Bethel musher Pete Kaiser took the lead in the Iditarod early this year. Bib number 9 says that it’s because he wanted to take advantage of being one of the first teams on the trail over the Alaska Range.
“I kind of made a point of trying to stay out in the front," he said in the Nikolai checkpoint. "I got a good bib number, and I wanted to stay out in the front in case that trail went to [heck] with a bunch of teams going over it. So I don’t know what it was like for everyone else, but I had a pretty good trail."
Kaiser also drove through some rough conditions in the mountains and across the Farewell Burn into Nikolai. APRN's Zachariah Hughes caught up with him in the checkpoint, repairing his sled.
Zachariah Hughes: Are you just changing out plastic cause you got your sled busted up?
Pete Kaiser: There’s some rough stuff we went over: a lot of rocks, dirt, trees, stumps. I’m glad I had some plastic to change; it was pretty messed up.
Hughes: Tell me about it. How was it? I didn’t see you at Rainy Pass, but it seemed like you kind of got out of there and then rested before you went over.
Kaiser: Yeah, I stopped. I just went a few miles out of Rainy Pass. That place can get pretty busy with airplane traffic and spectators, so I went somewhere a little quieter. Then I went to Rohn and took a break in Rohn. Took a break halfway to here, so been keeping our runs pretty short.
Hughes: Did you go over a lot of open water in the pass, or were the bridges pretty good there?
Kaiser: Yeah, there were six or seven spots, but it was all shallow. Nothing life threatening, just… just several of them.
Hughes: How were the gorge, burn, and the Buffalo Tunnels?
Kaiser: The gorge was pretty darn nice. The burn was pretty rough, but that’s just as usual.
Hughes: Did you have a little bit of wind at your back when you were going through or had that died down?
Kaiser: Through the burn?
Kaiser: Yeah, there was a pretty good wind storm in there and it was kicking up a lot of dust in your face; hard to see. And, uh, Buffalo Tunnels were nice. Some of this trail coming in here was pretty moguled out, from Iron Dog probably. But it had a real firm base, so it’s hard to get everything (laughs). Get a firm base with a bunch of bumps or flat with no base, so. But it was fine overall. Good trail.
Hughes: Where’d your sled get the most beat up?
Kaiser: Ahhh… probably the first 20 miles out of Rohn. A lot of gravel, shale, trees and boulders, and all kinds of stuff crossing over.
Hughes: Was that that floodplain before you got across the river and hit the tunnel?
Kaiser: Yeah. Crossing the river there, a lot of jumping over big rocks and trees and stuff. But then it lasted throughout the burn, and different stuff like that frozen dirt. So yeah, it was exciting.
Pete Kaiser spoke with public radio’s Zachariah Hughes in Nikolai before mushing to Takotna for his mandatory 24-hour rest.