Nicolas Petit broke trail to the coast, arriving in Unalakleet at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday. Behind him is Joar Leifseth Ulsom, with Jessie Royer and Pete Kaiser a few miles back. These four teams dominated the lead up the Yukon River. The only difference was that Kaiser led the way into the last checkpoint of Kaltag. There, he took his required 8-hour rest, and then caught up to the front pack with a fresh team of 11 dogs. Petit and Leifseth Ulsom both have 10 dogs in their teams and Royer has 13.
There are a half dozen more teams behind them headed into town, but Aniak’s Richie Diehl is not among them. He came into Kaltag at just before 2 a.m. on Sunday and decided to spend the night. He’s still there this morning.
Two of Bethel’s rookies are still on the river. Jessica Klejka is making her way to Eagle Island, with Niklas Wikstrand about 30 miles behind. Victoria Hardwick has made it to Shageluk, just a few miles from the beginning of her run up the Yukon. She arrived with a full team.
Meanwhile, the tussocks on the trail to Iditarod have taken another prisoner. Cindy Abbot scratched last night, for her own health and her team’s. She is the third to quit the Iditarod race at its namesake checkpoint.