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Pete Kaiser and 2 other mushers push through storm to round out Iditarod Top 10

John Wallace
Kaiser Racing Media
Pete Kaiser is seen at the finish line in Nome following his ninth place finish in the 2024 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on March 13.

Bethel’s own Pete Kaiser crossed under the burled arch in Nome just after 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13 to finish ninth in the 2024 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The conditions in Nome were clear and calm, but just hours earlier the scene on the trail was utterly different. A notoriously dangerous stretch of trail between White Mountain and Nome, known as the “blowhole,” lived up to its name, delivering a fierce and sustained blast of wind.

In a video posted by Kaiser Racing Media, Kaiser said that he and two other mushers encountered gusts of at least 60 mph.

“I've been through a lot of high winds in there, and it’s usually like 10- to 15-minute stretches, followed by a little break, and then you hit another wall,” Kaiser said. “This one was like steady, hour-and-a-half to two hours of wind. It was right up there with some of the most crazy dog driving.”

Kaiser left the White Mountain checkpoint shortly before midnight on March 12, just behind mushers Amanda Otto and Jessie Royer. In a blog post, Kaiser’s racing kennel wrote that at some point he caught up to Otto, who he said he found hunkered down with her team in the severe storm.

“I yelled at her through the wind if she wanted to try to follow. And we just stayed on the trail,” Kaiser said.

The two mushers traveled together and battled poor visibility for about 45 minutes before catching sight of Royer, who had lost the trail.

“And then I started to see flashes of a headlight in front of me, but off the trail as well, figuring it was Jesse's light, that it was coming from over the bank, like down by the beach by the sea ice,” Kaiser said. “Eventually, after like 30 minutes of kind of paralleling each other and shining our lights back and forth, she finally found a spot to climb up.”

While this is Kaiser’s 14th time running the Iditarod, he said that the experience definitely took him out of his comfort zone.

“There's been very few times I've been nervous in this race, and I had a little bit of nervousness thinking it would only take one big gust to swing the team off the trail,” Kaiser said. “And there was some icy spots too, and yeah, it was kind of nip and tuck.”

Kaiser, Otto, and Royer helped each other through the severe blizzard and finished the race to Nome just 25 minutes apart to round out this year’s top 10 mushers.

Kaiser was the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion and has now racked up nine top 10 finishes in the race.

Audio for this story was contributed by Kaiser Racing Media.

Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
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