The Alaska Range x2

Dear Friends,

Gypsy here with another article about this year’s Iditarod race being run on the Iditarod Gold Trail Loop.  The teams will need to cross the Alaska Range 2x.  What does that mean?

Leaving Rainy Pass checkpoint, the dogs enthusiastically pull up into higher elevation.  If it becomes steep, mushers will hop off the sled, still holding on, and run behind.  Here is a description of going up to the summit (top) of the mountain Rainy Pass.

Then you will begin to work northwest and north up the narrow Pass Creek valley leading to Rainy Pass, weaving across the frozen creek and in and out of clumps of willow bushes, steadily climbing. The only trail markers here are regular trail stakes. Watch for some steep, rocky, sidehill pitches that may not have much snow cover. There may be a few caribou on the sides of the valley; if the dogs notice them, you’ll go a little faster. When you reach a small alpine lake (Rainy Pass Lake) you’ll be a mile and a half from the summit. From the lake you’ll start a steep climb up to the summit, which is the highest point on the trail at 3,160 feet above sea level (2008, Iditarod Documentary).

Why might the dogs go faster if there are a few caribou on the sides of the valley?

The Alaska Range near the Rohn checkpoint [photo credit Julian Schroder]

Jen Freking tells a story about her excitement being at the summit with her dogs.  Jen’s team was going over Rainy Pass, which feels “like you are on top of world.” There were no trees, the wind was blowing, it was cloudy, snowing, and difficult to see the trail. Besides that, she was at the top of the pass at night. Jen was gung-ho to see the mountains around her. She kept shining her headlamp around in different directions, trying to see and enjoy the landscape. “I soon noticed that my leaders at the time, Chester and Kimber, kept veering right and left, trying to follow my headlight instead of the trail! I decided to keep my light on the trail to keep them going straight.”

The dog teams will get to see that beautiful view twice this year!  

Until next time when you learn about the Dalzell Gorge, this is your canine reporter,