Anything But Smooth: Stories of Yukon Quest Trail Mishaps

Feb 7, 2014

Sled dogs are ready for a rest, as are their mushers by the time they reach the halfway point in Dawson City, Yukon
Credit Julian Schroder / Yukon Quest

Dawson City, YK - Despite the effort of trail breakers, Mother Nature has thrown plenty at mushers during the race. Almost every team has arrived with a story about a mishap on the trail.

When Brent Sass came into Dawson he was so tired he could barely stand. The current front-runner said a combination of sleep deprivation and sharp turns made for quite the adventure. “I lost my cooler I had a dog in the sled and it jumped out.  It was fiasco, but we survived as  we always do," he laughed.

While he was still in Dawson City, Cody Strathe had to change the plastic on his sled runners for second time in the race.  At some point along the Yukon River, he looked down to find it had completely disappeared. “It was all glare ice and rocks, very sharp rock," he says.  "It was marked very well, so the dogs knew where to go, but as we slid around and flew into things, the dogs would go for the rock, because they could get a better grip and then they would drag my sled across it.”

It wasn’t rocks, but wood that caused problems for John Schandelmeier. As he passed a tree frozen into the river, his sled tipped into it and bent the sled stanchion. “I was wedged on that tree just as tight as you could be," he laughs.  "Eight feet of tree sticking out behind me.  I’m just skewered.  No harm done, but stuck, really stuck!”

An exhausted Curt Perano arrived in Dawson in a chipper mood.  He was happy to see the checkpoint after a long day breaking trail through drifted snow and jumble ice with Dave Dalton. “We both took the wrong trail.  We didn’t know we were both there because it was very little visibility," says Perano. "When it lifted, we saw each other.  Dave minded the two teams, and I walked across and found it and we drove the teams through the jumble ice back on the track.” The rookie New Zealander says his race plan has gone entirely out the window. “I have to be honest. We’ve had a bit of nearly everything on the first half of this race," he says, a bit bewildered. "Open water, snow drift, good hills there, I think we’ve encountered most of it. We just need a bit of rain and maybe some extreme cold and we’ll have it wrapped!”

The back of the pack is moving slowly toward Dawson, likely battling heavily drifted snow that fell and blew overnight.  The front runners are still chugging along toward Pelly Crossing.  They are also likely breaking trail through fresh snow.