The Dalton Gang Rides Into Whitehorse

On February 4th, twenty-three mushers and their teams of super-athletes, including Dave and the Dalton Gang, set off for Whitehorse on a clear, crisp afternoon. Eleven days, four hours and three minutes later, Dave Dalton crossed the finish line for the seventeenth time in his twenty-second Yukon Quest. 

The weather at the end was considerably warmer, which accounted for softer snow and subsequently, slower times. Still, the Gang finished in the money at tenth place. More importantly, Dave finished the race with twelve dogs, the most of any top ten finisher. Only Sheldon and Grumpy failed to make it across.

Congratulations to all the mushers and their dogs who took part in this most grueling of endurance races. It takes a special type of toughness to go through it and Dave and the Gang showed they have it in spades. From his fans at home and those in Whitehorse, we say, “Way to go, Dave! Good show!”

And The Winner Is…

Congratulations to the winner of the 2012 Yukon Quest, Hugh Neff! In what was the closest finish ever in the Quest, Hugh narrowly beat Allen Moore by 28 seconds to capture his first YQ crown. Lance Mackey was third, with Jake Berkowitz and Brent Sass rounding out the top five.

As of this writing Dave and the Gang are thirty miles from the finish line, holding comfortably onto the tenth spot, four hours ahead of the next nearest musher. Congratulations, Dave and congratulations to handlers Lee Lowery and Nina Schwinghammer, for helping him to Whitehorse. Dave will finish with twelve dogs, the most of any of the top ten racers. It was a well run race and all who took part should be proud of their accomplishment! Way to go Dave!

And Here They Come!

The top leaders have left Braeburn and are on their way to the finish line. Allen Moore is leading the way followed closely by Hugh Neff and Lance Mackey. Expect the winner of the 2012 Yukon Quest to be decided in the early morning hours.

The Dalton Gang is still holding it’s place among the top ten as the are making their way into the Braeburn checkpoint. Dave should make it there sometime Tuesday afternoon. After a mandatory eight hour layover, he’ll be on his final stretch. Good luck, Dave!

Nearing The Final Stretch

We have a guest update from the Mushing Loon report:

Monday morning, and the leaders are approaching Braeburn, the final checkpoint, for a mandatory 8 hour rest, and then the 100 mile run to the finish line. While positions are still a bit fuzzy, its most likely down to a two-team race: Allen Moore and Hugh Neff. The two left the Carmacks Checkpoint minutes apart, and would presumably keep each other within range. However, Hugh will serve a 30-minute penalty for losing his axe, so he will leave start the final leg of the race behind Allen, in all likelihood.

Lance Mackey is running a young team, and while he does get the best out of his teams, he has been losing time on the frontrunners in the last couple of days, and was last reported 3 hours behind. Does he have the “Mackey Magic” in him? The sprint to the finish will be as exciting as always!

Jake Berkowitz is 6 hours behind the leaders, and needs 3 hours to overtake Lance for 3rd. Jake should take Rookie of the Year. Brent Sass looks to have a lock on 4th place. Sonny Lindner, winner of the first-ever Quest in 1984, and 24-year-old Norwegian rookie Joar Leifseth Ulsom are still contesting 6th place.

Abbie West and Kristy Berington are making good time, Dave Dalton is in Pelly Crossing, with Kyla Durham on the way.

Gus Guenther,Trent Herbst, Paige Drobny, Yuka Honda, Brian Wilmshurst and Misha Pedersen have left Dawson for the second half of their race. Marcelle Fressineau will leave in a few hours, with Russian Michael Telpin able to leave later this evening.

Unofficial Standings as of 8:00am ET:

Making His Move

The distance between Dawson City and Pelly Crossing, the next checkpoint, is the longest distance between checkpoints of any dog sled race in the world – 201 miles (323km). It is during this formidable stretch that mushers can gain or lose time. The Dalton Gang is taking full advantage of it and making their move. Dave is now listed (depending on the source) anywhere between seventh and ninth. Excitement, thy name is Yukon Quest. Go Dave, GO!

Yukon Quest Part II Begins

Dave and the Dalton Gang left Dawson City this morning at 5:24am, exactly on time. The second half of the race has now begun and it promises to pick up speed from this point on as the trails are better groomed and the mushers can sense the finish. Dave is currently in tenth place and he must make his move soon if he is to improve his standing. Good luck, Dave!

For The Handlers

This is a wonderful article from the official Yukon Quest website describing the duties of the handlers during the Dawson City layover:

Everyone knows the musher’s job: To get a healthy, happy dog team across the finish line. But what about the support teams that follow along?

In the Yukon Quest, unlike in the Iditarod, mushers are permitted to have a handler (or several handlers) moving from checkpoint to checkpoint in the dog truck. The rules allow them to help out in several very specific ways. One of Kristy Berington’s handlers, Leon Mensch, took a few minutes out from his duties to sit down with the Quest team and explain what, exactly, a handler does.

Handlers visit every checkpoint with road access – from Two Rivers, Mile 101, Central and Circle, on the Alaska side, to Dawson City, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks and Braeburn on the Yukon side. In most of those places, the routine is the same: The handler drives to the checkpoint and waits for the musher to arrive. They scout out the locations of water, fuel, food – all the things the musher will need to care for their team. They’re permitted to help the musher lead the team to their campsite in the dog yard, and then they stand back and wait. They’re not allowed to be in the dog yard at the same time as the musher. “Most of the time it’s just watching her from a distance,” says Mensch.

After the musher hits the trail again, it’s clean-up time. “Rake the straw, shovel the poop,” says Mensch. The handler packs up the drop bags that the musher has access to at the checkpoint and puts them on the truck. And then? “Drive on to the next checkpoint and do the same thing all over again.”

Dawson City is the exception to that routine. It’s the busiest part of a handler’s race, and for many it’s also the best part. “That’s the highlight,” says Mensch. “The hardest part of the other checkpoints is not getting to take care of the dogs. When I see them come up the trail, I want to drop to my knees and pet them and hug them and stuff, and I’m not allowed to do that.” But in Dawson, during the 36-hour layover, the mushers rest in town while the handlers camp out and take full charge of the dogs. “We get to do anything we want with the dogs, any massages they need, cleaning up after them, feeding them, walking them after giving them a nice long rest.”

Handlers have a tough job. They snatch a few hours of sleep here and there over the duration of the race, usually sitting upright in the cab of the dog truck, and they spend long hours waiting around checkpoint burn barrels, trying to stay warm while they wait for their team. “Most people probably wouldn’t consider this fun,” says Mensch. “But if you’re into dog mushing and dogs, this is fun. Just being involved in the race, helping out a friend to get through the race… And it’s definitely exciting. How often do you get to drive this part of the world in February and see what we’re seeing?”

Dalton Gang Handers 2012

Handler Lee Lowery

Handler JC Campione

Handler Nina

Riding Into Dawson

The Dalton Gang rode into Dawson City, YT, Last night at 5:23pm. Currently in tenth place, the Gang now has 36 hours to rest up until they hit the trail again. Except for dropping one dog (poor Sheldon), the team looks strong. Dawson City is traditionally considered the halfway point in the race and Dave is in a good position to make his move on the trail, part two. At the moment, it’s 18°F (about 8°C) with clear skies. More of the same is expected for the next 36  hours with a 50% chance of snow by the time the Gang rides out.

Goodbye Alaska, Hello Canada!

Sure and steady, the Dalton Gang are making their way along the trail. The harsh mountain summits are behind them and the Canadian border awaits, if they haven’t already crossed it. Dave is running anywhere from eighth to tenth place, battling it out with Norwegian musher,  Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Fairbanks’ own Abbie West.

Dave is estimated to arrive in Dawson City sometime late tonight where he will get some much needed rest. Dawson City is the one checkpoint where mushers are allowed assistance during their 36-hour layover. Handlers, Lee and Nina, will have their hands full building a shelter for the dogs and making sure Dave has what he needs.

Dawson City is considered the halfway point in the race and from here, the pace will no doubt quicken. Lance Mackey is currently in first place with Hugh Neff hot on his heals. Brent Sass, Allen Moore, and Jake Berkowitz round out the top five. The odds are good they’ll be hoisting an adult beverage or two while talking about their race. Good luck to all the mushers and enjoy your break. You’ve all earned it!