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robert

Updated gear list

Copyright: MarkKellyPhotography.ca

Temperatures are dropping and stores now have the new winter products in stock. So, it was the perfect time to update our gear list. On this list you will find out what it is you need to face the elements of a harsh Yukon winter. Also, you will get plenty of useful input for the main product categories.

A great place for some gear talk is our facebook group.

To shop our sponsor’s products you can go to their respective websites (montane.com, cumulus.equipment and kahtoola.com) or check out the MYAU shop-in-shop on Racelite.de.

Like our title sponsor Montane says:

„Trust yourself.
Trust your kit.
Find your unknown.“

The Shelley Spirit of the Yukon Award

Copyright: MarkKellyPhotography.ca

On July 13th, 2021 we lost Shelley Gellatly, one of the pillars the MYAU was built on.

Shelley was part of our family pretty much from day 1. She competed many times and from the beginning she did everything she could to help this race. Shelley gave advice to anyone who asked for it. She helped with and later organised MYAU training courses. If she was not racing herself she would be there to support. No matter what time of day or how far the drive, Shelley would do it and she also liked to be there to see others finish. She got to know some of her best friends through the MYAU and she often said that it had a great influence on her life. I believe I can speak on behalf of all who got to know her in saying that she has had a great influence on us, too. I said it in a post I wrote a short time after her death, you do not often meet people who give and do not expect anything in return. Shelley was one of those people. She liked to be there for others, share her experience and to be part of it all. Shelley also had a competitive side. She trained hard and as an athlete always wanted to finish. But she also took care of others and she learned that a DNF is part of the experience and it does not make much sense to dwell on it. You learn, improve and try again next time.

Overall, Shelley Gellatly has shown us all what the „Spirit of the Yukon“ is and why we love this place and this race. Therefore, I want to create the Shelley Spirit of the Yukon Award – to remember her and her values and to honour athletes or crew members who demonstrate the same kind of attitude, because to me this is what matters the most. Yes, it’s normal that athletes want to win or place well, there is nothing wrong with that, but I think what inspires us is when athletes or crew show this special kind of dedication and give their all for someone else to be safe or for the event to be a success, regardless of what it means for them personally.

There is no prize for the Shelley Gellatly Spirit of the Yukon award, just like there is no prize for the winner of this race. Rather, it is a celebration of the North and the fact that we need each other out there. This page will introduce you to the people who get this recognition every year from now on. I hope it will inspire you and remind you of what matters in life: Not a finish or a win, but who you meet along the way, lasting and honest friendships and being able to count on others when you need it most.

In 2022 many athletes deserve the Award – actually anyone who showed up despite the Covid-19 pandemic and necessary race changes deserves it. However, the athlete I want to give this recognition to is Pat Cooke-Rogers from England. Pat has competed in the MYAU many times. Some years she finished and some years, like in 2022 she did not. Pat has a very strong belief in God. Personally I am not religious at all but I have enormous respect for Pat’s beliefs and the fact that on her days and nights on the trail she feels close to God. Some years ago Pat, as the MYAU race chaplain, also started the Yukonprayer which takes place before the race – this time it was online. Anyone can attend and the feedback received has shown just how valuable it is to have this special gathering. It is Pat’s nature to be there for others if they want it – before, during and also after the race. She knows what the much feared „DNF“ feels like and helps athletes to get over the initial disappointment. That does not mean she is not disappointed herself if she can’t finish. But, like Shelley, she does not dwell on it and instead looks at it in a positive way and is then immediately ready to help – often as a volunteer at checkpoints right until the MYAU is over.
Given all this, I am convinced that Pat deserves the Shelley Spirit of the Yukon Award. Just like Shelley she has become an integral part of our family and we hope to see her back as an athlete and race chaplain for many years to come. Thank you Pat for everything you have done for the MYAU – both the athletes and the crew.

Pat greeted by Gary Vantell at Muktuk Adventures in 2022 – photographed by Mark Kelly

I have created a page featuring all atheletes and crew members who receive the Shelley Spirit of the Yukon Award. It will ge a great way to get some inspiration for many years to come!

Sternwheeler Hotel & Conference Centre new MYAU partner hotel

The newly renovatec Sternwheeler Hotel & Conference Centre

For almost 20 years we have worked with the Coast High Country Inn. Since the High Country Inn was recently sold we stayed at the Best Western Gold Rush Inn last winter. It’s been a great pleasure staying in both hotels and working with their friendly staff. Thank you Northern Vision Development LP (owner of these hotels) for many years of support and co-operation.

From next winter onwards we will start a new chapter! I am super excited that from now on we will have the Sternwheeler Hotel & Conference Centre as our new partner when it comes to accommodation. It is the Yukon’s largest hotel, boasting 181 rooms and suites, a fully modernized event space and a vibrant onsite restaurant and lounge. Guests arriving at the hotel are welcomed into a modern lobby teeming with Old Yukon character and charm. They feature a well-equipped fitness centre with the latest weight and cardio training equipment. Complimentary perks include airport shuttle service for commercial flight travellers and parking on a limited basis.

Most important of all, General Manager, Nicole Horlbeck, has been part of the MYAU family pretty much from its beginning. For many years Nicole was our host at the High Country Inn. Now she is at the helm of the Sternwheeler and it will be lovely to see her again and to know that her front desk team will do anything they can to make this a perfect stay for our crew and all athletes.

For information on the athlete rates and booking procedure please check out our info page on Travel.

MYAU 2023 will start February 4th

Copyright: MarkKellyPhotography.ca

It took a bit longer than normal to set next year’s start date. However, now that the Yukon Quest announced their date for next winter, we can confirm our timing, too. The Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2023 will start on February 4th at Shipyard’s Park, Whitehorse. The distances offered will be marathon, 100, 300 and 430 miles. So, as planned, our maximum distance that goes all the way to Dawson City is back. Time limits are as always: 3 days for the 100, 8 days for the 300 and 13 days for the 430 mile race. Disciplines to choose from are foot, xc-ski and fatbike.

Entries are possible as of now. Our Application page features the entry fee in Euros. Please note that entry fees will go up after the end of June and again after the end of August. Anybody who wants to sign up, please send an email to info[a]thegreatoutdoors.de. Then you will get the necessary paperwork.

Updated information on the training course should be available from Monday.

Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra documentary out now

Copyright: Linnéa Isaksson @Follow The Sun Photography

I have been getting a lot of messages about the MYAU dates for 2023. So far, I do not have the answer. It depends a lot on when the Yukon Quest will start and if they will go back to the original 1,000 mile format. Hopefully, they decide next week.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy our documentary from the very first Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra which was released yesterday 🙂

Happy Easter everyone!

MYAU 2022 Final Race Report

Copyright: MarkKellyPhotography.ca

Another Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra is history. It’s been a tough one. Well, every single race has had some challenges and of course normally we focus on or worry about the extreme cold. This time the initial concern was the Pandemic. It had looked so good initially and then our worst fear came true. A new variant of Covid-19 caused rules to be tightened once more. Travel became complicated and there was a real threat that we may be forced to give up right until the week before the start. Because of a Yukon Government recommendation we decided not to go beyond Mandana Lake. This and travel restrictions led to a large number of athletes cancelling. And not only the athletes were struggling. We also lost a lot of crew members who had really been looking forward to and prepared for the adventure.

When organising gets difficult I try to look at it as if it were a race. MYAU athletes have a hard time to every now and then. To get through it, it’s necessary to focus and take one step at a time. And of course to stay positive.

So, sure enough, there we were on February 3rd at the Shipyard’s Park start line in Whitehorse. It was a staggered start without a big crowd and without our traditional big (and crowded) start photo and countdown. But we started.

Because of record snowfall, overflow on rivers and lakes was a main threat. Also, the first few nights were pretty cold still.

First things first, though. In the marathon we had 8 athletes and 2 of them unfortunately did not reach the finish line. The trail was soft and that makes this distance difficult as the participants only have limited resources with them. Local Derek Cronmiller (Whitehorse) arrived at Muktuk just over 4 hours which is an amazing time even if the trail is rock solid. Sydney Flodstedt (Calgary) came 2nd overall and 1st woman, with a time of 5 hours and 16 minutes. 1 hour and 11 minutes later Lara-Rae Trotter (Whitehorse) came 3rd overall and 2nd woman. Next up were Sarah and Benjamin Hancock (Whitehorse) who needed 6 hours and 30 minutes. Our last marathon finisher is Keith Gayhart who came all the way from Los Angeles. It was his second time at the MYAU and it took him 7 hours and 40 minutes.

More participants had to end their adventure on day 2. Some of them had been really going strong but the cold and fatigue caught up to them. 2 athletes also did get stage 1 frostbite on their toes while they were approaching Dog Grave Lake, our next checkpoint. The trail continued to be soft and more snow was falling. Not only did the snow make it hard to maintain a good pace but it also led to athletes having more wet gear than they normally would. Some 100 milers, like Teri Polesky (Nakina/Canada) and Alla Bova (Stafford/USA), came really close to Braeburn but in the end had to admit defeat. Only Canadians Nathan Quinn (Vancouver), Connor Murray (Coldwater) and Brian James (Calgary) were able to finish the 100 mile distance within the cut-off time. It took them 64 hours and 36 minutes. Since they arrived at the same time they are all winners.

In the meantime, many of the 300 milers also suffered from the same problems and 9 of them did not reach Braeburn. At that point only Jessie Gladish (Dawson City/Canada), Kevin Leahy (Killarney/Ireland), Stephan Huss (Crailsheim/Germany), Daniel Benhammou (Littleton/USA), Aodh O Currain (Tralee/Ireland) and Phil Cowell (Gillingham/England) were left in the race – in that order. Kevin had a little „episode“ with his stove that resulted in a 6 hour time penalty which, in the end, did not influence his ranking. All of them had to go through quite a few ups and downs. Temperatures got warmer but we still had snowfall and incredibly strong winds on the lakes. The weather once more resulted in changing overflow conditions. It got so bad on the way to Mandana that we had to turn everyone around already on Frank Lake. On the way back Jessie said she had one of her best days on her fatbike ever. By coincidence hunters had „groomed“ the trail in front of her and it was hard enough so that she actually could ride her bike over quite some distance. When she finally reached a place called Overland Parking, just North of the Takhin River, we had to stop Jessie again. Reports of kilometres of overflow, some of it knee deep, meant we needed to decide how to continue. What an emotional roller coaster so close to the finish. The conclusion was similar to the one we had come to near Mandana. Snowmobile crew would struggle and rescues would be very difficult. Athletes could get in trouble and have a really hard time to deal with it. Not a good combination. I do have to admit that there is of course still room for discussions here. Overflow is part of this race and one might argue that athletes and we have to somehow face it and find ways to deal with it, even if it is extensive. Therefore, we will look into the subject more closely after this winter. To see what options we may have.

For Jessie and the others, this year, the decision was to move them by transfer to Takhini Bridge and let them reach the finish from there. We could have just stopped at Overland Parking but felt that letting the remaining athletes finish the final leg would feel better for them. At this point they all had found their pace and strategy to deal with the adverse trail conditions. For Phil it actually also meant that he was able to finish this year.

So, we waited for them all to come back to the Whitehorse finish line. Our finish chute was only up the front runners Jessie and Kevin. Jessie came in first – overall and in the women’s category. Winds were so strong the following morning that our banners were blown over, just secured by the rope and very heavy cement blocks. Of course for the following athletes that did not make much of a difference. They all were happy to have avoided dragging themselves through overflow for hours on end and being able to finally reach Whitehorse again.

After Jessie we were able to welcome Kevin who came 2nd overall, 1st man and 1st athlete on foot. Third overall and 2nd man on foot was Daniel, followed by Stephan, Aodh and finally Phil.

Needless to say that in my books anybody who came and tried is a winner. Especially this year. All athletes could have just said „… not this time, I will just stay at home.“ That would have been totally understandable. Instead, they came and tried. So, a big congratulatons to all participants!

As always I want to close my final report by saying thank you to all supporters and crew who made the MYAU 2022 possible:

Thank you Gary Rusnak for having gone out countless times to prepare our marathon trail and for helping during the race, too. Thank you Bernard Stehelin for breaking the trail to Mandana with your fellow Rangers and for setting up the checkpoint there. It was so frustrating that, after all that work, we had to turn around and could not see the beautiful spot you had picked for us. Thank you to all other Rangers who were involved in the trail breaking and marking effort. Thank you Jessie and Gillian for having helped me to make 1,500 markers! Thank you Pamela Brown and Eric Schroff for the great job setting up the Dog Gave Lake checkpoint, for having been there for so many days and also marking trail. Thank you Robert Siefke and Joe Bishop for helping with the above. Thank you to all other snowmobile crew – Hendrik Weise, Fabian Schmitz, Jason Wolsky, Gary Vantell and Brad Heron. Thank you Don Banks for helping us from a distance and hosting us at Scuttlebutt Lodge. Thank you Hiro for getting all that firewood, marking trail and having everything ready for us at Scuttlebutt Lodge. Thank you to all the volunteers – Ross Knox, Amanda Roblin, Willow Brewster, Tim Milsom, Anya Svet, Julie Pritchard, Callum Joliffe, Cameron MacLeod and Margo Millette. Thank you Diane Patrick for your help in finding this wonderful volunteer crew and preparing them so well! Thank you to our checkpoint hosts at Muktuk Adventures and Braeburn. Thank you to our sponsors Montane, Pertex, Kahtoola, Racelite, Coast Mountain Sports, Total North, Yukon Yamaha, Best Western Gold Rush Inn, Fraserway RV, Driving Force, Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters and Cumulus. It’s been a great pleasure working with you all.

Last but not least, thank you Mark Kelly, Jason Wolsky and Adrian Mccarthy for film and photography. Mark will make photos available for purchase soon and I will also start sharing videos with you – hopefully from tomorrow. Then we all can re-live our MYAU 2022 in that way.

Was it worth it? Hell yes! See you all again next winter.

For those of you reading this and interested in signing up for next year, bear with me. I am headed to Sweden soon for the very first Montane Lapland Arctic Ultra. After that, I will talk to the Yukon Quest regarding their timing for 2023. Once they know, we will set our start date. I am guessing it will be around early April when entries will open. Until then I hope you all still have some fun in the snow! Stay safe and healthy.

Race Director Update Days 6 to 8

Copyright: MarkKellyPhotography.ca

The trail conditions continued to be very challenging. Jessie who is our 300 mile overall winner even had  a day of fat biking that she described as the best time on the trail she has had. BUT it did not last long. When Jessie was about to head onto the Takhini River, on her way back to Whitehorse, we found out the this river had many kilometres of so called overflow – anywhere from ankle to knee deep. For the same reasons we ended up not going all the way to Mandana Lake, we decided to skip this part of the trail and bring all remaining 300 milers to Takhini Bride, for their final leg to the finish line. For Jessie, being the first and having to wait for a long time just south of Takhini River, it was a very difficult and emotional moment. However, she was able to adjust and pull all her strength together to become our overall winner, winner in the MTB category and of course fastest woman.

 

Kevin Leahy from Ireland was not far behind. He finished 2nd overall and first man and first in the foot category.

 

MYAU veteran, Daniel Behammou, came third. He had done a lot of the distance with Stephan Huss from Germany but about half way on the final distance, Stephan had to rest and Daniel preferred to push on. After some sleep, Stephan also reached the Shipyard’s Park finish line.

 

Aodh O Currain from Ireland was the next one in line. He had a rest at Takhini Bridge and then dit the remaining distance in one go.

 

Quite some distance back we had Phil Cowell. Slowly and steadily he was making his way towards Whitehorse. Like Aodh he took a rest at Takhini Bridge and managed to finish his race this morning.

Congratulations to all finishers and also all athletes for coming to the Yukon and for having tried a race this difficult in times of a Pandemic.

A summary race report will follow soon.

Race Director Update Days 4 to 5

Copyright: MarkKellyPhotography.ca

Nathan Quinn, Connor Murray and Brian James, all from Canada, win the 100 mile race. Yes, you heard right. They all win it because they arrive together in Braeburn February 6th at 03.16 AM! They are also our only 100 mile finishers. Unfortunately, non of the remaining athletes in this race distance were able to finish. Which is quite unusual. Normally, we see a higher percentage of 100 milers reach their goal. It just goes to show you how a lot of snow and relatively warm temperatures can be just as or even more challenging than extreme cold. And another fact seems to be that even in these „warmer“ temperatures athletes can sustain cold injuries. We already had one athlete with frostbitten toes and Jim Ryall had the same fate when he reached the Dog Grave Lake checkpoint. He was not aware of it but after his medical check crew had to tell him that he can’t continue. Both cases were not severe and we brought them out by snowmobile. I am guessing they got these injuries because the snow made the push harder and it also meant that there was more moisture/humidity.

We still had some more 100 milers in the race who, under normal circumstance (i.e. with a hard packed trail), would have finished the 100 miles in time. That’s Alla Bova (USA) and Teri Polesky (Canada). However, at some point during the night they had to admit defeat and rest. There was too much snow for them to reach the necessary pace and they also had issues with too much gear getting wet. Both eventually were brought to the finish line by our crew. The important thing is that they are safe and even though they could not get a medal this time, they really enjoyed the challenge and the Yukon.

Luckily, the 300 mile distance has seen no more scratches so far. Jessie continues in the lead and is going really strong. Even though she has had a significant amount of miles pushing her bike. Crazy. I mean, picture yourself pushing a bike with fat tires and this much snow for miles on end and being this fast … Kevin from Ireland is also doing well. He broke a gear related rule which resulted in a time penalty of 6 hours but this will likely have no influence on how he ranks if he reaches the finish in Whitehorse. It’s challenging for strong athletes like him because he had a plan and the snow just meant he could not stick to it. I believe he has now come around to accepting that fact, re-adjusted and is having a good time, taking a lot more breaks than he likely normally would.

Next up are Stephan Huss and Benjamin. They have teamed up because they seem to be comfortable with each others speed. While some seek the solitude they seem to have more fun, knowing someone else is not too far away.

Ireland is doing well this year because next up is Aodh O Currain who is also from this beautiful country. So, if we had a nation’s cup, the Irish could win it. Aodh is really enjoying it out there and fingers crossed, he continues to do well. Last in line is Phil Cowell from the UK. Yes, Phil is going at a slower speed but he is steady and has got a positive attitude – both key elements in being successful at the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra.

In the meantime, we had a development which resulted in a change of the position of our turnaround point and effectively shortened the 300 mile race to about 250 miles. We have had crew ready at Mandana Lake for several days already. The Canadian Rangers, Bernard Stehelin, our checkpoint host there being one of them, worked super hard to get the initial trail in. They had to fight their way through long patches of overflow on the many lakes. Once driven over these trails normally freeze and are then passable. Consequently Bernard and his team set up the camp and were eager to welcome as many athletes as possible. When our trail guides Robert Siefke and Jason Wolsky went in initially from Braeburn for another check they only encountered new overflow a few km before Mandana and got through it okay. The next day things had changed. Massive overflows had reappeared and they got stuck twice on their way to check on Jessie and the others. These areas would have been extremely tough for the athletes and also dangerous in potential rescues. Therefore, the decision was made to transport Jessie to the same location as Kevin, find a safe spot and set up an improvised and new turnaround point there. We still have to confirm for both Jessie and Kevin what time credit they will get for any waiting times/delays.