For those that have been following the race for a year or more, you likely already know that mushers are required to carry certain gear items and are permitted to ship out two additional sleds to checkpoints along the trail. Mandatory items that must be carried include: cold weather sleeping bag, ax, snowshoes, promotional material provided by the race (SPOT GPS trackers and trail mail), 8 booties per dog in harness, an operational cooker, vet log book, enough fuel to boil water, and a non-chafing harness and functional neckline per dog. Each musher's sled must be able to carry a couple tired or injured dogs into the next checkpoint as well as gear, and cannot use sails or wheels. Otherwise, design innovations are welcome and frequent.
Mushers will will tow trailers with gear, have stand up sleds (preferred by the twins) or sit-down sleds (which is what Andy is running). Different gear pockets are added and subtracted. Runner plastic is changed, with Jeff King, notorious for creative designs, adding such wide front runners that his sled virtually floated across the deep snow. Sleds are alternatively referred to as Cadillacs, conversion vans, and race cars. And where a musher ships out his or her extra sled(s) is a strategic decision based on when repairs might mandate a whole new ride, or the race one is running requires something light, sleek , and fast.
Here are a few pictures of sleds out on the trail this year. (More following..)
For as long as I have been following the Iditarod closely, I have always heard it said that more people have successfully reached the summit of Everest than have completed the Iditarod. I decided to dig a bit deeper and confirm or deny that fact. Everything I can find supports that this is true, and by a long shot. Numbers quoted from the Himalayan Database show:
The first attempt at Everest was in 1921, with the first successful summit by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Of those that have made it, through June 2017, 536 were women, the first documented in 1975. Dozens of people, male and female, have perished attempting the feat ~ 288 people have died on Everest from 1924 or 3.4% (click on the Summit Statics pic above to go to the source).
What about Iditarod? First held in 1973, it is currently in the middle of its 46th running. In 45 years, 2,885 individual mushers left the starting line. 2,279, or 79%, finished the race and made it to Nome. On average, nearly 20% of the field scratches each year. The number completing Iditarod is only a fraction of the people attempting and succeeding at Everest, even adjusting for the number of years separating the inception of the data. No humans have ever died during the Iditarod, and unfortunately I wasn't able to pull together reliable gender specifics. But I can tell you it has been, and continues to be, a male dominated event. The first woman to finish was Mary Shields in 1974; the first woman to win was Libby Riddles in 1985; and the only multiple-time female champion was Susan Butcher, owning the race in the late '80s. The twins remain the only sisters, only twins, and only identical twins to compete and complete the race not only once, but multiple times.
If each of the 2,885 mushers left the start with 16 dogs (which is admittedly a high estimate), 47,232 dogs will have been involved in the race. Even if each entrant only ended up using, on average, 12 dogs? That still amounts to over 35,000 mind-boggling canine athletes.
Of the 2,279 mushers to finish Iditarod, several of that number are repeat finishers. Martin Buser and DeeDee Jonrow, for example, finished more than 30 races each, and even the twins claim 14 of that number, or 0.61%. Not many people can claim to have done this. Repeatedly. With a team of amazing canine athletes. Ever. Pretty impressive, right?