William Kleedehn fell asleep on his sled.
His team was trucking up the Forty Mile River when the Carcross musher drifted off.
“I must have been asleep for at least an hour because I woke up and we were going up the friggin’ summit,” he said.
“For Christ’s sake, I couldn’t believe it.”
Kleedehn planned to rest his team before climbing 1,042 metres up American Summit.
But when he realized the dogs were already on their way up, he decided to keep going.
“I stopped immediately to snack the dogs and make sure they were in good shape,” he said.
A ptarmigan took off in front of the team and “they just loped up the hill,” said Kleedehn.
“I thought, Jesus Christ, I might as well go to Eagle.”
It worked out perfectly.
Kleedehn arrived in the late morning, when it was still cool. He rested his dogs most of the afternoon in the sun, and left before dark.
“At least I get my first taste of the happy river in the daylight,” he said, referring to all the jumble ice on the Yukon.
“So by the time it gets dark my nerves will have calmed down a little bit more.”
After his 12-hour run, Kleedehn only stayed four hours in Eagle for a reason.
“This way the dogs are not rested 100 per cent, they are still tired, so they won’t run as much (in the jumble ice),” he said.
Kleedehn was “out of control” leaving Dawson.
“And there was a little taste of jumble ice there,” he said.
“Nothing that anybody else called serious, but I was on my ass several times.
“I don’t want to take a rested dog team out in that stuff.”
Hugh Neff arrived in Eagle an hour after Kleedehn, and Jon Little arrived, just before he left.
There’s a mandatory four-hour rest at the checkpoint.
“So you know they’re stuck here for four hours,” said Kleedehn of the teams behind him.
“If I was someone with another good dog team out there, I would get here so I wasn’t missing the train.
“I might get four hours on some of those teams. And if I had a dog team that could prevent a guy from getting a jump like that, I’d be here.”
Kleedehn’s lead is still tenuous.
“I have to make it through all that jumble ice to Circle City,” he said.
“And then, if I still have a good lead, I may be in good shape.”
Three and a half hours after Kleedehn left, Sebastian Schnuelle and Brent Sass were heading out into the starry night as a team.
“So if the shit hits the fan, we’re together somewhat,” said Sass.
Running through the jumble in the dark is both good and bad, he added.
“At least in the dark you don’t see it, so there’s nothing to be scared of.”
At Eagle, Schnuelle was “caught between a rock and a hard place.”
He wanted to wait until daylight, so he’d be able to see the jumble ice he was navigating.
But if he waited, his dog team would be too well rested.
“Then I don’t know what they will do to me,” said Schnuelle.
Former Quest musher John Schandelmeier put in the trail this year, “but he’s not a god – he can only do what he can do,” said Schnuelle.
At a trail briefing in Dawson on Wednesday, Schandelmeier painted a grim picture of the ice between Eagle and Slaven’s dog drop 163 kilometres away.
“There are going to be a couple of challenging sections,” he said.
“There’s jumble on the trail and you could tear things off.”
There are sections of glare ice up to 11 kilometres long and some rough river crossings, he said.
“We took dog teams and machines across it and it’s doable, but it’s not a lot of fun.”
One of the locals in Eagle broke his knee travelling to his cabin on the Yukon through that ice, added Schandelmeier.
The machine stopped dead and he didn’t.
“I know the trail’s going to be invisible,” said Little, packing up to leave about an hour behind Neff.
“There’ll be markers and I will have to tell the dogs to go toward it over all kinds of glare ice,” he said.
“And here I am going at night.
“This stuff coming up is supposedly horrendous.”
Contact Genesee Keevil at