Ulsom, Hopkins vie for top five spots

Feb 14, 2015

Joar Ulsom arrives with his dog team in Eagle, the first checkpoint on the Alaska side of the trail.
Credit Julien Schroder / Yukon Quest

  Two teams have been vying for spots in the top five since they left Dawson City, but things change quickly on the Yukon Quest trail. One of those teams is struggling, while the other is carefully picking its way down the trail.

When Joar Ulsom arrived in Eagle, he wasn’t entirely sure how he’d made it there fourth place. “It’s kind of surprising, because I feel this has been a really hard difficult race for me,” said Ulsom. “I’ve been struggling with the dogs all the time. I’ve been going five miles an hour on some legs and I don’t understand why they are not catching up to me.”

Ulsom’s speed has slowed since he started the race, but so have other teams. Nevertheless, he said he can’t figure out what’s going on with his dogs. “Some say it might be the cold and I don’t know.  Normally it’s a pretty fast team that likes to go fast,” he said.

Dog teams are required to rest for six hours in Eagle.
Credit Julien Schroder / Yukon Quest

  When Ulsom left Eagle, he said he was till racing for the finish line. “No, I’m not backing off,” he said. “I’ve still got my main dogs and it’s getting to a point where its’ also just trying to keep them together and get to the finish line,” Ulsom said.

Just behind him was Canadian Ed Hopkins. “I didn’t think I’d be this close the them,” smiled Hopkins. “I thought I’d make a little bit of time on him, but I’m surprised to be quite honest,” he said.

Mushers use a piece of rubber to create drag on their sled and Hopkins says he’s been riding his for hundreds of miles. “I’ve just been kind of looking out for my dogs just kind of stopping them,” he said. “I let them roll around in the snow a lot even when I’m not snacking [them],” he said.

Hopkins said his team is well trained for the major summits and rough trail ahead. “I’m worried about the unforeseen stuff.  The things that are there, I’ll worry about it when I get there. They’ll always be there” said Hopkins. “It’s the little things you can’t see like some jumble ice or where the cracks hinge on the river and open up and a dog falls in there. That sort of stuff worries me.”

Ed Hopkins pulls his dog team into the Eagle checkpoint.
Credit Julien Schroder / Yukon Quest

  After they left, Hopkins overtook Ulsom on the trail. The Norwegian camped for nine hours roughly 20 miles outside the Eagle. Early this morning (Saturday) he turned back for the checkpoint.