Back to the Trail – There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

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As teams prepare to return to the trail the new drama of the 2013 Iditarod will be the storm bearing down on Western Alaska. Predictions are for wind, snow, and rain in the next few days. In a word, ugly. The unknown is how long it will take to materialize or if it will dissipate before it reaches the trail. Oftentimes coastal storms will lose a great deal of their energy as they make their way inland. Here in Bethel, it hasn’t begun to blow yet, though temperatures have been warm all day.

Pete and the Team will return to the trail at 1:15am. Rested and ready, this next phase of the race could determine the next winner of the race. Unlike last year where it was a horse race, if Mother Nature is involved, anything can happen.

The trail to Iditarod is 128 miles from Takotna. This is an Odd year (2013) so leaving Ophir so it is the Southern Route of the Iditarod Trail. In many ways it is a whole new thing. Pete may be a 3 time veteran, but this will be only the second run through this trail. Leaving Ophir, the trail will head southwest into the mining country of Flat and Iditarod. It is largely rolling hills and few trees. If a south wind materializes it could be a bit of a challenge. I would think that Pete will have to take a break during this stretch of the course. When we awake in the morning we will see how well teams are making it through the stretch.

Here are his 2011 Stats through the trail (Click to Enlarge):

1-Fullscreen capture 362013 113450 PM

AKZ215-071500-
LOWER YUKON VALLEY-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...RUSSIAN MISSION...GRAYLING...
HOLY CROSS...SHAGELUK...ANVIK...FLAT
255 PM AKST WED MAR 6 2013

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM THURSDAY TO
MIDNIGHT AKST THURSDAY NIGHT...

.TONIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. ISOLATED SNOW SHOWERS TAPERING OFF WITH
SNOW REDEVELOPING TOWARD MORNING. SNOW ACCUMULATION UP TO 1 INCH.
LOWS IN THE LOWER 20S. NORTHEAST WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH.
.THURSDAY...SNOW...MIXING WITH FREEZING RAIN IN THE AFTERNOON.
SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 1 TO 2 INCHES. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 20S TO
LOWER 30S. EAST WINDS 20 TO 35 MPH GUSTING TO 50 MPH.
.THURSDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS...MIXING
WITH FREEZING RAIN IN THE EVENING. LOWS IN THE 20S TO LOWER 30S.
EAST WINDS 25 TO 35 MPH.
.FRIDAY...CLOUDY. PERIODS OF SNOW...MIXING WITH FREEZING RAIN.
HIGHS IN THE LOWER 30S. SOUTHEAST WINDS 15 TO 30 MPH.

So Who’s on First?

After taking a look at the times, who actually is leading the race?

Accounting for the 24 hour layover, at this point, unless he does not leave before Aaron Burmeister, Martin Buser is effectively leading the race. But then what? To put it together, I added the differential time which is 67 minus whatever the Musher bib number is times two for the two minute separation start. That number is added to the mandatory 24 hour layover. Now it gets complicated. At this point, several mushers are in Ophir. So what I did was put the fastest time added to all mushers NOT in Ophir to give an idea of where they might be if they were all together. Here is the spreadsheet- Click it to see full size.

1-Fullscreen capture 362013 65710 PMClick image to see full size.

Resting In Takotna – Strategies Continue

After a steak and a piece of pie, the dogs are all snuggled into a good nights rest and Pete is dreaming of tugboats on the river. The run has been very respectable and Pete has kept the front runners much closer than his previous races. After the 24 hour layover, the differentials will be adjusted and we will have a better idea of the true position Team Kaiser holds.  While Team Kaiser rests, strategies continue.

Several mushers have different ideas this year in terms of the 24 hour layover strategy. We saw it first with Martin Buser taking his layover very early in Rohn, and now we see several differing ideas in the traditional rest areas.

Early on, McGrath was the favorite rest stop, but as the race has gotten quicker, teams moved up into Takotna, just a bit further down the trail. In the last several years we have seen mushers even move further down the trail. Last year there were layovers in Cripple on the northern route.

Jake Berkowitz blasted through Takotna last night and moved up into Ophir for his 24. His speed to Ophir was dramatically faster than he had been moving earlier in the day reaching well over 9mph most of the way. After an 8 hour run to have that much speed available is a testament to the quality of that team. He will be one to watch.

But then Lance Mackey took back to the trail after a break in Takotna and is now past Ophir headed for Iditarod. Jeff King also didn’t take a break in Takotna and is resting between that checkpoint and Ophir, so I assume he will be moving forward past Ophir as well. (There would be no reason to take a break between two close checkpoints unless a musher planned on another longer run)

I am wondering if Mackey and King are looking at weather or Buser to push them further, or if this was part of the original plan. In any case, by tonight we will see quiet a different race to be sure as Buser moves back into the mix and teams return to the trail.

Pete and the Team should be able to return to the trail close to 12:30am this evening if my calculations are correct.

In weather news, the low that has been warming western Alaska seems to be dissipating, but it still could be a factor in the next few days.

UPPER KUSKOKWIM VALLEY-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...MCGRATH...NIKOLAI...TAKOTNA...
FAREWELL LAKE
410 AM AKST WED MAR 6 2013

...HIGH WIND WATCH IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY MORNING THROUGH FRIDAY
AFTERNOON...

.TODAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS. HIGHS IN THE
LOWER 30S. SOUTHEAST WINDS TO 10 MPH. 
.TONIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS IN THE EVENING.
LOWS IN THE UPPER TEENS TO LOWER 20S. NORTHEAST WINDS 5 TO
15 MPH.
AKZ215-070415-
LOWER YUKON VALLEY-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...RUSSIAN MISSION...GRAYLING...
HOLY CROSS...SHAGELUK...ANVIK...FLAT
410 AM AKST WED MAR 6 2013

...WINTER STORM WARNING IS CANCELLED...

.TODAY...CLOUDY. SNOW LIKELY IN THE MORNING. LESS THAN AN
INCH SNOW ACCUMULATION. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 30S. SOUTHEAST WINDS
5 TO 15 MPH. 
.TONIGHT...CLOUDY. SNOW LIKELY AFTER MIDNIGHT. AREAS OF
BLOWING SNOW AFTER MIDNIGHT. SNOW ACCUMULATION AROUND 1 INCH.
LOWS IN THE LOWER TO MID 20S. EAST WINDS 5 TO 15 MPH INCREASING
TO NORTHEAST 15 TO 25 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Berkowitz Moves On to Ophir – Pete?

Takotna Pies

Takotna Pies

Jake Berkowitz is still on the trail headed for Ophir. In a race with all kinds of twists and tangles in terms of stories and strategies, here goes another one.

Pete and the Team are into Takotna at 11:30pm. Laureli Kineen just had a big slice of banana cream pie. I’d bet Pete will go for the best food on the Iditarod Trail and do his 24 hour layover. If he does, he would leave close to 1:30am tomorrow night.

DELTA FORCE UPDATE-

  • Pete is in Takotna
  • Mike Sr. and Jr. are running together on the trail. What an awesome experience it must be. In any case, the are on the trail between Nikolai and McGrath.
  • Richie Diehl is in Nikolai and resting. His conservative run will pay out dividends as he learns the “ropes” of this great race.

Trail Weather Tonight:

UPPER KUSKOKWIM VALLEY-
INCLUDING...MCGRATH...NIKOLAI...TAKOTNA...FAREWELL LAKE
630 PM AKST TUE MAR 5 2013

.TONIGHT...CLOUDY. SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS IN THE EVENING...WITH
SNOW DEVELOPING TOWARD MORNING. SNOW ACCUMULATION UP TO 2 INCHES.
LOWS IN THE TEENS TO LOWER 20S. LIGHT WINDS.  
.WEDNESDAY...SNOW. SNOW ACCUMULATION 1 TO 3 INCHES. HIGHS IN THE
20S TO LOWER 30S. LIGHT WINDS.

Into Mcgrath – Cool for Now

1-IMG_0235

Signing in at McGrath Checkpoint – Tuesday 9:19pm

As a warm storm moves North, mushers are moving into 24 hour layovers in the Middle Kuskokwim area of McGrath, Takotna, and Ophir. Temperatures were above freezing as far north as Nome, with other coastal communities reaching close to the 40’s.

Luckily today, mushers were largely immune as they mushed in the last remnants of cooler air and clear skies they may see for awhile.

Pete and the Team arrived into Mcgrath just a few minutes after Dallas Seavey in 10th position at 9:07pm and left 2 minutes later with all 15 dogs in harness.

There are 7 teams within an hour of each other that are inbound to Takotna at this hour. It is still a bit unclear who is actually leading the race because of the differential from the staggered start. The last team out of the Starting line has no differential. Teams at the front of the pack have time added to their layover by the amount of mushers they are in front of the last musher. Martin Buser had over two hours added to his 24 hour layover.

Aaron Burmeister was the first of the Mushers into Takotna where a majority of Teams will spend their 24. Veteran Kaiser Fans remember that the Food, especially the pies, is outstanding, but the question of the night is where teams will layover. Speculation exists that some mushers may keep going towards Ophir to give them more even run legs on the way to the Yukon River checkpoint of Anvik.

I have a few photos coming in from McGrath as I write this, so Stay Tuned!!

 

Headed Downriver!

Nikolai - Tuesday Afternoon

Nikolai – Tuesday Afternoon

Pete and the Team took a 5 hour break after a 6 hour run in from their camp spot at Little Egypt last night. They were back on the trail at 3:20 for a 48 mile run into McGrath and then a 23 mile run into Takotna where I assume he will stick to the game plan and take his 24 hour layover.

The trail to McGrath is a well traveled snowmachine trail that should be pretty hard packed. A couple of weeks ago, the Iron dog mushers had very fast times on this trail which is a good indication of the condition.

Eight mushers left within 20 minutes of each other so I imagine it is quite a scene out there with all of the dogs and sleds headed down the river.

Temperatures are rising into the 30’s unfortunately, but that is good for Pete and the Team because they can take their 24 and hopefully this storm will pass. (It could also hang around as well, so either way is a gamble) Speaking of a gamble, this year’s Southern route will take them closer to the warmer temperatures, so it will be interesting to see if Martin Buser’s gamble will pay out as he keeps going while other mushers are standing pat.

Long range outlook is for the warm storm to pass to the North this weekend, but that puts all of the mushers in the thick of it.

SOUTHWEST ALASKA/BERING SEA...ASIDE FROM STRONG WINDS THE MAIN THREAT
FROM THIS DEVELOPING SYSTEM WILL BE BLIZZARD CONDITIONS. THE AIR MASS
AHEAD OF THE FRONTAL SYSTEM WILL BE COLD ENOUGH TO INITIALLY SUPPORT
SNOW. WITH GOOD UPPER LEVEL SUPPORT EXPECT STRONG UPWARD VERTICAL
MOTION TO PRODUCE MODERATE TO HEAVY PRECIP WHEN IT FIRST ARRIVES. 
THE SYSTEM WILL BE MOVING AT A PRETTY GOOD PACE WHEN IT FIRST REACHES
SOUTHWEST ALASKA SO WARMER AIR WILL ALSO MOVE IN. THE QUESTION IS
WHETHER THERE IS WILL BE A LONG ENOUGH PERIOD OF SUB-FREEZING
TEMPERATURES TO PRODUCE A BRIEF BLIZZARD. THE MOST LIKELY AREAS ARE
THE WESTERN CAPES OF BRISTOL BAY UP TO THE KUSKOKWIM DELTA COAST
WHERE AIR MASS WILL START OUT A LITTLE COLDER AND WHERE NORTHERLY
WINDS WILL HOLD IN LONGER.
.LONG TERM FORECAST...THE STORM SYSTEM TRACKING TO SOUTHWEST ALASK
WILL EXIT TO THE NORTH THIS WEEKEND. MODELS THEN INDICATE A STRONG
BLOCKING RIDGE SETTING UP SHOP OVER MAINLAND ALASKA EARLY NEXT WEEK.
THIS MEANS STORM TRACK WILL BE HELD WEST OF THE RIDGE OVER THE
WESTERN BERING SEA.

.AER/ALU...WATCH/WARNING SUMMARY
PUBLIC...BLIZZARD WATCH 185.
MARINE...STORM WARNING...132 150 155 160 170.
         GALE WARNING 130 138 165 171 172 179 180.