Inbound to Nikolai

Believe it or not, this reporter actually lived in Nikolai. When I was if first grade, my parents were the teacher and principal there. A pilot now, I took my first small airplane ride from McGrath to Nikolai in 1969. My how it has changed!!

Pete is about a mile from this village on the upper Kuskokwim River. Temperatures are a bit below zero with wind chills to about -20 in some parts of the trail. He will have some protection from the slight wind from the trees.

Once Pete reaches Nikolai, he will have reach mile marker 347 with 765 miles to go. He isn’t as far down the trail as it seems with the Anchorage miles built in, but he will have covered 284 miles since the Willow restart. Basically one Kuskokwim 300 race under his belt. One other notable tidbit of trivia, the Rohn to Nikolai stretch is the 3rd longest in the race between checkpoints at 75 miles.

Here is where the sleep and exhaustion take hold as he begins to decide where to take the 24 hour layover.

Doin’ GREAT so far!!!

Pete Kaiser into Rohn

Pete got into Rohn early this  morning at 5:19am. No other information is available on the Iditarod website. They don’t have any out times or Dog information from Rainy or Rohn.

He arrived 42nd into Rohn.

Temperatures have dropped just a bit below zero (-4) with light snow. Anchorage is experiencing a blizzard.

Weather Forecast-

The next section is referred to as the Farewell Burn. Unfortunately this area has very little snow.

–From Anchorage Daily News

Last week when the Iron Dog snowmachine racers traveled about 75 miles across the Burn, they encountered snow-starved sections of brown mud, brown tussocks and brown stumps from a controlled burn in 1984. Most racers stopped repeatedly to prevent their engines from overheating and, where possible, scoop up a handful of snow to pack on the heat exchangers.

“Boy, the Iditarodders are going to have a hard time getting across the Farewell Burn,” said Doug Dixon, a member of the second-place Iron Dog team. “There’s no snow on the Burn.

“The beauty part is that they’re traveling at a slower speed, and they’ll have time to prepare. Plus, dogs can run across tundra and don’t overheat like a machine.”

Some veteran mushers shrugged off reports of bare trail as unavoidable — or at least not as bad as years such as 2003, when the Iditarod restart had to be moved to Fairbanks.

The trail sounds “doable,” said three-time defending champion Lance Mackey.

“That’s a rough ride and, you know, could be a sled breaker. I’ve had my sled break in there,” Mackey said. “I’ve had one runner for 200 miles.”

Willow musher DeeDee Jonrowe said it was almost a relief to hear the race marshal’s trail report at a mandatory musher meeting in Anchorage on Thursday. The trail didn’t sound as bad as reports mushers heard from the Iron Dog.

“Most of the trail sounds fast, and it sounds well defined,” Jonrowe said.

This isn’t the first year Iditarod mushers have encountered a snow-starved Burn. Nor will it be the last. In fact, it may barely slow them.

“Dogs love running on dirt,” race marshal Mark Nordman said Wednesday. “It’s like playing out in the yard for them. Dogs have no problem with it.

The inFamous Dalzelle Gorge

3-8-2010 9:18pm

(Update) The GPS Tracker has him out of Rainy Pass about 5 miles towards Rohn. [It has been wrong before!]
The front runners are into Rohn, Averaging 4 hours for the journey.

Pete has his work cut out for him tonight. The famous Dalzelle Gorge-

-From Wikipedia
From Rainy Pass, the route continues up the mountain, past the tree line to the divide of the Alaska Range, and then passes down into the Alaska Interior. The elevation of the pass is 3,200 feet (980 m), and some nearby peaks exceed 5,000 feet (1,500 m). The valley up the mountains is exposed to blizzards. In 1974, there were several cases of frostbite when the temperature dropped to ?50 °F (?45.6 °C), and the 50-mile-per-hour (80 km/h) winds caused the wind chill to drop to ?130 °F (?90.0 °C). The wind also erases the trail and markers, making the path hard to follow. In 1976, retired colonel Norman Vaughan, who drove a dog team in Richard E. Byrd’s 1928 expedition to the South Pole and competed in the only Olympic sled dog race, became lost for five days after leaving Rainy Pass and nearly died.

The trail down Dalzell Gorge from the divide is regarded as the worst stretch of the trail. Steep and straight, it drops 1,000 feet (300 m) in elevation in just 5 miles (8.0 km), and there is little traction so the teams are hard to control. Mushers have to ride the brake most of the way down and use a snow hook for traction. In 1988, rookie Peryll Kyzer fell through an ice bridge into a creek and spent the night wet. The route then follows Tatina River, which is also hazardous: in 1986 Butcher’s lead dogs fell through the ice but landed on a second layer of ice instead of falling into the river. In 1997, Ramey Smyth lost the end of his pinkie when it hit an overhanging branch while negotiating the gorge.

I just got off the phone with Myron Angstman, an Iditarod veteran. He told me that the tricky part is about 5-6 miles at a pretty good grade downhill. “It all depends on how the trail is put in,” he said. Sometimes the snow can be crusty on top and musher can end up dropping through the crust into powder. He related how one time he dropped a couple of feet through to about 6 inches of water underneath while the dogs were raring to go down that hill. Apparently it is pretty narrow and there really are only a couple of ways through it. He also said that it can be a bit of a traffic jam as teams go through.

Rainy Pass to Rohn Description

Where’s Pete Page

Dalzell Gorge Entrance

Pete into Rainy Pass

Pete made it into Rainy Pass at 5:36 pm. He made it from the Finger Lake Checkpoint in 4 hours. The next stretch of the trail can be a bit treacherous, so I imagine he may take a break here. The trail has been pretty soft according to Iditarod reports. Weather shows a band of precipitation overtaking the mushers.

According to Bruce Lee, Iditarod’s reporter, “It’s snowing hard enough that the aircraft is grounded here at Finger Lake but the teams are still moving up the trail. Most mushers reported soft trail conditions that slowed their planned travel time here and threw a few mushers off their game plan. Some rested at Finger Lake when their original plan was to go further up the trail before resting. For the mushers towards the back of the field, the trail conditions seem no worse or better than the lead pack’s.”

Pete was the 34th musher to reach Rainy Pass. The Iditarod site will show mushers ahead or behind based on when they leave a checkpoint. Arrivals are more important as they tell how a musher is doing. 34th is GREAT!! That means he has moved forward in the standings and is doing a very nice job. He was the 5th of 20 rookies to arrive.

Way to GO!!!

Morning Update- In and Out of Skwentna

Pete made it into Skwentna early this morning at 3:17am. He arrived right after another local musher, Mike Williams Jr. They are both back on the trail onward to Finger Lake. Iditarod doesn’t have his out time at Yentna, so we don’t have any statistics for this stretch of the trail. Weather conditions presently at that section of the trail are 7 degrees and light snow.

Pete Kaiser- IN- 03:17am OUT- 03:24am DOGS- 16

Iditarod Tracker shows him about 10 miles out of the Skwentna checkpoint. Skwentna is mile 194 (The mileages are a bit skewed because they count race miles from Anchorage)  It is 86 miles from the Willow restart. Finger Lake is 30 miles from Skwentna.

Skwentna Checkpoint in the Daylight

Finger Lake Checkpoint