Yukon Quest: How you play the game…

February 15, 2011

Daily Post, Mushing Radio

This years Yukon Quest sled dog race has shaped up to define what long distance mushing is all about. No, it is not about the glory of winning the toughest dog sled race in the world (at least in my opinion). It is about helping out a fellow musher in need.

That is what mushing is all about.

It is about the sportsmanship, heroism, and the camaraderie that can be found on the trail. Sure people want to win, especially when there is a sizable purse involved but first we are human.

And that means when someone is in need we put our own agenda to the side and help them out.

Hugh Neff

This year’s Yukon Quest–1,000 miles from Whitehorse, YT to Fairbanks, AK–appeared to be in the bag when veteran musher Hugh Neff had an eight hour lead heading into a tough part of the trail, known as the Summit on the American side of the race.

But things started going downhill fast. First defending champion Hans Gatt, had to be rescued by Sebastian Schnuelle when Gatt fell through chest deep overflow. Gatt was covered in ice up to is arm pits when Schnuelle arrived and helped Gatt retrieve his sled from the water and hooked up his team behind Sab’s.

“Sebastian made a fire, took off Hans’ soaked boots and jerry-rigged new boots for him out of dog blankets with burlap bags over top, tied down by neck lines and tug lines,” according to a race report. “The dogs dried by rolling in the snow. After about an hour beside the fire, they continued into Central.”

Shortly after, Gatt scratched.

On Monday, the leader of the race, Neff faced problems of his own. He attempted to climb up the 3,683-foot Eagle Summit and some reports say that his dogs just quit. That happens in dog sled racing. For better or worse, when the dogs are done there is little you can do to mush on. I knew it had to be bad to the point that Hugh would summon help.

As I read through the frantic posts of Facebook from my musher friends all of us said the same thing. We have a bad feeling about this and we all sent out prayers and well wishes to one of the nations most popular mushers.

Dan Kaduce

Several mushers including Ken Anderson–who tried to lead Neff’s team over the summitt by hand, but his dogs turned around the other way–came to the aid of Hugh. One act of heroism will never be forgotten in the annals of this race, however.

Sebastian Schnuelle

Veteran musher, Dan Kaduce came upon Neff and saw that he was hunkered down. Kaduce mushed to the highway, flagged down a truck and hitched a ride back to the checkpoint at Central to get help.

Upon arriving at the Central checkpoint a crew on snow machines were sent out to assist Neff.

Neither Neff or Kaduce are expected to continue the race.

The original field of 25 mushers is down to just 16. What a testament to the conditions on the trail.

While the winner will pull into Fairbanks later this week and the race will become the stuff of legend, many will never forget the Quest of 2011.

Hans Gatt

It is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game,

and in this case the game was played and won by those who came to the aid of their fellow mushers. No prize money in the world is better than a helping hand.

February 15, 2011, 8:54 AM

Citations: ADN.com, Google Images, Flickr, Yukonquest.com

Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Works Radio | Denver Dog Works | Daily Post


Robert Forto is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and Dog Works Radio Shows

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About robertforto

Robert Forto is the owner of Dog Works Training Company in Alaska, a canine behaviorist, mushin' down a dream, sports nut and radio show host. Robert writes a lot about his observations in Alaska, pop culture, music, and of course dogs!

View all posts by robertforto

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2 Comments on “Yukon Quest: How you play the game…”

  1. Betty Porter Says:

    Everyone in Minn is so proud of Dan…too bad the prize money will not be there for him but helping others is something to be proud of and money cannot replace. I can only hope to see
    Dan next year at the Quest



  1. Yukon Quest: Human drama of athletic competition « - February 16, 2011

    […] race was about heroes. Many of the mushers did what had to be done to save their brothers on this race that very few […]

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