Kristy, Anna, and their 9-dog teams pulled into Nome at 10:07pm Alaska time on Thursday, March 14th after 11 days, 7 hours, and 7 minutes on the trail. Kristy had a 17 second handle and took 42nd place, Anna 38 seconds later in 43rd. I was, of course, thrilled to see them reach Nome regardless of the date and time, although I gave myself a slight pat on the back for crawling out on the right limbs when calling the finish.
Rookie Christine Roalofs was the 54th and final musher into Nome, earning the Red Lantern award after 13 days, 22 hours, and 36 minutes. She had 11 dogs in harness. It's always nice to see the last musher and team reach Nome in time to attend Sunday's banquet. That doesn't always happen! Anna was very glad she was at the finishers banquet this year, as she won the Northern Air Cargo 4-wheeler in the drawing! Congrats Anna! I only hope they don't tell her to ride it home...
There is a short video of the twins crossing under the burled arch on the Iditarod Insider. They pulled in single-file this year, Kristy in the lead. When their sleds were parked, they hugged (I think I heard a quick laugh), and promptly went to visit and praise each dog. I could hear a young fan ask, "Are you Kristy?" "No, I'm Anna." They really don't escape that, no matter where they go! Kristy commented on the weather, saying they got a lot of rain, snow, and wind, although it wasn't as cold this year. She said simply, it was "an incredible journey." Anna laughed about her busted sled, but said she was pleasantly surprised by how it held up over some tricky sections of trail. She dropped a few more dogs earlier than she would have hoped, several suffering from shoulder injuries. The amount of open water they encountered was an additional challenge for a young dog team. But, Anna said that 5 of her 9 finishers were first-timers to Nome, and she is very happy about that!
The twins and their dogs will be on flights back to Anchorage on Monday, and then the drive down to the Peninsula. When they get a bit more settled in, I'll see if they got the camera out on the trail again this year, and ask if they have any other memorable tales from the trail.
It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.
Ursula K. LeGuin
Anna and Kristy pulled out of Safety in 42nd and 43rd place, each with 9 amazing canine athletes, at 6:54pm Alaska time. I think they'll make short work of the remaining 22 miles to Nome. They are 2 of 13 teams still out on the trail, with 41 finishers. An additional musher scratched, bringing that total to 12. As always, we wish the very best to those mushers and dogs, and wish them safe and swift travels to their home kennels.
Speaking of dogs, I am happy to report that the 2 dogs on the loose have been found! Gerry's dog Montego was located Sunday. They attempted to rejoin the race, but officials withdrew the team, saying the search for the dog had put them too far behind. Wednesday, Newton's dog May was found some 300 to 400 miles south of where she got loose, quite possibly heading home. That is a lot of rugged terrain for a dog to cover, especially after having just run a great deal of the race. But she is reportedly enjoying big stew dinners and doing just fine.
Anna and Kristy pulled out of White Mountain just before 12:15pm Alaska time this afternoon. Anna dropped one dog in Elim, so they're both heading to Nome with 9 dogs in harness. I'm guessing it will take them roughly 7 hours to get to Safety and then another 3 hours to the finish. So I will crawl a bit further out on my limb and put them into Nome between 10pm & midnight Alaska time. Given the 4 hour time difference between AK and my location in the eastern time zone, I'll be up at a ridiculous hour trying to catch the live finish. So if I'm out on the wrong limb, I'll be crawling out of a nice warm bed with no one to blame but myself!
Anna and Kristy pulled into Elim, race mile 875, around 3:15pm Alaska time today. Anna is running 10 dogs, Kristy 9 dogs. They were reported in 42nd and 43rd place. I expect they will take a decent (4-5 hour) break here before heading on to White Mountain. Recall they will have an 8 hour stop there, which will probably be welcomed. Mushers allegedly get more sleep in White Mountain than they do the prior 3 days combined. And they'll have earned it... this stretch of trail contains the 1,000 foot climb over Little McKinley, the hardest climb in the 2nd half of the race.
Fresh from the rest in White Mountain, the twins and their dogs will cover the 55 miles to Safety and, after the briefest of stops, the last 22 miles to Nome. I'm going to go out on a limb here and put the twins under the burled arch between 8:30pm and midnight Alaska time Thursday. If I'm right (and I'll hedge right now and say I might not be), they'll finish after 11 days and a few hours on the trail.
And as I'm sure you all knew well before now, the winner was into Nome just before 10:40pm on Tues. 3/12. Mitch Seavey claimed his 2nd Iditarod championship after 9 days, 7 hours, 39 minutes, and 56 seconds out on the trail. Aliy Zirkle was a very close 2nd not 25 minutes later. At 53 years of age, this makes Mitch the oldest person to ever win the race. Last year, his son Dallas, was the youngest winner. Our friend Paul finished in 16th place with 9 dogs and after 9 days, 19 hours. An 11th musher scratched from the race, leaving total participants at 55, 33 of which are still out on the trail.
Paul Gebhardt and his team approach Nome (Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News).
Paul and his team at sunset (Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News).
2013 Champ Mitch Seavey and one of his lead dogs, Taurus (Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News).
The mushers and their dogs have just completed their 9th full day on the trail. The twins pulled into Shaktoolik, race mile 777, just before 3pm Alaska time, reported in 41st and 42nd place. The front runners, Aliy Zirkle and Mitch Seavey, have completed their final 8 hour stop in White Mountain and are charging towards Nome. They're each running 10 dog teams over the remaining 75ish miles. Jeff King also appears to be out of White Mountain and isn't too far behind them. After 9 days on the trail, it's hard to believe a photo finish could be in the making!
Our friend Paul was reported out of Elim earlier today with 10 dogs in harness and in 15th place. Per the GPS tracker, he's closing in on White Mountain. Rookie Joar Leifseth Ulsom was last reported in 6th place, an impressive spot for a first-timer. 8 mushers are now out of the race, leaving 58 active on the trail. Some mushers still have 13 - 16 dog teams, while the majority seem to be in the 10 - 12 dog range. A couple are down to 8 dogs. Remember, you must have 6 dogs in harness when you cross the finish.
From Shaktoolik, Anna, Kristy, and their dogs will cross Norton Sound and go on to Koyuk. This 50 or so miles of trail is notoriously windy and monotonous. I'll repost a quick video clip that the twins took during this stretch last year at the end of this post to illustrate. I expect the twins will take a 6 hour rest in Koyuk before pressing on to Elim.
The race had been on track for a record-breaking finish. But Mother Nature had other designs. Imagine going from +40 F, getting soaked in rain and crossing rivers, only to head into -10 F, snow, and wind. Kristy described the weather in a recent Insider clip as, "a mixed bag of everything!" That takes a toll on mushers and dogs. The twins also talked about their position in the race during that clip. Although they're happy with the pace their teams have maintained, they said they're farther back in the pack than they would have thought or hoped. The race is just that fast this year. Plus, the twins are both running very young dog teams. Think of it like climbing Mount Everest with a bunch of 7 year olds.
Here are a pics from the trail, as well as the rewind to Norton Sound.
A musher and team cross Norton Sound (Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News).
Ray Redington Jr pulled into Koyuk (Loren Holmes, Alaska Dispatch).
Using time lapse photography, Loren Holmes (Alaska Dispatch) captures Mitch Seavey pulling into Koyuk.
Aliy Zirkle pulls into Koyuk. You can tell how much the temps have changed by the frosty look to her and her dogs! (Pic by Loren Holmes, Alaska Dispatch.)
The twins pulled into Eagle Island, 592 miles into the race, just after 9am Alaska time Sunday morning as they approach the completion of their 7th full day on the trail. Kristy, reported in 42nd place, pulled in with 12 dogs and Anna, reported in 43rd place, with 10. It is about a 60 mile run from Grayling to Eagle Island, so the twins will likely take a longer stop here to rest. There was another scratch from the race, bringing the total to 5, leaving 61 mushers out on the trail. Aliy Zirkle was last in 1st place, having pulled out of Kaltag with 11 dogs in harness. Aaron Burmeister is a close 2nd about 2 hours behind her with 13 dogs, with Mitch Seavey a close contender after that. Paul was last in 14th place as he pulled out of Kaltag in the wee hours Sunday morning with 12 dogs in harness.
It sounds like trail conditions were a bit wicked over the long Yukon River stretch, covering roughly 120 miles from Anvik to Kaltag with 2 checkpoints along the way. If you catch any musher interviews on the Insider, you'll hear a few words repeatedly ~ rain and wet! Aliy reported being "soaking wet" when she stopped to camp her dogs in the afternoon sun outside of Kaltag, with air temps around 25 degrees F. It sounds like temps are finally dropping a bit, though, and with the twins making the 60+ mile run from Eagle Island to Kaltag late on Sunday, hopefully more open water will have frozen over. After reaching Kaltag and resting for what I guess will be 6-8 hours, the twins will load up their sleds for the 85 mile run on to Unalakleet. Expect a 4-5 hour camp out along the way at Old Woman Cabin. The run to Unalakleet could be more challenging, with earlier reports of constant winds at 20-30mph and overblown trail.
It's been a little tough on folks in all aspects of the race over the last day or so. A nasty storm blowing in from the Bearing coast brought high winds, grounding planes at some checkpoints. Reaching Eagle Island and Kaltag with dog food was not an option for a period of time, and mushers were encouraged to carry more dog food with them from earlier stops. Lance Mackey lost a tooth and is suffering what sounds like some pretty nasty frostbite on one toe. One of his dogs was flown out of a checkpoint in critical condition (although is now reported as improving). Newton Marshall is still trying to reunite with his loose dog May, although she was spotted a couple times in a localized area which is very promising. Gary Willomitzer is also reported as having a loose dog.
Dogs dropped through Unalakleet are still being flown back to Anchorage. Sandi's last trip into Anchorage to pick up dogs was met with 126 additions overall, an overwhelming site. Kudos to Kare and all the folks working at Iditarod headquarters for running things so smoothly. From Kristy's team, we know she's dropped Porky and we now have confirmation that Beatrice is resting comfortably at Sandi's, after being dropped for not eating. She's on antibiotics and wolfing down all her meals. We knew Anna had dropped Foxie previously, and can now confirm Skwentna's addition to the list, as well as Stormy. All of her dogs are recovering nicely. I should get an update in the near future on Kristy's other two, and Anna's other three, dropped dogs. All of the twins' dogs currently in Sandi's care will soon be headed back to their home kennels on the Kenai peninsula.
Here are some great shots from out on the trail to wrap up your weekend, and be sure to check out a recent posting on the pace of this year's race.
I think this speaks for itself! By Kevin Powell, Anchorage Daily News.
Anna shares some quick comments on her run-in with the stump outside of Rainy Pass in this article in the Alaska Dispatch
:The soft trail also took a toll on Anna Berington. Berington, traveling with her identical twin sister, Kristy, ran into a stump that had been unearthed by mushers. She crashed hard, shattering handle bar of her sled. She and her sister rigged the sled back together with an alder branch, twine, hockey tape and some rope. The Beringtons were grateful that no one was hurt, “except the sled,” according to Anna, who will now make her way gingerly down the crisscrossing gorge. She won't be able to get to her new sled until she makes it to Takotna.
“I'm glad this didn't happen my rookie year,” Anna said. “But it'd be nice if it didn't happen any year.”
The below pics were caught by Gregg Drozda at the Rainy Pass checkpoint. I suspect Anna was coming in like that because her primary brake was useless, and she was using the drag of her body to help slow the team down. You can see on the right how her handlebar is broken off, her sled bag torn, and the primary brake gone.
Thanks for the pics, Gregg!
It's amazing how quickly 24 hours can pass when you are able to get some sleep and have a demanding day job! Since my last posting, the twins have finished their 24hr mandatory stop in Takotna, made short work of the 23 miles to Ophir, and are reported out of the Ophir checkpoint. When they checked out of there, Anna was reported in 41st place with 13 dogs and Kristy in 42nd place with 14 dogs. I will post any info I get on the dropped dogs. Given some of the pictures I found online, I suspect Kristy's 2nd dropped dog was Beatrice, as she pulled into the Nikolai checkpoint with her riding (quite adorably, I might add) in the sled basket. Anna also dropped one dog in Nikolai (according to more online pics, below, I think it was her dog Skwentna), and another in Takotna. I do have confirmation from Sandi, our Anchorage Dropped Dog Correspondent, that Kristy's previously dropped dog Porky with the sore shoulder is doing fine and enjoying his convalescence.
Two more mushers have scratched from the race, including crowd favorite Jamaican Newton Marshall, leaving 62 teams on the trail. A breaking news post indicated Newton had a dog break lose and is lost out on the trail. Yikes! I will post any updates I see on this, as a lost dog is of concern to all. Martin Buser utilized his early 24hr break to cover trail later and has pulled into 1st place. Both he and Aliy Zirkle are reported out of the checkpoint of Iditarod (race mile 432), both with 14 dogs in harness. Our friend Paul Gebhardt was last reported into Iditarod in 14th place and with 14 dogs in harness. 4-time Iditarod champ Lance Mackey was the first musher into the checkpoint of Iditarod, claiming the $3,000 "halfway" prize. He was last reported in 4th place.
Per the race sponsored GPS trackers, the twins are near race mile 340, and it is an unbelievably warm 45 degrees F. Given how accustomed most of these mushers are to extremely cold temps, I half expect them to be on the sleds in shorts and t-shirts! We'll see if any trailside pictures support my suspicions. In the interests of thoroughness, I've noticed a bit of a discrepancy between the Iditarod website's record of checkpoint "race miles" and those being reported by the GPS trackers. As the GPS trackers began counting in Willow at the restart, they don't seem to capture the 11-ish mile run during the ceremonial start. So if some of my race mile references seem off or contradictory, add or subtract 11 miles as appropriate (yes, I know... I'm too detail oriented for my own good).
It sounds like temps will continue to be on the mild side. There was some snow in Takotna, and there is a brief article about a small Iditarod-related airplane that flipped over and crashed on departure (the plane was a mess but fortunately the two occupants are reported uninjured). Makes me wonder if the winds also picked up. The trail the twins experienced between Takotna and Ophir was likely fairly tame, with proximity to creeks and rivers (also making me wonder, paired with the warm temps, if they encountered any open water). Ophir is quoted by veteran racer Donald Bowers, Jr., as "your last vestige of civilization for a very long while" and even that checkpoint consists of little more than a privately owned cabin. Some reports are calling for RAIN as mushers get past Shageluk and start up the Yukon River portion of the trail. Last year, I worried about frost bite with -50F, now I'm worrying about overheating dogs in +40F. Good grief! Mother Nature sure keeps a poor blogger on her paws.
The stretch of trail the twins are currently on from Ophir to Iditarod is appx 80 miles and should take them 10-12 hours including a rest stop. I expect they'll take their rest at Don's Cabin, an allegedly "ramshackle plywood hut" about 36 miles outside of Ophir. Given the long run from Ophir to Iditarod, they'll likely take another good rest in Iditarod before tackling the hilly terrain that separates them from Shageluk.
Before signing off on this posting, I strongly encourage interested readers to visit the photo albums on the Anchorage Daily News
site, the Alaska Dispatch
site, as well as the Iditarod Photo Gallery
. The pictures posted by the talented photographers on these sites do a lot more justice to the beauty of Alaska and the challenges faced by the mushers and their dogs than my rambling ever will.
Please click on the photos below to enlarge and read the captions.