Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2018 final report

Well, where should I start with my final report after a race like this? It is the same procedure as every year I guess, by me saying: “Every MYAU is different and once again we faced new challenges and situations we have not been faced with before”. We had cold temperatures before but this constant cold of – 35 to – 45 degrees Celsius, that was new. No time to relax a little bit. Athletes constantly had to really focus on all aspects involved when trying to stay warm. On day 1 things looked very good. All except one marathon runner finished. And that is quite something! A marathon in these temperatures, with only hot water or tea at the half way mark and self sufficiency on food. That is a big time achievement. So, congratulations to all participants! Like last year 1 CAD per km run will be to the charity Little Footprints. Big Steps.
The ultra athletes all looked good at the marathon finish which premiered at Muktuk Adventures. Pure luxury for the athletes who were actually allowed to go inside a warm building and eat and drink there. In past years we were at Rivendell Farm, a great place, too. However, going inside was not possible. Once again thank you to the entire Muktuk Adventure team for hosting us and making it such a great experience.
It was the first night when the problems began for some. Especially the cold areas just off the Takhini River hurt our participants. Unfortunately, that night also brought us the first cases of frostbite. And it is so difficult to imagine how quickly this happens if you have not been in this kind of cold before. One wrong decision and it hits you before you know it. Temperatures got so cold that we were experiencing difficulties with machinery. Generators broke, ski-doos did not start and with cars/trucks it was not much easier. When we knew that going on the trail would be impossible for the guides, the race came to a halt. Once all repairs were taken care of, we continued. Unfortunately, on the way to Dog Grave Lake and Braeburn, many athletes had to scratch. Our 100 mile race saw 4 finisher and they all arrived looking good. Congratulations to Emanuele Gallo (Italy), Peter Mild (Sweden), Tomas Jelinek (Germany) and Michelle Smith (UK)!
For the 300 milers the suffering continued. Night after night is was extremely cold. I think a very important message was sent by Frode  Lein (Norway) and Asbjorn Bruun (Denmark) when they slowed right down after Braeburn to stay hydrated and dry. It meant that they had no more chance to make the Carmacks cut-off. But sometimes the MYAU turns more into an expedition during which survival really has to be the priority. Yes, a DNF is never easy to accept but if it helps to avoid cold injuries, it’s the better option. Of course that is easier said than done. Almost everything has to be in one’s favour in order to avoid frostbite in these temperatures. Perfect gear, knowing how to use it, changing layers, keeping dry, hydrating and eating, resting and so on. It all has to come together. Like some athletes said, it becomes a process of “continuous problem solving”.
Pretty soon we had only 3 athletes left in the 300 mile race. Jethro de Decker from South Africa, Ilona Gyapay from Canada and Roberto Zanda from Italy. All of them were going strong and looked good when leaving Carmacks. Unfortunately, Roberto got into trouble about half way to McCabe. He was rescued to safety and I would like to thank the entire team, especially Glenn and Spencer Toovey who were out there, found him and did everything right. Also a big thank you to Jo and Diane who helped me with the co-ordination of the rescue. Furthermore, thank you to the RCMP, EMS, helicopter crew and the hospital staff in Whitehorse. I visited Roberto today and he is on his way to recovery. He actually said that he wants to be back!
Jethro had already left for Pelly Farm, when Ilona arrived in Pelly Crossing. Finally, frostbite had gotten a hold of her fingertips, too. Being a xc-skier in the Northwest Territories she was not surprised. She had been more afraid for her feet but these were fine. Nonetheless, her race was over. Her achievement is incredible, though. I have never seen a xc-skier move this fast on the Quest trail. Maybe Enrico Ghidoni but I would have to compare the times to be sure. Jethro in the meantime just kept on going. All smiles and somehow immune to the cold. It has to be said that Jethro had been here before. He participated in Stewart’s survival course and learned some valuable lessons the first time around. This time he got it all down to an art and finished in Pelly Farm. I am positive he could have easily gone back to Pelly Crossing but we did decide to stop the 300 miles at the farm. Congratulations Jethro for getting this far in these kind of conditions!
Thank you to all athletes for having come to the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2018. I hope to see you all again – be it in the Yukon or another ultra adventure!
Thank you to this great crew – on the trail and at the checkpoints! Diane, Julie, Jo, Anja, Martine, Medina, Tania, Branka, Shelley, Richard, Peter, Gavin , Tom, James, Pamela, Stewart, Gary (Young), Gary (Vantell) and Gary (Rusnak), Josh, Joe, Glenn, Spencer, Tony, Robert and Ross. Thank you also to Gillian, Bernard and Hector who took care of the Ken Lake checkpoint.
Thank you to our sponsors Montane, Primus, Yukon Tourism and the many local supporters like Muktuk Adventures, Braeburn Lodge, Carmacks Rec Centre, Kruse family, Selkirk First Nations, Sue and Dale from Pelly Farm, Coast Mountain Sports, Fraserway, Driving Force, Coast High Country Inn,  Total North and Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters.

Emanuele Gallo wins 100 mile race

Emanuele Gallo from Italy arrived in Braeburn February 3rd at 22:11 which makes him the overall winner of this year’s 100 mile race. The entire crew is really happy for him. Right from the beginning he has shown the characteristics that are so important in the Yukon. He is obviously a strong athlete but he was also well prepared and always in a good mood. So, it’s well deserved.
Other athletes have also shown enormous skills and mental strength. Peter Mild from Sweden arrived February 4th at 00:16 to rank second overall in the 100 miles. Tomas Jelinek from Germany reached Braeburn Lodge at 02:19 placing 3rd. Congratulations to all of you!
None of the 300 mile athletes have left Braeburn, yet. Jovica from Serbia was the first to arrive. When removing the tape over his nose the top layer of skin came off. One of the dangers, when using tape on facial skin. Parts of his nose that were not covered looked like they may be frostbitten. Nothing major but possibly bad enough to not let him continue. We told him to get a good sleep and when he gets up we will have a look at it again to decide. Next 300 miler to arrive was Nikolaj Pedersen from Denmark. He has got frostbite on the tip of some toes. Again, not serious but definitely bad enough for him to have to stop his adventure. He is now resting and will get a transfer back this morning.
Fortunately, we also have several 300 milers who were have no frostbite or other problems. They certainly are suffering by now but are all having a rest and can continue. Ilona Gyapay and Asbjorn Bruun who I should mention are doing the race on xc-ski, which is difficult to begin with and in these temperatures absolutely amazing. Normally xc-skiers are the first to get frostbite on toes. Also at the CP and fine are Frode Lein and Jethro de Decker.
That means still out on the trail are 300 milers Roberto Zanda and Michael Wardas. Their SPOTs are not working. That’s why our guides will have an early start to check on them. Michelle Smith is on the trail, too. However, her SPOT is sending and she signalled that she is taking a break.

Trail Update

Our crew of snowmobile guides went out yesterday, starting at Takhini Bridge to mark the trail for day 1. Normally this is done by the Canadian Rangers and we just may add a marker here or there. However, the Yukon Quest will likely not use the river. This normally would not be much of a problem but a very low level of snow made simple marking impossible. Instead the  ice needs to be drilled or hacked for each marker.

When the crew started yesterday it was – 38 degrees Celsius. Not the temperatures you want when working outside all day. So, thank you all for the effort!

The good news is that the little snow we have had over the last few days made it possible to actually see a trail. It’s not all just ice. Which meant we needed less markers. In addition, there is less overflow.

This is what Gary Rusnak posted in our facebook group some hours ago:

„What a difference a week makes-again. The Yukon river open water and narrow shore lines have been solved by the cold. Nice thick safe trail ice. As well the snow and wind has created a nice trail definition. Tahkini River has been solid for a while and as well with the fresh snow there is trail definition. Things are looking great on the River’s.“