I hope you are enjoying this crisp, clear Monday morning. Here at work the temperature is about 25-below F (-31 C), and there is some light snow falling. It looks like the current temperatre at Central is about the same, -24. That's a bit warmer than yesterday and I'm sure the racers in the Yukon Quest will appreciate that.
Cold temperatures have forced the mushers to race slowly. When temperatures fall below about -25 F, the snow becomes very crystalline. This is even more pronounced on even lightly packed trails. The sharp edges of the snow crystals give the trail a texture similar to that of very fine sandpaper. These are conditions in which even my hearty village dogs require booties to protect their feet, and it creates a considerable amount of friction under the sled runners. That makes for some slow dog mushing, and is reflected in the progress of your Quest racing mushers.
Hugh Neff arrived at the Central checkpoint last night at 9:45 pm. Although the leader board doesn't yet reflect it, Live Tracking indicates that Hugh is back on the trail and is currently about 20 miles out of town. According to Live Tracking Dan Kaduce and Sebastian Schnuelle have arrived in Central. Dan's arrival signals a huge change in position and was rather unexpected. He wasn't even running within the Top-10 until he left Circle City. One has to wonder if he hasn't been sand-bagging just a little bit.
Live Tracking shows that Ken Anderson is probably in fourth position. He is past Medicine Lake, and is about 10 to 15 miles from the checkpoint. It has been quite a while since either Dallas Seavey's or Hans Gatt's SPOT units have transmitted data. Most likely Hans is running in the 5th position and Dallas in 6th, but it's impossible to say with certainty. I'm pretty confident they are both off of Birch Creek and headed toward Medicine Lake.
Brent Sass is currently in 7th position, just a few miles behind the last reported position for Dallas and Hans. Allen Moore, who has stayed in the Top-10 throughout the race thus far, is currnetly in 8th place, and is a good 10 miles or so behind Brent. Kelly Griffin is also on the trail, following Allen by just a couple of miles.
According to an update on the Yukon Quest website, Hugh Neff ran into severe overflow outside of Central, and had to lead the dogs through the water, stake them and head back to drag the sled. Overflow is tricky stuff and changes rapidly, especially during cold weather. One team can flounder through flowing water and a team following only an hour or less behind may enjoy an easy crossing over frozen ice. Frankly, I HATE the stuff, and I don't know of any dog musher who can honestly say he or she likes it.
Outside of Central, Hugh Neff is currently running through an area of muskegs, firebreaks and old mining claims and he's just starting to make his way up a long, narrow canyon that leads to the base of Eagle Summit. Many a Quest mushers race has ended in this stretch of trail, when their dogs decided they'd had enough and just quit. We should know within a few hours how Hugh's dogs hold up to the challenge.
The image below, from the Canadian Geographic web-site, is a pretty good representation of the climb these teams face as they head toward the Mile 101 checkpoint.