ROBERTO, the 6’6″ Italian ski champion, swallowed two platefuls of
spaghetti before he even spoke.
“Andy,” he said “I was so hungry I wanted to eat TREES!”
I knew exactly what he meant. After leaving McGrath at the 360-mile
point of the race to Nome, we’d faced a 222-mile stage to join the Yukon
River at Ruby. At about the half-way point – Cripple Landing – a drop
bag had been sent by specially chartered ski plane a week earlier.
Each competitor had paid $50 towards the charter fee, knowing that the
stash of food and stove fuel would prove vital.
So off we trundled into the wilderness – happily bivvying out (well,
fairly happily) at -42C the first night, knowing a big dump of food was
just around the next corner. At 4am we set off for Cripple, steadily
climbing all day until dusk. A passing snowmachiner assured us the
checkpoint was “just over the next hill.” At 3am, we were still
looking. By 4am, as the mercury dipped below -40C again, we gave up
By dawn, we were facing a 112-mile slog to Ruby fuelled by a half-full
bag of peanuts and raisins – about a twentieth of what we’d actually
need. As Roberto later confirmed, we weren’t alone.
Another 22-hour day and brief nap in an abandoned cabin saw finally saw
us into Ruby, where an Athabascan elder took pity on us and doled out
spaghetti by the gallon.
We slept for a couple of hours, then left at 1am, completing the 110
miles to Nulato by 7pm, where the leader in the Iditarod dog-sled race,
Martin Buser, finally caught us. Another long day brought the Yukon to
an end, followed by the 90-mile Kaltag Portage, which we started at 6pm
last night and finally completed at 11pm tonight. A wild night on the
summit involved white-out conditions and hauling the bikes out of the
air as they blew sideways.
Down at the coast now in Unalakleet, where the wind’s still howling and
we’re facing 250 miles of sea ice and coastal ‘breezes’ before getting
into Nome. Hopefully the borrowed bike will hold up – had a few
problems with punctures and tyre walls, neither of which are good news
when the temperature’s low enough to stick bare flesh to metal…
Iditarod Trail Invitational kit list:
*Orbit Romany, made in Sheffield – lubricated with Mag-1 ultra-low
all by Patagonia:
By Black Diamond: