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 was
considerably shorter than 6 ft 4in! By all accounts, Alan is doing extremely well - no injuries (touch wood) and riding strong.
Amanda Heading

Roberto, the 6'6" Italian ski champion, swallowed two platefuls of
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
and bivvied.

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...