Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, turned out to be the most exciting of the 2011 race, if not all-time. Favorites scratched and new leaders emerged. It was first and foremost a day of attrition.
Early in the day, last year’s champ, Hans Gatt was forced to scratch after developing second-degree frostbite, making it impossible for him to care for his dogs. After battling back from near-hypothermia on American Summit, dealing with high winds and deadly overflow, nature exacted it’s toll. Later in the evening race leader, Hugh Neff, the musher who had led at every checkpoint, met his match on Eagle Summit. Breaking hundreds of miles of trail proved to be too much as Neff, and Dan Kaduce, another front runner were forced to withdraw. Coming into the Two Rivers Checkpoint, Ken Anderson, the new leader, was assessed a time penalty for not checking out properly at the previous checkpoint. As it stands, 13 mushers have scratched since the beginning of the race leaving 14 determined souls left to battle it out. With 87 miles remaining, Dallas Seavey, son of racing legend and former Iditarod champ, Mitch Seavey, is now the new leader and odds on favorite to win.
Dave and the gang, hanging back in the eighth position, continue to show their grit and mettle. Arriving in Circle at 9:30pm, Dave was in great shape and fine spirits. The dogs, too, looked healthy and ready to go for more. Since dropping two dogs in Carmacks, the remaining twelve have hung tough and now must gut it out over the most demanding portion of the race.
Dave has decided to wait until daylight before tackling Eagle Summit. He knows the hazards he will face and as a grizzled veteran, how to handle them. It may be slow going, but if he finishes, it will be in the money. Our prayers are with him.