Current conditions in McGrath: 14F 2/26 9:20 PM
current conditions in Skwentna: 4 F 2/26 9:20 PM
We have a new champion in the 350 mile champion in McGrath. He wins the 350 mile ITI in 1 days 23 hours 54 minutes. Tyson is from Fairbanks and this is his second year in the ITI. He was second to Tim Berntson in 2016.
Rebecca Rush is the leading woman and she has arrived at the 200 mile Rohn check point. Most of the field is now between Skwentna and Rohn. Local skier Lars Danner is the Red Lantern on the trail.
The temperature is 12 degrees here in McGrath, blue skies and sunny. I had a great flight on Alaska Air Transit on the mail plane today from Nikolai. It is just a little hop between these two communities. These towns and villages are not road accessible for those not from Alaska following this event. Once a year they are connected by a thin white line in the snow, the Iditarod Trail during the Iron Dog, ITI and Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
All the supplies, food, mail, volunteers and even tax accountants come in on airplanes. There is no highway or road system out here in the bush of Alaska. It takes people and all the different events doing their part putting in a trail. Putting in a trail here means not just driving a snowmobile. Sometimes cutting trees, shoveling sidehills and building ice bridges in the fast flowing Dalzell Creek in the Dalzell Gorge is neccessary to get to the Tatina which then takes racers into the remote Rohn check point. There is a small BLM cabin, population zero. We fly in a wall tent, wood stove and drop bags a week before the start.
Our Rohn crew serve brats to the hungry racers.
On the first part of the race course there are several lodges catering to trail travelllers whether they are on a snowmobile, fat bike , ski, on foot, dog team or come in by airplane.
Longtime host Peter Schneiderheize told us it was -20 last night here which is typical for this time of the year. We have seen -40 in many years past.
The 4 fat bikers report good trails, despite a lot of snow on the trail this year, we heard rumors of lots of overflow due to the recent snowfall. But the riders into Nikolai so far report none.
Nobody expected such a fast pace, close to the 2015 record year. The racers also report no wind drifted trails either. Warm temps, followed by snowmobile traffic, followed by cold temperatures at night, set the trails up once again for a fast ride in the 350 mile race.
What was different about the year 2015 when John Lackey set the 1 day 18 hours record was that there was no snow on many sections of the trail compared to this year.
The forecast calls for fairly mild conditions, partly cloudy skies and lows in 5-10 F at night.
Daytime temperatures are much warmer, days are getting longer by 10 minutes every day in February. Soon it will be spring and the Iditarod Trail will melt out and disappear until it is created new the following year.
I had a beautiful flight over to McGrath today.
We are waiting for 3 more bikers today, all ITI veterans, Jay P, Clinton and Peter B.
The bulk of the racers is now between Skwentna Roadhouse mile 90 and McGrath spread out over 300 miles of trail.
co race director from McGrath