The Dalton Gang pulled out of town at 3:10am this morning, ready to go despite a driving snowstorm. It had started snowing hours before his departure, covering all equipment under at least 2″ of the fluffy, white stuff, but Dave didn’t want to fall too far behind the front runners. Starting minutes behind musher Mike Ellis and picking up another musher who had turned around, the three started off as a unit, cooperating in order to make it through the blizzard and over Eagle Summit.
Luckily, Dave was well rested, having spent the previous 36 hours relaxing and plotting strategy. His handlers were not so fortunate. Dawson City is the one place along the Quest trail where mushers can receive help from non-racers and so, this is the moment when the handlers earn their keep. It almost makes you wonder how the lone musher on the trail gets it done.
Ultimately, it is a race of attrition. Every year, fully one-third of the mushers who start off on the Quest end up scratching. So far, out of an initial fieldof twenty-five, five mushers have scratched. Expect a couple more after this leg, the most difficult and trying of the course…and that’s without blinding snowstorms!