Yukon Quest leaders head for Pelly while remainder of field rests in Dawson City

Brent Sass’s team leaves the restart point in Dawson City on Feb. 7 during the 2020 Yukon Quest. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)
Dawson City the evening of Feb. 7 as seen from West Dawson. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News)

DAWSON CITY

It was a busy day in Dawson on Feb. 7 during the 2020 Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race as the first teams left to continue on to Pelly Crossing and the last teams arrived to begin their mandatory 36-hour layover.

Rookie musher Nora Sjalin arrived into Dawson at 6:59 a.m. with 12 dogs on the line in seventh position.

Next to arrive were Rob Cooke and Richie Beattie, officially timed as happening at 1:17 p.m. and 1:18 p.m. respectively.

Beattie’s team arrived before he did, after a skier found his team running unattended and brought them in.

Cooke said he picked up Beattie a few miles from the checkpoint and gave him a ride a portion of the way before a Quest official on a snowmobile drove Beattie the final stretch into the checkpoint.

“The run in was pretty horrible,” said Cooke. “The river has been horrible the whole time and today it was just 52 miles of slog. It’s just been really slow.”

He said the run was “demoralizing” for all involved.

“I felt sorry for the dogs,” said Cooke. “It was demoralizing for me, so it must have been demoralizing for the dogs.”

Cooke arrived with 14 dogs on the line while Beattie’s team was 10 dogs.

Canadian Pat Noddin was the next musher into the checkpoint, arriving at 3:29 p.m. with 12 dogs on the line.

The power in Dawson was out in the early evening, but came back on just minutes before the arrival of veteran musher Dave Dalton.

Dalton, who is running his 30th and final Quest, arrived into Dawson at 8:55 p.m.

“It was a tough run into Dawson,” said Dalton. “Between the cold and the wind, it was a long journey.”

The last two mushers in the field, veteran Chase Tingle and rookie Olivia Webster arrived at 12:06 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. respectively on Feb. 8.

Mushers also received a trail report for the Canadian half of the race on Feb. 7 from Sgt. John Mitchell of the Canadian Rangers.

Mitchell said the trail is in excellent shape this year. He said there is average snow coverage, limited overflow, very little jumble ice and no major detours.

Mushers were also advised of significant moose activity between Dawson City and Pelly Crossing.

The first musher to leave Dawson was Brent Sass, who hit the trail at 5:43 p.m. on Feb. 7.

He was followed out by Tagish’s Michelle Phillips at 6:54 p.m.

Four more mushers left in the morning hours of Feb. 8.

Cody Strathe left at 12:21 a.m., Allen Moore left at 12:55 a.m., Torsten Kohnert left at 9:01 a.m. and Ryne Olson left at 10:21 a.m.

Sjalin is the next musher eligible to leave and will be able to hit the trail at 6:59 p.m.

As of 10:45 a.m., Sass is just under five miles out from the Scroggie Creek dog drop.

The stretch of trail between Dawson City and Pelly Crossing is the longest between checkpoints at 338 kilometres.

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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