The wind blew like a banshee, and Regina Wycoff wasn’t sticking around to hear it.
The Alaskan musher arrived at the Central checkpoint at 7:15 a.m. on Monday after spending 12 hours crossing the 1,100-metre Eagle Summit.
“I made it up to the summit and the wind was blowin’ real hard — it was wicked up there,” she said.
“Once you were up there, there was no going back — it was like being in a sandstorm.
“The snow was pelting me and the dogs so hard you couldn’t even look into it.
“You really couldn’t see much — I just kept looking down at my dogs.”
As she struggled across the steep, rocky summit, Wycoff purposely tipped her 45-kilogram sled and started sliding downhill.
When this got too difficult, Wycoff would right her sled. But then she’d get going too fast, forcing her to tip and drag some more.
The top of her head was covered in frozen ice, and one side of her dogs’ faces kept getting covered in snow, forcing her to persistently brush them off, she said.
“The wind just kept beating on you and the snow was sticking to everything.”
During her descent, Wycoff saw two people sitting on a ridge in the raging wind. They were Brent Sass and Randy Chappel, both running the Quest 300, a minor version of the Yukon Quest.
The sight of the halted mushers gave her pause, but Wycoff wasn’t about to stay on the summit in the raging storm.
“I just knew I wasn’t going to sit up there all night” she said.
“And we all figured the further down the summit we got, the less windy it would be.
“So we just kept going down.”
At one point, Sass lost his team.
“We tried to find them, and what better way to find a team than with another dog team,” said Wycoff.
“But we also had to focus on going down the hill.
“We were concerned about the dogs, but we were also concerned about breaking things, our legs, or losing our teams.
“We had to just keep moving until we could find a place with some protection.”
Further down the trail they found Sass’ sleeping bag. But there was no sign of his dogs.
The trio ended up in a valley in thigh-deep snow.
“We thought we were lost for sure,” said Wycoff.
Then they came across a trail marker.
“We didn’t believe it at first when we saw the trail markers,” Wycoff said with a hysterical laugh.
While crossing the summit, the group saw no sign of other mushers.
At 9:20 a.m. Monday, the Quest support crew confirmed two planes would be dispatched from Fairbanks to look for the four missing mushers and Sass’s lost dog team.