Paddlers start their 715-kilometre journey from Whitehorse on June 26, 2019. The 2022 Yukon River Quest organizers are planning to go ahead while advising racers to self-assess risk under potentially tricky conditions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Paddlers start their 715-kilometre journey from Whitehorse on June 26, 2019. The 2022 Yukon River Quest organizers are planning to go ahead while advising racers to self-assess risk under potentially tricky conditions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon River Quest warns bathroom breaks, emergency response jeopardized due to ‘very high’ flows

Race organizers have sent out notices to racers advising them to buddy up, self-assess before racing

Yukon River Quest organizers are stressing that racers should assess the harsh river conditions before choosing to race, particularly regarding pit stops for bathroom breaks and emergencies.

“If you do not have strong paddling skills, wilderness experience and the ability to be completely self-sufficient for at least 24 hours, you should seriously reconsider paddling this year,” reads the latest notice to racers.

On June 16, race marshall Stephen Mooney and Deb Bartlette, who is board president and assistant race marshall, sent a message to potential participants advising them of the state of the race.

“While the race provides checkpoints with power boats, and tracks of each team, this does not guarantee that your team can be quickly reached in the event of an emergency,” reads the notice.

“This is a wilderness event. Your own skills and experience are key, particularly this year.”

The race notice warns that flow levels are “very high” and the amount of debris will make for “challenging” paddling conditions.

In a notice on June 14, as reported by the News, organizers had advised only the most skilled and experienced paddlers take part in the race.

The Yukon government has issued a flood warning for the Yukon River at Carmacks, as well as Teslin Lake, and a high streamflow advisory for the Yukon River at Dawson City.

In the latest race notice, checkpoints will be set up every 50 to 70 kilometres, however it will be “difficult, if not impossible in some areas to find places to pull off the water between checkpoints.”

“If you planned to stop between checkpoints for bathroom breaks, for [example], that may not be possible,” reads the notice.

The organizers said they are particularly concerned about solo paddlers, thus they “strongly recommend buddying up” with other teams during the race.

“This is especially important the first night when you travel past the Teslin River,” the notice said.

The first checkpoint with road access where a support crew could possibly pick up participants is in Little Salmon, approximately 250 kilometres from the take-off point in Whitehorse.

“Remote checkpoints will not carry you out of the bush except in emergency situations ([for example], heart attacks, serious injury, etc.),” the notice said.

The 2021 race was cancelled due to rising water levels and the 2020 race was not held due to COVID-19.

The 715-kilometre journey goes from Whitehorse to Dawson City. The website indicates 119 teams with 249 paddlers had signed up as of June 2.

The river quest is set to run later this month from June 22 to 25.

The board will be discussing requests for deferrals and refunds after the race and sharing the decision at that time.

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com