Yukon North Of Ordinary

Sports archive for January 28, 2014

Yukon Quest trail rerouted around American Summit

The extended spell of warm weather in the North is causing changes to the route of the Yukon Quest.

By Marcel Vander Wier on January 28, 2014 at 3:54 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Pictured above: JERRY JOINSON and DOUG GRILLIOT

The extended spell of warm weather in the North is causing changes to the route of the Yukon Quest.

The 1,600-km international sled dog race will bypass American Summit for the second straight year, race marshal Doug Grilliot announced last night.

The 31st annual race begins in Fairbanks on Saturday.

The removal of the 1,026-metre (3,420-foot) mountain will reduce the race’s length by about 80 kilometres (50 miles).

The trail will instead proceed directly down the Yukon River from Eagle, Alaska to Dawson City.

Alaskan trailbreakers deemed American Summit impassable in several locations, Grilliot explained in his report.

The mountain is one of four along the traditional Quest trail. It was also removed from the race route last year, helping Alaska musher Allen Moore set a new record for fastest finishing time in eight days, 18 hours and 57 minutes.

“The warming trend over the last 10 days has obviously had an impact on the trail conditions throughout Alaska and the Yukon,” Grilliot acknowledged in a statement on the Yukon Quest website Sunday.

However, the race will go on.

“There have been absolutely no discussions to cancel or delay the race,” Grilliot stated. “Nor are any planned. The race will start on Feb. 1.

“As conditions warrant, the trail may be rerouted,” the race marshal added.

“This is nothing new and has happened several times over the years. ... Conditions are changing daily, we will adapt as necessary.”

The unusually warm weather has dominated pre-race conversation on both sides of the border.

Two Iditarod and Quest qualifying races were called off this past weekend.

The Northern Lights 300 and the Tustumena 200 were both cancelled due to the recent heat wave.

Fort St. James musher Jerry Joinson didn’t mince words when asked for his take on the weather situation.

The Canadian was one of two mushers to attend Saturday’s vet check in Whitehorse.

“I’m totally terrified of this weather,” the 58-year-old told the Star. “I understand it’s supposed to get a little cooler, but if we don’t get any snow, it’s going to be very hard on all the dogs and all the mushers. ... Hopefully we get some -10, -20 C temperatures and some snow.”

Joinson said slippery conditions will be difficult on both dog and man.

“I have no control when I’m on the ice. My sleigh will slide all over the place,” he explained. “It just makes things very difficult.”

Joinson, a Quest veteran from 2009 (DNF) and 2011 (12th), wasn’t expecting to return to the race, until he ran the Yukon Quest 300 qualifying race last year and finished third.

“I did the 300 last year and it kind of got me stirred up again,” he said. “I’ve always loved the race here. I want to try it one more time while I still can walk.”

Joinson is a college carpentry instructor in Vanderhoof, B.C. His wife, Lisa Joinson, will run this year’s Yukon Quest 300.

Poor weather conditions in Fort St. James hampered the duo’s training, Joinson admitted.

“My mileage this year is not what I really wanted to get up to,” he said.

Race judge Rob Cooke said despite the concerns, officials are still looking forward to another good, safe race.

“It’s been a difficult year all-around with the weather – heavy snowfall to start with and then the warm temperatures we’ve had,” he said Saturday.

“But we’re still a week away from the race and the forecast is looking good for it to get
colder over this week. ... We’re confident it’s going to be a good race.”

Cooke completed the Quest last year with his team of Siberian Huskies. He said running dogs in warm temperatures isn’t ideal.

“It’s always a concern running the dogs in warmer weather,” he said. “But you just need to keep an eye on the dogs.

Everybody knows their dogs and everybody’s going to be aware of the fact. ... You’ll be slower, and if there’s a lot of overflow, you’ve got to be careful and make sure their feet are good. But the mushers always look after their dogs.”

Eighteen mushers will battle for the $115,000 purse this year, with 13 veterans – three former champions – and five rookies registered for the odyssey. The race field includes three Yukon mushers.

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