Monday, February 14, 2011

Sad news from the Quest

Overflow (when ice cracks and liquid water flows on top) conditions and -50 temps are making the Yukon Quest unusually tough this year. Several mushers scratched at Eagle Summit in the village of Eagle. Hans Gatt fell into deep overflow, and Sebastian Schnuelle helped him pull his sled and dogs out of the water. Brent Sass lost a long-time, beloved wheel dog, Taco.

When dogs die on races, it makes me wonder if the mushers are too greedy and pushing their dogs too hard, but on the other hand, it is not uncommon for humans to drop dead at foot races, too. In fact, I saw a guy drop dead right in front of me on the Rock n Roll Marathon. I suspect these endurance races bring out otherwise dormant heart or neurological problems. And unfortunately, you don't know until you go. And with a lot of these people/dogs, I wonder if they might have died even younger if it hadn't been for all of the exercise!

RIP, Taco. :(

Updated to add:
Hans Gatt has scratched. He said "I had no choice; my fingers have level two frostbite. If not for Sebastian, it could have been much worse and all my dogs are OK. Twice this race, I was in situations that were out of my control; both times, other mushers helped me. I'm not used to that."

I say, bravo, man, for displaying the better part of valor. As I've said before, it's just a race. Not worth harm to man or beast.

In other news, another cold snap settled in over the weekend:

Here are a bunch of eye-glazing statistics about the weather, in classic Minor News fashion.

The difference between a cold snap in February, and one in December or January, is that we know this one won't stick around. The sun makes it warm up to at least -20F during the daytime, and once you have that kind of temperature change, convection keeps things moving. It's not like deep winter, when a cold snap can settle down like a blanket and keep us in the -40s for weeks.

Here is Linden anticipating the last bite of my carrot:


TwoYaks said...

I know Brent Sass, and that man really loves his dogs. He's not the person to run his dogs into the ground - I expect him to be cleared by the histopathology report. I know the loss of Taco is just killing him.

I don't envy the bunch this year.

(Minor correction though - they scratched in the Village of Eagle, not Eagle Summit, which is a brutal pass up the Steese Highway)

Arvay said...

Thanks for chiming in! I have a lot of respect for Brent Sass and always root for him because I'm a sap and he seems so affectionate with his dogs. He's always cuddling them and camping out with them and giving them leg massages all night instead of sleeping in some hotel while leaving the dogs outside.

I also used to see him on the Tanana from time to time when I lived on Chena Pump Road. I'd skijor behind him and let my girls use his team as motivation. I was surprised how slowly they moved; I had to hold my girls back from overtaking them. But I guess that is the way of distance mushers with a heavy load to pull, and yes, it's evidence he doesn't overwork his dogs. Sometimes as we came off the river, I caught him eyeballing my girls with what I can only hope is admiration. :)

Thanks for the correction. :)