Yukon Arctic Ultra – January Newsletter 2008

Hello everyone,

it finally has arrived. The Whitehorse cold spell. Before each race there has been a period of really cold temperatures in Whitehorse. This time this period took a long time to arrive. As I write this it is – 43 degrees Celsius in the capital of the Yukon. The coldest we have had at the startline was around – 20 degrees C. Maybe we are in for a new record this time …

I will leave for Whitehorse on Feb. 4th. So, from Feb. 5th onwards I can be reached in the High Country Inn. With this last newsletter before the race I just want to give some updates and other important information.

The Trail

The following is part of a Yukon Quest press release which reached me yesterday.

“ … Intensive trail breaking, packing and marking has been underway since last December on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border … Over 5,000 reflective markers identify the Yukon Quest race trail between Fairbanks and Whitehorse. Painted bright orange and black, with reflective tape, they can be seen by mushers against snow, in flat light and in the darkness by headlamp. On the Yukon side of the border, the Canadian Rangers break and maintain the race trail. They report the Canadian side of the trail to be completely marked and ready for the racers with a good to excellent snow base and minimal overflow from rivers and streams …”

In addition to that it states on the Yukon Quest website (yukonquest.com):

“The Pelly Farm (Stepping Stone) to McCabe Creek crew encountered a fair amount of new snow since the initial rough breaking in early January leaving extra brush to clear and drifted lakes. Rough ice on the Pelly River was reported last week, but the crew had put in extra time chopping this out and the additional snow cover should leave it smoother. Markers had to be replaced due to suspected wolf activity. Overall trail conditions were good, no overflow, open waters or glaciers reported. McCabe Creek to Braeburn is complete with no major problems. Low snow conditions are reported on the last 40 km at the south end of trail to the Takhini River …”

So, things are looking good. Thanks to the Rangers and the Yukon Quest for making it possible for us to be out there with them!

The note about the wolf activity is interesting …

The Checkpoints

  • CP 1 Takhini (Rivendale Farm). We will have a set-up right next to the Takhini River a little distance further than the SIR North Country Ranch that hosted us in the first few years. Mike confirmed to me that the distance is roughly 26 miles. Athletes here don’t have a place to get warm inside. We hand out the meal, hot water, tea, coffee, etc. Marathon athletes can get changed inside. Cars can enter the property but please follow instructions by people on site and/or signs as there are some vegetable plantations that you have to stay out of! At the race briefing we will inform locals and visitors on how to get there. There is no mandatory stop this time. Only athletes who are not managing their clothing and sweating right will be held for 4 hours.
  • CP 2 Dog Grave Lake. As always this beautifully situated and remote checkpoint is organised by Jessica and Mike Simon. And as always they will be supported be Pete. Again, no sleeping inside. Athletes get their Trekking Mahlzeiten expedition meal and local dessert, tea, etc. and then have to stay outside to rest.
  • CP 3 Braeburn (also 100 mile finish). Braeburn Lodge is a restaurant and gas station with some guest rooms. We have a few of these rooms rented for athletes to rest in. The food comes from the restaurant and participants may order off the menu. The burgers are XXXXXL and the cinamon buns are beyond believe 😉 Taking a shower may be possible and making phone calls is definitely possible. We will try to bring a full carload of people back to Whitehorse each time. Therefore, transfers depend on the expected arrival times of athletes. However, nobody will miss a flight or has to stay longer than they want.
  • CP 4 Ken Lake. On Ken Lake we will stay in a little wood cabin. Well, staff stays inside. Athletes again have to camp outside if they want to get some sleep. As in Dog Grave Lake we will serve expedition food and local desserts.
  • CP 5 Carmacks. In Carmacks we will once again be hosted by the Rec Centre (the only exception was 2007). The good news there is that athletes may have a shower and there is access to the internet and a phone. The “bad” news is that the day care which is in the Rec Centre has grown (well actually that’s great news as it means the community has a lot of kids). For us it means that it can be a bit noisy during daytime as the day care is not far from where we are.
  • CP 6 McCabe. Business as usual in McCabe. The Kruse family is hosting us in the same facility (basically a workshop) as they host the Quest mushers. The food will be provided by the Kruses, too.
  • CP 7 Pelly Crossing. In Pelly Crossing we are in the Curling Rink where we were 2 years ago. The food here comes from the Kruse family, too.
  • CP 8 Pelly Farm. This is definitely the all time favourite of all 300 mile athletes. This place is very special. Once you were there you will know why. I am not sure if the back building will be heated or if you will stay in the farm house itself.
  • CP 9 Pelly Crossing. Back to the Curling Rink and our 300 mile finish.

Thanks to Jessica and Mike for organising all the checkpoint and thanks to the checkpoints for hosting us again!

Updated Race Schedule

Feb. 6th Picking up rental gear in the High Country Inn between 17:00 and 18:00. If you arrive already on the 5th or if you don’t have time on the 6th between 14:00 and 15:00 try to get a hold of me at the High Country Inn (call my room or leave a message at front desk). Then we can arrange something.

Feb. 7th 1st day of training course

Meet at High Country Inn Reception at 13:25

13:30 – 16:00 Indoor part of Clinic

Introductions Review of people’s worst fears regarding what could go wrong on the trail Review of organizers worst fears of what could go wrong Slide show of the race with images from previous years First aid presentation – outline of common injuries and discussion on how to prevent them Gear review

16:00 – 17:30 Break – Participants get their gear together for the outdoor part of the training course

17:30 Reconvene at the reception with all gear and ready to hit the trails to Hidden Lakes, near the hotel. Racers need to bring full kits and gear. You will be expected to make a fire, cook supper and then camp out until approx. 20:00. We’ll be back at the hotel at 21:00 at the latest. In order to avoid gravel we will transport the sleds by car for a couple of hundred metres. Then we get going. Same on the way back.

Feb. 8th

8:00 – 8:30 Reconvene at the High Country Inn to debrief and review the worst fears and whether all had been answered.

9:00 – 10:30 (for all athletes!) Review trail in details with maps Protocol for checkpoints Questions & Answers

11:00 – 14:00 Gear checks, handing in drop bags and missing paper work at the High Country Inn

from 17:30 Pre-Race Dinner at the High Country Inn

Feb. 9th 10:30 Race Start near White Pass Building (5 Minute walk from High Country Inn)

Rental Gear

Pulk Sleds – The rental pulk sleds this time will come from the Alaskan company Northern Sled Works. We have chosen these sleds because they have very tough, flexible 1/8 inch UV treated UHMW plastic, i.e. they last way longer than the sleds we have had in the past. The sleds will come with professional poles and robe on the sides of the hull to attach bungees. Rental price is CAD 175.00. Please note: the sleds do NOT come with a harness or sled bag/cover!

Sleeping Bags – Lestra has not managed to have the special edition Yukon Arctic Ultra down bag finished in time for this year’s race. However, they have provided us with the Lestra Extreme Plus (which comes complete with a bivy bag attached to it) and the Lhotse Extreme which has a separate bivy bag. Also, Lestra have provided a fleece inlay in order to get some more comfort. Rental is EUR 125 including bivy and fleece.

 “Care Instructions” for your Pulk Sleds

If you followed last year’s race you may be aware that we had problems with quite a few sleds breaking. Here are some things to consider put together by Shelley in order to avoid that happening:

  1. The colder it is the more careful you have to be with the plastic sleds.
  2. Be carfeful when going over gravel, open ground, trees and jagged ice, i.e. less snow means more wear and tear on the sled.
  3. How durable is the sleds, i.e. thicker is more durable but no guarantee against breakage.
  4. If you pack your sled too heavy you are asking for trouble. This is the key problem vs. gravel, thickness of sled etc. If the weight is not evenly distributed and not appropriate for the type of sled you will likely have problems with cold weather, ice, gravel, etc.
  5. Under no circumstances should you be sitting on the sled.

Special Reminders for Athletes

  • Please make sure you are aware of all the Rules! I will not go through every rule at the pre-race meeting. So, please read the rules on the website – especially the part with mandatory gear! Sleeping bags have to have an extreme temperature range down to -35 degrees Celsius. A combination of a -20 degree bag with a down jacket or other won’t be accepted.
  • 300 mile athletes: Your drop bags should not be too large. Please don’t use plastic bags as these tend to fall apart. Pack your drop bags well and CLEARLY mark what checkpoint these are for. Your drop bags will be inside a warm place when you get to them. However, on the way to the checkpoint the drop bags may be exposed to below freezing temperatures for an extended period of time (as we transport them in a trailer).

Safe trip everyone! See you in the Yukon,

Robert Pollhammer


the Great Outdoors

Robert Pollhammer

Ludwigstr. 9

82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen


Copyright 2007 Yukon Arctic Ultra.

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