Departed friends toughen Ledwidge up

FAIRBANKS Peter Ledwidge wanted to jump sled. The Dawson musher was having medical problems on the Yukon Quest trail.


Peter Ledwidge wanted to jump sled.

The Dawson musher was having medical problems on the Yukon Quest trail.

And his team wasn’t in shape.

“By the time I reached Slaven’s, with these medical problems, I was considering having Ann fly in and drive out my team and I’d fly out,” he said.

But Ledwidge didn’t want to do this to his wife, or his dogs.

“I was already accustomed to the cold,” he said.

“And as the captain of the ship, it’s my job to get it to safety.”

Once he reached Circle, Ledwidge loaded his team into the dog truck and called it quits.

“I am disappointed in what led me to scratch,” he said waiting at the finish line in Fairbanks.

“But I am not disappointed about scratching.”

This fall, Ledwidge didn’t have time to properly train his team.

Working fulltime as a geologist, the Dawsonite was writing reports until race time.

“I didn’t get the tools I needed (from the company) until quite late,” he said.

“It’s a catch-22.

“I work to afford the race, but working is what destroyed my race.”

In hindsight, Ledwidge realized he should have withdrawn from the Quest in December, once he realized he wasn’t getting enough training kilometres on his team.

“But I’m a stubborn creature,” he said.

By the time Ledwidge reached Circle, he had three dogs in the sled and only five pulling.

The dogs had cramped up because they weren’t in shape.

“I knew I didn’t have a dog team to get me over Eagle Summit,” he said.

Ledwidge, who has scratched before, isn’t going to get down about it this time around.

Last year he lost two close friends, who were mushers, to cancer and they were with him during the race.

“I’m not going to get bummed out when they didn’t even get to do this,” said Ledwidge.

“And I did.

“In the end it’s just a dog race.”

Out on the trail, whenever Ledwidge started feeling sorry for himself, he’d think of Quest musher Agata Franczak, one of the friends who died.

“And I would think to myself, she wouldn’t be whining,” he said.

Ledwidge started mushing 12 years ago, after following the Quest as a cameraman.

“I was helping a friend videotape the race, and I put the camera down and said, ‘I want to do this,’” said Ledwidge.

The next year he headed to Africa with Ann to work.

“The object was to get enough money for a house and a team,” he said.

Five years later, he was running the Quest.

This year marked Ledwidge’s seventh, and it might have been his last.

“I have a full life, but it’s too full,” he said.

With two kids, 40 dogs, fulltime work and no handler, Ledwidge and his wife know something has to change.

“And I don’t think we’re going to sell the kids,” he said with a laugh.

Selling the dogs is a possibility, but his nine-year-old daughter Emily would never forgive him.

“In nine years I’ll be running the Quest,” she said last week, waiting for her dad to show up at the McCabe Creek dog drop.

“I already beat my mom in a race and she had five dogs, and I only had two.”

Another possibility is to lease out the team and spend a year working in Australia, he said.

“So, if you know anybody who wants to lease a good dog team . . .” 

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