I want Anna and Kristy to simply arrive safely and happily in Nome, it sure would be swell if they could do it prior to Friday morning. I'm scheduled to fly back out Friday night, but I won't leave until they arrive! So if you're looking for something to else to put your mojo to work on, let's focus our powers of positive thinking on a Thursday night Seeing Double arrival!
Not much more than 24 hours ago, I was enjoying 60 degree temps and the sight of green shoots poking up through the soil around my home. Now, nearly 5,700 miles later, I'm sitting in Nome. The first traces of sunlight were just starting to grace the sky when I landed around 9am Tuesday morning, March 13th, and temps were barely above zero. The wind is blowing and despite the sun shining brightly in the sky now, I can't help but think about finding a fireplace and a steaming adult beverage (or two...). Meanwhile, the mushers and their teams have been out on the trail for over 9 days.
Anna and Kristy were pulling into Unalakleet (race mile 673) around the same time I was landing. They were reported in 44th and 45th places, respectively. As I suspected, neither twin dropped any dogs in Nulato, although Anna did drop one dog in the next checkpoint of Kaltag, leaving her with 12 and Kristy with 13. Dropping a questionable dog in Kaltag was probably a wise decision on Anna's part, rather than risking a problem along the long, 85 mile stretch from Kaltag to Unalakleet.
Aside from the dogs needing a good rest at this point, I suspect the twins are taking their time in Unalakleet before starting the next 40 mile run to Shaktoolik. A fairly severe ground blizzard was reported around Shaktoolik, with many teams hunkering down there, hoping the weather would subside.
The run from Kaltag to Unalakleet, aside from being the longest run between checkpoints in the Iditarod, also took mushers from the inland river environment to the Bearing Sea coast. As with most of the rest of the trail, weather will be a big factor for the remainder of the race, as coastal running leaves little reprieve from the notoriously brutal winds.
The top 5 mushers are out of White Mountain and have completed their final 8 hour mandatory layover. A winner is expected under the burled arch later today and I'll be bundled up and holding down a spot with dozens of others near the finish line. Odds are firmly on Dallas Seavey to take first at this point, as he pulled out of White Moutain a full hour before Aliy. But it is a long, windy 55 miles to Safety and another 22 miles after that to Nome, so never say never. The fat lady may be warming up, but she isn't singing yet.
With the top 5 out of White Mountain and running 9-10 dog teams, we find our friend Paul recently into Elim (race mile 797) in 16th place and with 10 dogs. The Mushin' Mortician, Scott Janssen, pulled out of Unalakleet in 40th place with 13 dogs just before 2:30pm Tuesday. If I had to guess, I don't think the twins will follow him down the trail until well after dark. Only two of the remaining 56 mushers are in Nulato, with one additional scratch since my last update leaving the count on those out of the race at 10.
It promises to be an exciting couple of days as the mushers start to arrive. I'll do my best to post pictures and more updates as I anxiously wait for Kristy and Anna to take their turn under the burled arch.
Low tonight will be around -10F. High temperatures on Wednesday will approach the mid 0's.
High winds around 15-25 mph from the Unalakleet to Koyuk checkpoints tonight. These stronger winds will move further westward during the day on Wednesday to the southern portion of the Seward Peninsula. Winds will be out of the north to northeast in association with a surface low pressure as it moves across the Aleutian Islands. Wind chills will be cold in the -30's to -40's tonight.
No snowfall expected tonight or Wednesday. Possible fog formation tonight could reduce visibility along the trail.
Near Kaltag, overnight temperatures will approach the mid -20's while locations closer to the coast and the Unalakleet checkpoint will only reach around -10F. High temperatures on Tuesday will stay in the lower single digits.
Winds tonight will be out of the northeast at 5-15 mph. During the day Tuesday, slightly stronger winds of 15-20 mph will be possible.
No precipitation expected Monday night or Tuesday.
Anna and Kristy got into Nulato at 7pm Alaska time on Sunday night, March 11th. They, and all the other mushers, have been out on the trail for over 7 days. Recall each twin is running a 13-dog team, and I do not foresee any dogs being dropped in Nulato. They were reported in 44th and 45th places upon their arrival. Our friend Scott is out of Nulato with 13 dogs and reported in 37th place, also his bib number. Paul is holding up in 16th, out of Kaltag with 11 dogs.
The familiar names are still at the top of the leader board. Dallas Seavey is in first out of Shaktoolik with 11 dogs. Aaron Burmeister, Aliy, Baker, and Mitch Seavey aren't far behind. The mushers are all running 11 - 14 dog teams.
Regretably, 5 more mushers have had to scratch, bringing the total to 9. Among them was Jake Berkowitz, being withdrawn from the race by officials due to a bad slice on his hand. Jeff King also scratched when a number of dogs turned up sick with some sort of stomach virus. As to all the teams no longer in the race, safe and swift travels to your home kennels. There are now 57 teams on the trail.
And because you can't get enough pictures of cute dogs, check out one of Sigrid Ekran's pups snuggled up for a nap.
Conditions tonight and Monday will resemble the same pattern as the previous day. Overnight lows will cool down to -20°F to -30°F. Highs tomorrow will reach the -0's.
Slightly stronger winds may be possible tomorrow. Wind speeds will be around 5-15 mph from the north to northeast. Again, wind chills will be near -40°F overnight and near -10°F during the warmest part of the day on Monday.
Precipitation: No snowfall expected Sunday night or Monday.
Anna and Kristy pulled into Galena (race mile 515) near 4:30am Sunday, March 11th, reported in 47th and 48th place. They took their 8 hour mandatory layover in Ruby, and while likely a cold run from there, it probably wasn't overly difficult. I suspect they will pull out of Galena before long, starting a 37 mile run to Nulato. This section will still be along the river, so very similar to the trail they've most recently seen. Nulato is not a food drop, so they will probably pull out of Galena on sleds heavy with extra provisions. The run from Nulato to Kaltag is about 47 miles and largely wraps up their time running on the Yukon River. Arrival in Kaltag will have them 597 race miles in.
Although the winds have calmed down a bit, it is ridiculously cold out on the trail. Weather centers in Galena and Kaltag are currently reporting between -22F and -24F for air temps, and even with mild winds around 5mph, Stephanie's call that they would see wind chills -35F to -40F is spot on.
Our friend Scott pulled out of Galena around 7:45am Sunday morning with 13 dogs still on his sled. He was reported in 43rd place and has also completed his 8hr layover. It looks like he's moving along the trail and about half way to Nulato. Paul and his team of 11 dogs are out of Kaltag in 16th place and about one third of the way between Kaltag and Unalakleet. Several familiar names are still in the lead and into Unalakleet (race mile 673), including Aliy, Dallas Seavey, Aaron Burmeister, and last year's champ John Baker.
Zoya DeNure is the 4th musher to scratch, leaving 62 teams on the trail. The majority of teams have completed their 8hr layovers and are running teams of 11 dogs or more.
A few more pics courtesy of the Alaska Dispatch to give you an idea of what the twins and other mushers are seeing out on the trail.
Yukon River near Galena (photo by Loren Holmes).
One of Lanier's dogs with frosty whiskers (photo by Loren Holmes).
Dallas Seavey pulling out of Galena (photo by Loren Holmes).
Temperatures in this region of Alaska will continue to be below average. Saturday night the low ranged from -20F to -30F. The high on Sunday will not make it above 0F.
The surface low-pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska has started to weaken. Winds Saturday night into Sunday will be light from the north to northwest around 5-10 mph. Wind chills Saturday night were a frigid -40F to -50F near the Galeena checkpoint.
No snowfall expected for the remainder of the weekend.
In the cold of the overnight hours, the twins and their dogs pulled out of Cripple to begin the 70 mile run to Ruby. As of this post, they are near race mile 440, leaving them less than 30 miles to this next checkpoint. It looks like they just wrapped up a rest along the trail, perhaps just finishing breakfast as it is just after 7:15am in Alaska. I expect them to wrap up this section of trail over the morning and rest the dogs for a few hours during the peak of the daytime warmth in Ruby. You may have noticed that a lot of mushers run at night and rest during the day, a common practice as the dogs prefer temps near or below zero.
Kristy dropped two dogs in Cripple and Anna dropped one, leaving them both with 13. A quick scan of the leader board indicates most teams are running 11 - 14 dogs at this point, with a few still claiming 15 and one team down to 9. Paul (out of Ruby in 22nd place) and Scott (into Ruby in 42nd) both have 13 dogs as well. Aliy has again assumed the lead with 14 dogs in harness, pulling out of Nulato a little more than an hour ago. Mitch and Dallas Seavey aren't far behind on the stretch from Galena and each have 13 dogs on their sleds.
The weather on this stretch continues to be cool, and Kristy and Anna would have again saw temps dipping to -20 degrees F overnight. Winds have picked up a bit, though, so windchills may have gotten as low as -40. The current section of trail from Cripple to Ruby is quite similar to the last ~ long but fast. Arrival in Ruby (race mile 467) is reportedly a bit euphoric, as the prior two sections of trail make up the longest wilderness stretch on the race. Plus, arrival in Ruby means teams are more than halfway done with the race.
The temps should tick at least a few degrees above zero today and the winds slow down, so it should make for a good rest in Ruby. From there, the twins head out on a 50 mile stretch along the Yukon River to Galena (race mile 515). This is again said to be fairly easy running, often taking 5-8 hours. Anna and Kristy will have to keep a close eye on trail markers, though, to make sure they stay on the trail as overflow and open water can be dangerously close by. I bet that is a little more challenging with these amazing northern lights to distract you.
Photo by Andrew Downing (posted on alaskadispatch.com)
Photo by Loren Holmes (posted on alaskadispatch.com)
Photo by Rebekah Cadigan (posted on alaskadispatch.com)
And here are a few photos of what the twins will see as they pull into and out of their next checkpoint of Ruby.
The scenery approaching Ruby as Aliy Zirkle mushes along. Photo by Loren Holmes (alaskadispatch.com)
The view as Dallas Seavey leaves Ruby. Photo by Loren Holmes (alaskadispatch.com)