It was a busy day for the Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race on Feb. 6, as nearly half the field arrived at the Dawson City checkpoint and started the mandatory 36-hour layover.
2019 Quest winner Brent Sass was the first musher to reach Dawson, checking in at 5:43 a.m. with 12 dogs on the line.
“It’s always fun to be back in Dawson,” said Sass. “The dogs did really well. The trail has been a Quest trail — lots of breaking trail, lots of blown-in trail — and the dogs have done a really good job.”
Sass said he didn’t have any particular issues on American Summit, the third of four major peaks teams must climb during the race.
“It was easy,” said Sass. “It was some sidehill and it was windy, but we didn’t have any issue at all with the dogs. … I actually was waiting for the tough stuff and then we came around and we were already going downhill. I was like, ‘Oh, I guess we went through the tough stuff.’”
It was Tagish’s Michelle Phillips who was next to arrive. She reached the checkpoint at 6:54 a.m.
She said the run in from Eagle, Alaska, went well.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Phillips. “It was a lot better than I expected on American Summit. I expected it to be more windy. … It was blowing a bit on the river here — the trail was a little slow, but pretty good.”
Phillips arrived with 12 dogs after having dropped one, Zeppelin, in Eagle.
“He got a little sick earlier on, so he was a little thin,” said Phillips. “I was concerned about him being too thin so I just dropped him. He’s young and thin, so I didn’t think he needed to keep going.”
Next to arrive was veteran musher Cody Strathe at 12:18 p.m.
Strathe said the run in took longer than he remembered.
“I was getting a little annoyed there at the end because it seemed like it was taking forver, but we made it,” said Strathe. “The dogs are happy.”
Shortly after Strathe arrived, three-time winner Allen Moore reached Dawson at 12:55 p.m.
Moore also said the run in was slower than expected.
“It seems like the whole trip on the (Yukon River) all the way back where we got on it was windy,” said Moore. “Wind in your face and wind blown – so it was slow.”
He said he’s won the race after getting to Dawson fourth before, but that Brent was the favourite.
“It’s doable,” said Moore. “Something might have to happen — and it’s a dog race and something always happens — so it’s a possibility.”
Torsten Kohnert was next into the checkpoint at 9:01 p.m.
He said his young team has been running well and he’s happy to be in the top five so far.
After Kohnert, Ryne Olson was next to arrive. She checked in at 10:20 p.m.
Olson said her team saw a lot of wildlife on the run in, including caribou.
“The team loved it,” said Olson. “They thought it was great fun to chase them along the river. If anything, it got them all fired up.”
Following Olson’s arrival there was a lull of more than eight hours before rookie musher Nora Sjalin arrived at 6:59 a.m. on Feb. 7.
As of 9 a.m., mushers Richie Beattie and Rob Cooke are on the way into Dawson from the Clinton Creek hospitality stop as is Pat Noddin just under 26 kilometres behind.
Chase Tingle and his team are resting at the Clinton Creek hospitality stop, while Dave Dalton and Red Lantern Olivia Webster are under 20 km out.
Race leader Brent Sass will be eligible to leave Dawson at 5:43 p.m. on Feb. 7 to begin the 338-km journey to the next checkpoint in Pelly Crossing.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at