The documentary about Tommy Chen’s 430 mile adventure at the MYAU 2023 will premiere on Youtube November 26th. Tommy finished our race to Dawson City 10 years ago and came back in 2023 to do it again – to celebrate a race that has had a strong impact on him and his ultra running career. It was a pleasure having had Tommy with us and seeing him cross the finish line once again!
From 2024 onwards our rental snowshoes are from Dion Snowshoes. They produce the only truly modular snowshoe on the market.
Frame + Binding + Cleat = Performance. The difference? Dion offer their snowshoes as separate components, which allows you to build the right system for your needs. Just pick the Frame you want, then the Cleat, then the Binding – they’ll fully assemble and ship it to you!
Dion snowshoes are tough, lightweight and adaptable to a wide variety of terrain and conditions. The modular design allows you to create the perfect combination of performance and durability for your individual needs.
The 121 Frame is their flagship model featuring an energy return hinge that allows for a smooth and efficient running stride. When paired with the Secure Fit Binding and Deep Cleat, this system is their most popular setup with it being lightweight, versatile and a durable choice for snowshoe running. It is also the combination we are renting out to MYAU athletes who are not bringing snowshoes to the race.
If you would like to buy a pair, Dion Snowshoes are available for purchase in the USA from their Head Office at DionNevitrek.com. For Canadian orders, or to inquire about International Shipping options, please go to HealthandAdventure.com.
It’s getting colder and we are all looking forward to our upcoming winter training, adventures and of course the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra. Time to check our equipment and see what’s new and exciting on the market. If you check out Montane’s website you will see some great new kit! It’s too much to go through here but in their menu you can click on “New Season” in both the Women’s and Men’s section and get the perfect overview. Some of the new Montane clothing that will be perfect for the MYAU we want to feature here:
Montane Men’s Dart XT Thermal Zip Neck Long Sleeved Top
A good layering system starts with the perfect base layer. The Montane Men’s Dart XT Zip Neck Base Layer is the ultimate expedition base layer. Recycled Apex Thermo Eco fabric with a brushed back offers long-term comfort and high wicking ability – moving any moisture that’s generated away from the body. 4-way stretch also allows for unrestricted dynamic movement, without compromising thermal efficiency. Polygiene treatment also provides essential odour control – perfect for multi day use during high output activities.
- Polygiene permanent anti odour
- Low profile collar with 1/4 length YKK reverse coil semi-auto lock zip
- Low profile seams throughout for improve comfort next to skin
Also available as a women’s version.
Montane Men’s Respond XT Hooded Insulated Jacket
The Respond XT Hooded Insulated Jacket is the new and updated version of Montane’s Flux Jacket. It has been especially engineered for the cold and wet. Lightweight windproof and water-resistant protection is provided by the insulated jackets use of PERTEX® Quantum Eco fabric. Whilst essential warmth and further weather resistance comes from recycled PrimaLoft® Silver insulation. A perfect cut and feature set mean you are able to perform in a range of challenging conditions.
- Sleeve articulation for added comfort during dynamic movement
- Fully adjustable hood with stiffened peak to protect against cold winds
- Hook and Loop cuff adjustment
- Internal drop pocket to keep essentials close to the body
- 2x Zipped hand pockets
- 2x YKK reverse coil hand pockets for secure storage
- 2x YKK Vislon zipped chest pockets for secure quick access to essentials
- YKK 2 way Vislon centre front zip for harness compatible protection
- Fully adjustable hem to minimise heat loss and keep out wind
Montane Men’s Phase XT Waterproof Jacket
The Men’s Phase XT Waterproof Jacket is a tough, durable shell that will deliver essential protection and enhanced movement when you need it most. Additional features include a helmet compatible hood, making this waterproof jacket well equipped for those seeking extra protection on the move.
- 70 Denier GORE-TEX Performance Technology, with a hydrostatic head of 28,000mm and RET <9
- Fully adjustable, roll-away climbing helmet compatible hood with three point ‘quick release’ adjustment and stiffened peak
- Internal mesh drop pocket to stash accessories
- Full-length two-way YKK AQUAGUARD® VISLON front zip with internal storm flap
- 2x map sized hand pockets with YKK AQUAGUARD® zips
- Shaped cuffs with adjustable hook and loop tabs
- Two-way YKK AQUAGUARD® pit zips
- Adjustable hem with cinchable drawcord to minimise heat loss
- Articulated arms for high reach movement
Also available as a women’s version.
We could go on and on as Montane has got a wide range of fleeces, many more rain jackets and insulated jackets (down and synthetic), a great variety of pants and perfect gloves and hats. If you go on training runs when the temperatures drop, Montane also offers warm tights, tops and of course their legendary running packs. For more Montane kit we recommend specifically for the MYAU, please check out our gear list that was just updated. And for all Montane kit and some really inspiring content, please go to www.montane.com.
The feature documentary about Irishman Kevin Leahy, who finished both the MYAU and MLAU in one winter, is available on Amazon Prime now. It takes us back to the chaos of Covid-19 and what it meant to many athletes who were training and preparing, not really knowing what the next months would bring. The film also shows Kevin’s struggle with injury in the midst of it all and how he dealt with it, in the end achieving the goal he was going for.
It is really comforting to know, when you are planning your trip, that the hotel you will be staying in, is doing a great job. A place with very nice rooms, where staff is friendly and helpful. It quickly feels like staying with friends. That’s what the Sternwheeler Hotel and Conference Centre is for us. Therefore, I am very happy to confirm that this excellent Whitehorse hotel will be our partner and pre-race headquarter again in 2024. As such they also provide MYAU athletes with preferential room rates. For information on those rates and how to book, please check out our Travel section.
You are thinking about doing an Arctic Ultra for the first time and you are wondering about the kind of budget you need and how you can be cost efficient? Here is some advise that will hopefully help:
- Sign up early. No matter if it’s for our race in the Yukon or in Sweden, entry fees do go up in a first step after the end of June and in a second step after the end of August. So, if you know for sure, you want to participate, sign up early. It will also give your motivation for training a real boost!
- Find out, when it is usually the cheapest to book your flights. One thing is for sure, getting your flight tickets last minute hardly ever is a good idea.
- Gear is a big one. If you already are into winter sports or adventures, you are lucky and will have most items you need. If you are new to this, it can cost a lot of money. One thing to consider is if you already know this will be a one-off. Should that be the case, it definitely makes sense to rent things like the sleeping bag, pulk sled and winter sleeping mat. If your plan is to spend several years participating in winter ultras, it’s easy to do the math on rental versus purchase. Although, there is one more aspect to look into, which the cost of extra luggage, i.e. if you travel with two or three pieces of luggage, how will this affect your travel cost each time you go? If you buy gear, there are a few things you can do to save money:
- Buy when it’s SALE season. On Racelite.de you will find a lot of winter products discounted at the moment.
- Athletes who sign up, get a 20% discount from Montane.
- Look into getting used products, especially on items like a tent, pulk or other kit that is often sold used but still in excellent condition. Feel free to use our facebook group if you want to offer or buy used gear! Another facebook group that is useful when it comes to everything gear related, is Terra Glacialis.
- Get quality products. Yes, this may mean spending more money on the initial purchase but in the end, the quality of a brand like Montane or a material that comes from Pertex, will make you spend less.
- Related to gear is the challenge of getting the overall weight right. On the one hand, you want to and need to be safe out there. On the other hand you, too much weight will make things very difficult, if not impossible. You may have done everything right but simply put too much weight in your sled and you had to scratch because of it. For those of you with no or little experience, the training course will give vital input on that topic. Also, please feel free to ask me (Robert Pollhammer) any time you have questions on equipment. And, again, please use our facebook group. Many race veterans are more than happy to share their insight.
- If you know you want to do winter ultras for more than one winter, start with a short distance like the 100 miles in the Yukon or 185 km in Sweden. Yes, it is possible to go straight for the longer ones and succeed but often it does not work out. Even with very good preparation, you will make some mistakes. If you have a DNF in your first winter race, not only will it take a toll on your motivation but also, it means you literally pay more for the lessons you learn.
- This next one may sound a bit “funny” … but read the rules and make sure you follow the updates on the race in the months leading up to the start. It is kind of obvious but each year we have some participants who forget to or do not take the time to do something as basic as reading the rules. Again, this may lead to a DNF and more money being spent in order to reach your ultimate goal of finishing an Arctic Ultra.
There are many reasons why the Shelley Spirit of the Yukon Award 2023 goes to Jessie Gladish. The most important one is the fact that Jessie has always been keen on helping others. She did not hesitate one second when the decision had to be made about who could take the lead organising future training courses after Shelley passed away. She likes to see others do well, succeed and enjoy the adventure. Not only does Jessie care about others before the race. She always keeps the safety of others in her mind during the race. On more than one occasion Jessie, as an athlete in the MYAU, slowed down and stopped to help fellow participants and/or to make sure they are okay.
Then there is Jessie’s positive attitude. Yes, she has had very emotional moments on the trail, like most athletes. When she did the MYAU 2019 she said herself that she had been very tempted to burn her skis on a couple of occasions. In 2022 I was with her when massive overflows really messed up our race and tough decisions had to be made on the final stretch from Overland Parking to Takhini Bridge. It was not easy. However, it did not matter what nature or the MYAU threw at her Jessie always kept her positive attitude, pushed through difficulties and came out the other end with her big smile. It’s also legendary how she always arrived at the finish line looking like she just started.
Last but not least, it needs to be said that Jessie is the second participant and first female athlete to have done the MYAU 430 mile race in all three disciplines – foot, ski and fatbike. That’s not why she is getting the Shelley Spirit of the Yukon Award 2023 but it’s obviously an amazing achievement that needs to be mentioned. It’s also amazing that every single time Jessie competed, she finished:
2015 (430 miles/foot)
2016 (300 miles/foot)
2017 (430 miles/foot)
2019 (430 miles/ski)
2022 (300 miles/fatbike)
2023 (430 miles/fatbike)
Jessie will continue organising the MYAU training course and she intends to also be part of the crew during the race. Who knows, maybe we will also see her participate again one of those years. It will certainly be very interesting to see what else she will do when it comes to racing ultras.
So, I hope would will all agree with me that Jessie Gladish really deserves this award. Like Shelley, she shows us all what the Spirit of the Yukon means. We are all very proud of you, Jessie. And I am sure that Shelley, who is watching us from up there somewhere, approves and has got a big smile on her face.
Once again, in 2024 the official MYAU training course will be organised by Jessie Gladish and with MYAU veterans Gillian Smith and Marianne Heading and bushcraft expert Fabian Schmitz she has a great team helping her.
This course is mandatory for anyone who wants to either do the 100 or 300 mile race next year but is not experienced enough in all aspects of hiking, biking or skiing an ultra in such extreme winter conditions.
It’s also an option to do the course one year and then come back and participate in the race the following winter. AND the course is open for people who actually don’t have the MYAU as a goal, i.e. it’s great for anybody interested in winter adventures – be it private tours or other winter ultras.
Feedback from course participants has always been excellent. Needless to say that Jessie, who now has finished the MYAU 430 mile race on foot, bike and ski has got a real wealth of experience.
The course information is now updated on our website. If you want to book it or ask questions, please get in touch with Jessie.
The Yukon Quest announced their start date for February 3rd, 2024. That means next year the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra, 20th (!) edition, will start one day after, on Sunday Februay 4th. It will be great for all our athletes because seeing the dog mushers of the Quest take off in Shipyard’s Park is quite a site!
Possible distances to sign up for will be the marathon, 100 and 300 miles. The 430 mile distance remains biennial and will be back in 2025. The website is now updated for 2024 and and entries will be possible from this weekend onwards. If you are interested please either send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), call or send a message via social media (facebook and instragram).
20 years after the very first edition took place, the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2023 is history. Just like these last two decades went by very quickly, the last 2 weeks happened at what seemed lightning speed. The days leading up to our start were busy and for the first time we all have been guests at the Sternwheeler Hotel in Whitehorse. To me as the organizer this was pure luxury. Not only did we have the full support of General Manager, Nicole & her entire team, but also a lot of space to get organized, preparing rental gear, checkpoint kit and interacting with the athletes for any remaining paperwork and things like the briefing and gear check. On February 3rd we had a great dinner, prepared by Tony’s Restaurant, and on February 4th, from 9:45 am, we started transporting sleds to the Shipyard’s Park start line. Already before that, Gary Rusnak from our guide team had made a final trail check of the Yukon River and we were good to go. At 10:31 we had our count down and 7x marathoners, 12x 100, 5x 300 and 24x 430 mile athletes started their journey north.
The first checkpoint and finish of the Marathon distance was Muktuk Adventures. As always Manuela, Jeff and their team took great care of us. It’s a place for people who love dogs and since we all are in that category, it’s a real highlight for crew and athletes. It’s also a checkpoint that is very busy over a period of just a few hours because the participants are still close together. At about half way, at Takhini Bridge, we had a crew to give any marathoners who wanted it, hot water for their flasks. In some years it is also a place were an athlete or two may need to scratch. Not this year.
The marathon was won by Cheng Lun-Chiang (Taiwan/4:58). 2nd place went to Christina Bigrigg (Canada/4:59) and third in line was Greg Newby (Canada/5:02). All other marathoners reached Muktuk, too. It was great to see Jeffrey Mackie-Deernsted (Canada) finish. In his first try, last year, he did not reach the Muktuk. This time, after 9 hours and 18 minutes he made it and he got another medal for his collection.
100 miler Trevor Messent looked good on his way to Muktuk. He took plenty of breaks which made him arrive a bit late but that’s okay. It was mainly because of gear related issues that he could not go any further. Some athletes had caught a stomach bug, one of them being Joel Rennie from Australia. While the others continued, in the hope of getting over it soon, Joel clearly was too weakened by it. Because it was not an extreme weather year, I was able to offer him to recover and re-join the 430 mile race as an unranked athlete later on. Which he did.
Everybody else went into the first night.
Even if temperatures are not -40, it’s quite normal that we get a fair number of so called “help” messages during the first night, meaning athletes signal us with their SPOT tracker that they decided to quit. Talking about SPOT trackers, I want to say a big thank you to MYAU veteran and volunteer Scott Thomson who did an excellent job making sure that we had the maximum amount of trackers working from day 1. This year we did not get a single early “help” message!
While all this was happening, race volunteer Lorrie Lech went for a trail check from Braeburn to Dog Grave Lake and back. To make sure it is well marked and there are no other issues. Hiro Miyahama was with her as well. Unfortunately, Lorrie had an accident with her snowmobile. She hurt her shoulder. Not severely but bad enough for her not to be able to continue with the crew beyond Braeburn. @Lorrie, thank you for your support and for having been eager to help us for the full 13 days. It did not work out this time but there is always a next MYAU!
On the way to Braeburn a couple of athletes eventually did run into difficulties and were not able to continue. Arnie Owsley from the USA who is a finisher of the very first MYAU (2003 edition), Paul Fosh (England), Palle Andersen (Denmark) and Gillian Smith (Canada) all had to scratch. Arnie injured his knee, Paul had problems with one of his feet and Gillian was experiencing problems with Asthma. The entire MYAU team wishes you a quick recovery and we hope to see you again.
Chad Barber pushed very hard in the 100 mile race and he reached the finish line in a very good time (Canada/26:16). Next came Guillaume Grima (France/28:11) and third overall and first woman was Rebecca Ferry (England/34:41). All other 100 milers also reached Braeburn well before the cut-off time. Congratulations to all of you! The 300 miles are waiting for you 😉
At this point in time, things were going very well for most 300 mile athletes. Only 300 miler Jacob Myers decided to pull the plug between Mandanna Lake Checkpoint and Carmacks. He was experiencing problems and decided to stop before things got worse. Considering his work and project of reaching the South Pole, it was the right call.
Dirk Heller from Germany was eventually the first 300 miler to reach Pelly Crossing. Like the 430 mile athletes, he then went to Pelly Farm on the Pelly River. But instead of continuing further north, the 300 milers come back to Pelly Crossing on the loooong, hilly and winding farm road. Dirk took 173 hours and 9 minutes to reach the finish line. Elise Zender (Germany) and Josh Tebeau (USA) not only were new to the world of extreme winter ultras, they also are a couple. Combined with their physical fitness, their participation in Jessie’s MYAU training course and the right attitude, they did really well. And I got the impression that they still talk to each other 😉 The last finisher in the 300 mile race is Dirk Groth from Australia who I think has got a love hate relationship with the cold. It’s never easy to finish a race like the MYAU when you come from a hot climate country but Dirk did really well and we wish him and the other 300 mile finishers good luck for their future adventures.
Overall, things were still going really well for the 430 mile participants. However, with Michael Faergegaard (Denmark), Tania Halik (Canada) and Pat Cooke-Rogers (England) three more of them had to give up. Tania was very strong but would not have made the cut-off in Carmacks. So, she ended her race in Mandanna. Pat already finished the 430 miles a few years ago. She had set out to do it one more time. Unfortunately, she had technical issues with her bike and also did get very tired trying to reach the McCabe checkpoint. In the end she decided to push the “help” button and our guide Hendrik Weise picked her up on what was a very long day for him. Michael made it to McCabe but was unable to continue.
In the meantime, McCabe and then Pelly Crossing got pretty busy. The latter was challenging for both crew and athletes because, for reasons beyond our control, we were not able to use the checkpoint we normally get. I want to thank Selkirk First Nations, Sue Bradley and the School of Pelly Crossing for finding a solution on short notice. A smaller space, at the school instead of the so-called Link Building, meant for a couple of days it was a bit tight and thus “louder” than normal but it worked out just fine.
On the way to Pelly Crossing the sisters Josephine Bush and Roisin Ward had to end their race. Roisin was one of those affected with stomach issues and she finally had to admit defeat. Considering the difficulties, she had along the way, she got very far and because they are a team Josephine decided not to continue alone.
All remaining 430 mile athletes had an 8 hour mandatory stop at Pelly Farm. Because we still had a fairly large number of 430 mile athletes in the race, there was a lot of work to do at the farm. As always Dale and Sue, with the help of our crew, took great care of our athletes. Even tough they all hardly got any sleep, they and we were really happy to a) be back at this magical place and b) to have so many athletes making it this far. After all, we have had years with only a handful of athletes reaching Pelly Farm.
At this point in time, our crew usually gets stretched out over a pretty long distance – certainly in years with strong bikers like Jessie. So, we were still busy in the south but also had crew arriving in Dawson City. The advance team had the task to set up our last remote checkpoint at a place called Indian River. Luck was not on our side as it turned out that a shortcut we usually take to get there was not available due to large areas of glaciation. It meant that our crew had to go the regular trail form Dawson – which is longer and this year also was extremely difficult due to windblown trails. The team got stuck many times and also this trail had some areas with bad overflow. In the end they made the call to set up camp about 19 miles short of Indian River. That’s never an easy decision – especially knowing that athletes are already on the way. Luckily, we were able to let all of them know that Indian River was in a different spot. And Jessie and Matt who had been in the lead, knew that the Assistance Point would not be there for them. They both preferred to keep on going anyway and since the temperature did not go below – 35 degrees Celsius, I decided not to make them wait.
I don’t think Jessie and Matt regretted their decision. For them it was more important that someone broke the trail again. Which our crew did and when they finally ran into Jessie she was really relieved – after hours of pushing her bike through deep snow.
Winds kept on blowing in the trail. Gary, who went out again the day after the camp setup at Sulphur Creek, sent messages about horrible whiteout conditions. Luckily, it was not only us travelling this section. Mushers from the Yukon Quest started to arrive and teams from the Ranger and the Quest also helped keep the trails open.
First into Dawson City was Jessie Gladish (Canada/202:50). After having already finished the 430 mile race on both foot and ski, she now is the first women to accomplish this amazing feat in all three disciplines. Only Enrico Ghidoni also managed to finish this trilogy of extremes a few years back. And I don’t get tired of saying it, what makes this so special is the fact that Jessie hardly ever looks exhausted when she comes across the finish line. She is always injury free, smiling and seemingly could go on forever.
Matt Weighman was not very far behind and thus became first athlete on foot and 2nd overall (Scotland/213:02). 3rd overall is Laura Trentani from Italy (238:12). 4th overall and 3rd athlete on foot is Tommy Chen from Taiwan who came to repeat the 430 miles exactly 10 years after his first finish in Dawson. This time it took him 246 hours and 9 minutes. It’s been great to hear from this very friendly athlete who competes and places really well in many international races, that the MYAU is special to him – which is why he came back to repeat it.
All other 430 milers who were still in the race also finished before the cut-off. It was so great to seem them arrive! Gareth Hardcastle, Henrik Benzon, John Nakel, Chad Bustin, Brian James, Enrique Trull Maravilla, Javed Bhatti, Joaquin Candel, Russ Reinbolt and Steven Jones, congratulations! Special mention and thank you also to Joel Rennie who had continued unranked from Carmacks and helped Russ Reinbolt achieve his goal of making it all the way to Dawson City.
I want to thank all athletes who joined us this year. Yes, we had temperatures that were not as extreme as in some of the other years. But I am convinced that one reason why we have seen so many finishers was that many athletes had great strategies. Good resting times were combined with the right speed. Also, almost all athletes were really good with their SPOTs, i.e. pushing the “bivy” button and the “okay” button on their devices when they needed to. That was valuable for our work at Race HQ. I am very pleased with the way the athletes used their 2-way communication devices (mainly Garmin inReach), too. It helped on several occasions to answer athlete’s questions out on the trail or to inform them about certain situations, e.g. a changed location for the Indian River Assistance Point.
Thank you to all the crew:
Diane Patrick who helped recruiting our volunteers from abroad. All the volunteers – Sam, Anya, Jo, Jim, Sabrina, Daniel, Beth, Tony, Phil, Ellie, Scott, Margo, Sylvia, Peter and Callum. Our fantastic checkpoint hosts at Muktuk Adventures, Pamela and Eric at Dog Grave Lake, Steve, Leigh and team at Braeburn Lodge, Dan, Patrick and Bryan at Mandanna. Thank you Peter Heebink for letting us use your cabin! Thank you to Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation and the team at the Carmacks Rec Center – special thanks to the folks from the Culinary Course who spontaneously fed us on the last day with some absolutely amazing snacks! Thank you Kathy and Jerry Kruse at McCabe, Selkirk First Nation and the school in Pelly Crossing, Sue, Dale and Valentin at Pelly Farm.
Thank you to our snowmobile guides Gary (Rusnak), Joe, Robert, Hendrik, Fabian, Gary (Vantell), Tom, Chad, Ken, Hiro and Lorrie.
Thank you to race chaplain Pat who was there for others before and during the race.
Thank you Mark Kelly for the great photography and Callum for the amazing social media posts!
Thank you to the Yukon Quest for sharing resources and thank you Canadian Rangers for the many, many hours of work on the trails.
Thank you to our local sponsors, the Sternwheeler Hotel, Downtown Hotel, Total North, Driving Force, Coast Mountain Sports, Yukon Yamaha, Fraserway RV and Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters. And thank you to our international sponsors Montane, Kahtoola, Pertex, Cumulus and Racelite.