Sled dog teams face a frigid second night

Tyler Clarke
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The warm temperatures that accompanied sled dog teams during their Tuesday launch from downtown Prince Albert didn’t last.


Temperatures plummeted to -33 C on Wednesday night, leaving 2014 Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race participants in a deep freeze, event president Gill Gracie said from La Ronge on Thursday.

“It was a shock after the zero in Prince Albert when we started, but that’s Saskatchewan,” she concluded.

Click HERE for an article and slideshow about the sled dog teams' Tuesday launch from downtown Prince Albert. 

Click HERE for an article about the sled dog teams' first night, during which they were blanketed by northern lights. 

The dogs don’t appear too phased, she said, noting that “they’re frosted up but their tails are wagging.”

Their human mushers haven’t fared as well, Gracie said, noting that Logan Lake, B.C., musher Megan Routley pulled her 12-dog team from the race in La Ronge at 4:48 a.m. on Thursday.

“She was running it as a qualifier, which meant no help, and she just said she was tired of being cold,” Gracie explained. “The hot shower across the road called.”

Routley -- a musher with 20 years’ experience -- hoped to use the race to get her team into the Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile international sled dog race from Fairbanks, AK, to Whitehorse, YT.

Local area 12-dog musher Bart de Marie, from Christopher Lake, was forced to call it quits at Harold’s Cabin at 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday -- a check stop shy of La Ronge.

He was forced to pull too many dogs from his team, Gracie said, noting that this year’s sugary snow made running conditions more difficult on the dogs than usual.

“Dog care is the main thing in these races,” Gracie said of either de Marie’s or check-stop veterinarians’ decision to pull his dogs.

It was a shock after the zero in Prince Albert when we started, but that’s Saskatchewan. Gill Gracie

Half of de Marie’s 12-dog team led his brother, Stefaan de Marie, to victory at last year’s Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race.

The 520-kilometre 12-dog race is expected to conclude at some point on Friday, Gracie said, noting that organizers expect to see the first team cross the finish line at Elk Ridge Resort as early as 4 a.m., with the balance of the teams sliding in throughout the day.

Quesnel, B.C., musher and Yukon Quest and Iditarod veteran Warren Palfrey is currently in the lead, having kept all 12 of his dogs in harnesses.

As of early Thursday evening, only one eight-dog race participant remained on the track.

Porcupine Plain musher Isabelle Knudsen was still on track to finishing the 320-kilometre eight-dog race after resting at the Harold’s Cabin rest stop for 14 hours and 49 minutes.

Linden, Alta., musher Christopher Wall’s team was the first to finish the eight-dog race, crossing the finish line at 3:33 a.m. on Thursday.

Wall was followed by Red Deer, Alta., musher Jillian Lawton at 3:45 a.m. Rocky Mountain House, Alta., musher Steve Taylor arrived a minute later, at 3:46 a.m., earning bronze.

Shellbrook musher Luke Naber placed fourth, crossing the finish line at 9:50 a.m.

As previously reported, the 120-kilometre six-dog open race ended at Elk Ridge Resort on Wednesday, with Okotoks, Alta., musher Jennifer Campeau’s team crossing the finish line at 12:10 a.m.

The six-dog race’s only other participant, Belgian musher Stijn Bouckenooghe crossed the finish line 38 minutes later.

Visit the Daily Herald website on Friday for the final 2014 Canadian Challenge Sled Dog Race update.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Elk Ridge Resort, Rocky Mountain House Daily Herald

Geographic location: La Ronge, Saskatchewan, Logan Lake Fairbanks, AK Whitehorse Christopher Lake Quesnel Iditarod Porcupine Plain Linden Red Deer Okotoks

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