Third report from the Andy and Al- 11/3/2002
Crossing sea ice near Unalakleet.
Received this today (11/3/2002). Spoke to Andrew on Friday
evening - he & Alan were very tired and hungry after missing their
drop bags, but otherwise ok. Andrew
has to continue on the borrowed bike and has been trying to make some
adjustments to make it more comfortable to ride - the previous owner
considerably shorter than 6 ft 4in! By all accounts, Alan is doing extremely
well - no injuries (touch wood) and riding strong.
Roberto, the 6'6" Italian ski champion, swallowed two platefuls
spaghetti before he even spoke.
"Andy," he said "I was so hungry I wanted to eat TREES!"
I knew exactly what he meant. After leaving McGrath at the 360-mile
point of the race to Nome, we'd faced a 222-mile stage to join the Yukon
River at Ruby. At about the half-way point - Cripple Landing - a drop
bag had been sent by specially chartered ski plane a week earlier. Each
competitor had paid $50 towards the charter fee, knowing that the stash
of food and stove fuel would prove vital.
So off we trundled into the wilderness - happily bivvying out (well,
fairly happily) at -42C the first night, knowing a big dump of food
was just around the next corner. At 4am we set off for Cripple, steadily
climbing all day until dusk. A passing snowmachiner assured us the checkpoint
was "just over the next hill." At 3am, we were still looking.
By 4am, as the mercury dipped below -40C again, we gave up
By dawn, we were facing a 112-mile slog to Ruby fuelled by a half-full
bag of peanuts and raisins - about a twentieth of what we'd actually
need. As Roberto later confirmed, we weren't alone.
Another 22-hour day and brief nap in an abandoned cabin saw finally
saw us into Ruby, where an Athabascan elder took pity on us and doled
out spaghetti by the gallon.
We slept for a couple of hours, then left at 1am, completing the 110
miles to Nulato by 7pm, where the leader in the Iditarod dog-sled race,
Martin Buser, finally caught us. Another long day brought the Yukon
to an end, followed by the 90-mile Kaltag Portage, which we started
at 6pm last night and finally completed at 11pm tonight. A wild night
on the summit involved white-out conditions and hauling the bikes out
of the air as they blew sideways.
Down at the coast now in Unalakleet, where the wind's still howling
and we're facing 250 miles of sea ice and coastal 'breezes' before getting
into Nome. Hopefully the borrowed bike will hold up - had a few problems
with punctures and tyre walls, neither of which are good news when the
temperature's low enough to stick bare flesh to metal...