Sass leads Yukon Quest mushers into Dawson

(Photo by Molly Rettig/KUAC)
(Photo by Molly Rettig/KUAC)

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Brent Sass covered the 150-mile distance from Eagle to Dawson in two runs. He said his team was feeling better in Eagle after starting the race with some stomach issues.

“They were sick before the race, the whole week leading up to the race they had the stomach flu,” Sass said. “Then a couple days before the race they had gotten better.”

But for the first 300 miles, it took a lot more effort to keep them full and hydrated.

“You have to basically hand feed them and soak things differently and go through five different types of snacks before they decide they’re gonna eat one of them,” he said.

Hugh Neff is down to 11 dogs after dropping three in Eagle. They were his junior dogs, each two years old or younger.

“Two of them this was their first race ever, so I was pretty amazed they made it to Slaven’s and Eagle especially,” Neff said.

Now he has a veteran team.

The final few mushers came into Eagle Wednesday morning.

(Photo by Molly Rettig/KUAC)
(Photo by Molly Rettig/KUAC)

Luc Tweddell arrived at 6 a.m. The Yukon musher has run the Quest before, but he’s never seen jumble ice this bad.

“Looks like picture of the moon, but white,” Tweddell said. “It’s unbelievable.”

There’s a trail broken through the jumble, but mushers can still run into ice boulders on the corners or tricky sections of banked ice. Tweddell recalled a section of trail that was slanted sideways, where he could hardly keep his sled upright.

“That was just glare ice,” Tweddell said. “And you can see all the markings of a sled that go up and just bang, and you just try to keep your sled like that.”

He held his hand at a 30-degree angle.

“And then you hit branches and trees,” Tweddell said. “I had my snowshoes tied to my sled, and at one point I heard CHRHCHHRH. I looked and my snowshoes were on the trail.”

(Photo by Molly Rettig/KUAC)
(Photo by Molly Rettig/KUAC)

It was hard to stop, too. The brakes can’t bite into the ice, and the drag mat used to slow down the sled gets clogged with ice.

“I dropped a few things,” Tweddell said. “I just didn’t stop. I just carried on.”

Luc has two kids who want to run the race one day. The oldest will be old enough to sign up for the Quest in three years.

“If it’s conditions like that, I don’t want them to go through that,” he said. “It’s too crazy.”

Mushers are done with the jumble ice. After Eagle, they travel on overland trails to Dawson.