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Yukon Arctic Ultra perseveres through deep snow, route changes

One racer still on course seven days after starting off.
Racers on the 100 mile route of the Yukon Arctic Ultra march out of Whitehorse’s Shipyards Park on the morning of Feb. 3. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

The 2022 Yukon Arctic Ultra was marked with challenging soft snow conditions along its route. The route itself had to be changed at the last minute due to extreme overflow conditions on the Takhini River.

The route change didn’t affect those on the ultra’s 100-mile route but changes had to be made on the fly as the 300-mile was already in progress.

Race organizer Robert Pollhammer said that by the time the race started on Feb. 3, they had already made the decision to have the 300 Mile Race turn around at Mandana Lake instead of heading all the way north to Pelly Crossing.

“Then during the race, we unfortunately had the situation that we had too much and too deep overflow on the way to Mandana,” Pollhammer said.

Facing conditions that would be impossible for the racers who tackled the 300-mile route on fat-tire bikes or on foot towing gear on pulks, a checkpoint was set up to turn racers around at the south end of Frank Lake. Pollhammer said due to more extreme overflow conditions on the Takhini River, racers also had to be shuttled from a checkpoint on their return journey to the Takhini Bridge before trekking the final leg back to Whitehorse.

As of 6 p.m. on Feb. 10, five racers who began the 300-mile race on Feb. 3 had been able to finish. One more racer, an Englishman named Phillip Cowell, was still grinding it out near the southern end of Lake Laberge heading for Whitehorse.

Jesse Gladish, who set out to bike the 300 miles, was the first to finish. She was followed by Kevin Leahy, Daniel Benhammou, Stephen Huss and Aodh O Currain who all finished on foot.

In the 100-mile race Connor Murray and Nathan Quinn finished only a minute apart with Murray crossing the line in Braeburn first. Brian James also completed the course just under three hours behind them.

The remainder of the racers scratched. Pollhammer said there was no single factor that drove ultra hopefuls off the course. Some suffered injuries such as strained knees and backs or minor frostbite, others were too slow for the time deadline and some simply became exhausted slogging through the soft snow covering much of the course.

Pollhammer said he was very impressed with the Canadian Rangers who broke the initial trail and the arctic ultra volunteers who adjusted the route on short notice.

“The entire group really excels. I’m very grateful to have these people that are willing to sacrifice their time and work with us. So in the end, that part’s all worked out,” he said.

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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