Start of the Yukon Quest

Today was simply an amazing day. The energy at the start of the Yukon Quest, combined with clear skies and energizing cold, makes for a superb Yukon Adventure.

Jeremy and I took our guests over to the starting area at 9:30 so they’d have lots of time to check out the team preparations before the staging area is closed to the public so final race preparations can be done in peace. It costs $2,000 to enter the Quest ($2,500 for late entries – after December 5th), but it can quickly be seen that that’s a drop in the bucket of the expenses that are incurred in running a team. This outfit belongs to Joar Leifseth Ulsom from Norway.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom's outfit at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
It’s great to see Jeff King back this year. A true mushing legend, he’s run the Yukon Quest 7 times, but the last time was in 1990. He won the race in 1989. He’s got a great-looking outfit that attracts a lot of attention.

Jeff King's team at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
I really like to see that the race vets are always very visible. The 13-person team, led by Dr. Nina Hansen, watches over the health of the dogs throughout the race, at all hours of the day and night.

Race vets at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Ed Hopkins has run the Quest 4 times since 1993, as well as many other races. His wife, Michelle Phillips, is also a professional musher who has run both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod several times. Summer visitors to Carcross, Yukon, can see and ride with their teams at Caribou Crossing.

Ed Hopkins at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Looks aren’t considered important by most North American mushers, but Rob Cooke’s team is beautiful!

Rob Cooke's team at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
The calm before the storm.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Allen Moore, having drawn bib #1, started the race off at 11:00. These dogs are well aware of what’s ahead, and are so excited – I love watching them. Most people probably expect that mushing is a young person’s sport because it’s so demanding, but Allen, from Two Rivers, Alaska, is one of several mushers in this year’s race who are in their 50s.

Allen Moore, first away at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
So my friends at Journeys by Jerry Van Dyke can see their sponsorship dollars at work, here’s Normand Casavant of Whitehorse. This is his 5th Yukon Quest – his best finish so far has been 7th in 2013.

Normand Casavant at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Nicolas Vanier increases the wind chill for him and his team, rushing through the mist created by thousands of people and some open water on the Yukon River. The temperature then was about -33°C (-27°F).

Nicolas Vanier at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
With many people online commenting that anyone who goes outside in this sort of temperature is basically nuts, this was the scene at Shipyards Park! Is the craziness of it all part of the attraction? 🙂

The crowd at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
A look from the other direction – a team about to leave for Fairbanks.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Torsten Kohnert from Sweden placed 6th in his rookie Quest last year.

Torsten Kohnert from Sweden at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Among the 10 rookies in this year’s race is Ryne Olson from Two Rivers, Alaska. She’s only been mushing for 5 years, and when asked why she entered the Quest, her response was “To show the young team how much fun a 1000 mile race can be and make sure everyone has a positive attitude when I cross the finish line.”

Ryne Olson at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
One of Ed Hopkins’ dogs looked like he wanted to make a stop for some Timbits on the way by, but it’s a safe bet that there will be some special treats for them all in Fairbanks 🙂

Ed Hopkins at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Rob Cooke’s dogs look even better like this, don’t they?

Rob Cooke's team at the Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Whoops! The first mishap – there was too much goofing around on the trailer behind Rob Cooke, and they dumped going down onto the river. The recovery took less than 2 seconds, though. Several of the mushers had that sort of “celebrity rider” along for the first 1¼ miles.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Mike Ellis runs a gorgeous team of purebred Siberians. Sibes are often called “Slowberians” because the breeding has gone towards looks rather than performance, but although Mike has had some problems, he’s also had some good finishes, and any musher who wins the Vet’s Choice Award has my admiration.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
The final musher, #26, Hugh Neff, was on his way at 12:15. Jeremy and I took our guests back to the Edgewater Hotel for a short break, I went and fueled my van up, and at 1:00, we drove out to see a friend of Jeremy’s who has property on the Takhini River, along the race course. We arrived just as the first team was going by.

Yukon Quest 2015 Start - Whitehorse, Yukon
Several of us hiked down the steep bank and across the river the watch the teams go by up close.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Looking back at the cabin, where some neighbours were joining the party.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Tamra Reynolds’ team was looking good as they went by. Tamra, running her first Quest, is from Mount Lorne, just south of Whitehorse.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
The old and the new head up the Takhini River – the fluffy dogs and what used to be often called the “iron dog”.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Here comes Torsten Kohnert. In the 25 or so miles between the start line and this spot, there had already been a lot of changes in position. As I write this 18 hours after the start, though, Torsten is still in #14 position, where he started.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
Brian Wilmshurst had Ed Hopkins close behind him. Starting in 20th position, Ed is now 2nd! Whoohoo! (Ed and I have known each other for many years 🙂 )

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River
The smile on Ryne Olson’s face says it all. The passion that everyone involved has for this sport really is contagious. I don’t know that I’d want to do 1,000 miles, but the 300 would be a good start – if I was 20 years younger 🙂

Yukon Quest 2015 musher Ryne Olson and her team on the Takhini River
I’m going to finish today’s post with this photo of Tony Angelo’s gorgeous team of Siberians.

Yukon Quest 2015 team on the Takhini River


Comments

Start of the Yukon Quest — 5 Comments

  1. I remember being at the start of the race in 2005….so exciting!! So much energy!! It was a beautiful sunny day as well. Enjoy following the race! What an awesome experience for those Ontario folk!

  2. Thank you for sharing, your enthusiasm is Contagious! Bet you haven’t even thought of that beautiful new jacket back at home…two wheels vs 4 legs!