They’re Off! Ayagtut!

Mar 12, 2019

Bethel musher Pete Kaiser mushing down the trail towards the Unalakleet checkpoint.
Credit Zachariah Hughes

Pete Kaiser and Joar Leifseth Ulsom are headed down the trail to Safety, with Nome beyond. Kaiser left White Mountain at 4:05 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, and Leifseth Ulsom followed 41 minutes later. Jessie Royer, who came into White Mountain at 12:40 p.m., will be starting out with her team at around 8:40 p.m. That will be about 4 hours behind the two front runners. 

Aliy Zirkle is leading the second platoon of teams heading to White Mountain. She left Elim at 12:10 p.m. A couple of hours later, Matt Hall joined her. By this evening, Travis Beals, Paige Drobny, and Mitch Seavey were on the trail behind them.

This year’s K300 champion, Matthew Failor, finally got his team moving again today. As evening approaches, he has driven his team almost through all the ice between Shaktoolik and Koyuk. It’s been a long haul: about 24 hours on the ice. He left the Shaktoolik checkpoint yesterday at 1:37 p.m. to make the 50-mile run. By this afternoon, many teams had passed him because his dogs, like Nicolas Petit’s, didn’t want to travel that long, white expanse of ice. At noon today, KYUK reported that his team appeared to be stuck, but by 3:37 p.m. the dogs were well down the trail. By then he had covered more than half of the 50-mile run and his team was moving over the ice with the coast in sight. By evening he was mushing on land towards Koyuk.

There is another larger group of mushers on their way to Elim this evening, and Richie Diehl is among them. He left Koyuk at 11:23 p.m. and should be getting to the checkpoint shortly.

Bethel Rookie Jessica Klejka is going to be starting her run up the coast of Norton Sound this evening. She came into Unalakleet at 2:16 p.m. and spent the afternoon resting her team. Victoria Hardwick is in a tight group of mushers all running together at the rear of the race. The tracker has her getting the red lantern as the group approaches Kaltag, where the trail leaves the Yukon to cut over to the coast. 

So far, 10 teams have scratched from the 2019 Iditarod.