Tagish’s Michelle Phillips was the first musher into the Pelly Crossing checkpoint during this year’s Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race, arriving at 8:11 a.m. on Feb. 9 with 12 dogs on the line.
Brent Sass, who left Dawson City in the lead, was approximately 20 km from Pelly Crossing as of 9:15 a.m.
Phillips said she and Sass leapfrogged each other a number of times.
“We just broke our runs up differently,” said Phillips. “We’re keying off each other. You can’t let him get too far away.”
She said she’ll be dropping one of her dogs, Mac, after he fell in a moose hole.
“They look good,” said Phillips about her team. “I’ll drop one, but the rest look good.”
Phillips said she plans to eat and nap in the checkpoint.
“I don’t know,” said Phillips about when she was planning to leave for Carmacks. “I guess we’ll see when Brent comes through.”
Cody Strathe and Allen Moore are within six km of each other and just under 20 kilometres from the Stepping Stone hospitality stop, which is 59 km before Pelly Crossing.
Torsten Kohnert and Ryne Olson appear to be resting at the Scroggie Creek dog drop.
Nora Sjalin, Richie Beattie, Rob Cooke and Pat Noddin are all the on the trail between Dawson City and Scroggie Creek.
Dave Dalton, Chase Tingle and Olivia Webster are all still resting in Dawson City.
It was a busy day on Feb. 8 for the rest of the mushers in the Yukon Quest as the middle of the pack left Dawson City bound for Pelly Crossing, hot in pursuit of race leaders Phillips and Brent Sass.
The dog yard this year was located back in its traditional home in West Dawson and the teams remaining in the yard the afternoon of Feb. 8 were spread out between the entrance to the campground and the restart point furthest from the road near the river.
Ravens flocked to the sites of departed teams, scavenging whatever morsels of food and debris left behind after clean up finished.
While most of the sites were subdued as handlers spoke softly to each other in between walking, feeding and massaging the dogs, Tingle’s camp had a bit more flavour.
“Tingle Town” — as the sign near the entrance said — was decorated with paper lanterns strung between the trees and handlers wearing leis.
Among those working in the dog yard was Beattie, who spoke to the media about the circumstances surrounding his lost team just before he reached Dawson the day before.
“I was delirious … yesterday morning coming in here,” said Beattie. “I was losing my touch with reality.”
Beattie said he fell asleep and fell off his sled.
“Quite simply, I fell asleep, woke up and I was hopping back up to my feet and watching my dog team roll away from me,” said Beattie. “But I could see Dawson right down the way, so I wasn’t too concerned for the dogs’ well being because they’re just trotting along at a slow seven or eight miles per hour – especially without me.”
He said he took off after his team on foot, but with just eight hours sleep over the first six days of the race, he simply didn’t have the energy.
“Luckily Rob (Cooke) came up not too long behind me and I hopped on his sled with him and he gave me a ride back up there and the dogs were waiting in the chute,” said Beattie.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org