This year's Iditarod race along the Yukon River has four mushers leading the pack on the way to Kaltag. At 1:30 p.m. there were only 5 miles separating the four teams. Out in front was Bethel’s Pete Kaiser; hot on his tail was Nicolas Petit, followed by last year’s Iditarod champion, Joar Leifseth Ulsom. Coming up behind was Jessie Royer.
More than 10 miles fuarther back on the trail was a slightly smaller and more spread-out group of mushers: Mitch Seavey, Aliy Zirkle, and Matthew Failor. Another 10 miles behind that group, just clearing Eagle Island, are Jessie Holmes, Richie Diehl, and Ryan Redington.
There are only two mushers approaching the end of the Yukon River segment of the Iditarod who have not taken their required 8 hours of river rest: Pete Kaiser and Aily Zirkle. That means both teams will have to sit it out in Kaltag for 8 hours, watching others go ahead before they can set out over land on the 85-mile portage to Unalakleet on Norton Sound. It will be a while before Aniak’s Richie Diehl gets to Kaltag. He arrived at Eagle Island this morning and took a four-hour rest before setting out around 1 p.m.
While two of the three Bethel rookie mushers spent most of the morning on the trail today, Jessica Klejka, who arrived in Shageluk with 12 dogs around 7:30 a.m., spent the early part of the day resting. She was followed into the checkpoint by Niklas Wikstrand and his 14 dogs less than four hours later. The Norwegian is mushing dogs from Pete Kaiser’s kennel. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Victoria Hardwick was still on the trail to Iditarod, about 10 miles out from the checkpoint. There were only three other teams behind her still in the race.