Food issues at Eagle Island could influence mushers' strategy
The Iditarod is about adapting. For a second-straight year, there's a snag at the Eagle Island checkpoint.
Food drops have not been made due to weather. The bags cannot be left there out of concern that other animals will get to them. The checkpoint does have straw and camp stove fuel.
At Anvik, defending champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom found out.
When arriving at Anvik, Jessie Royer was surprised with the news, too.
"Oh, I just asked in Shageluk and they told me they did," she said.
Race officials plan to bring the bags 60 miles from Kaltag by snowmachine. But food being in Eagle Island isn't a guarantee.
Mushers leaving Anvik will get the update when they arrive at the next checkpoint — Grayling, 18 miles away.
So what does it mean for the race?
"There is the potential that the mushers will have to carry food from Grayling just like last year," said race judge Judy Currier.
Currier herself is a former Iditarod competitor, mushing in six of them. Typically, Currier says Eagle Island is the most difficult checkpoint to move people and food. The race judge is hopeful the food would finally get in this afternoon.
"Oh, it will change their plan a bit. Jessie [Royer] already had in mind that she's going to eight-hour [break] in Grayling and I don't think it will impact her too much," Currier said. "It might impact Nic [Petit] because he wasn't aware of it when left here. Joar [Leifseth Ulsom] kind of smiled when I told him."
As of Friday at 1:25 p.m., official race standings showed Petit in to Grayling at 11:48 a.m. with 12 dogs and resting. Ulsom and Royer had yet to arrive, but GPS tracking placed them both within six miles of the checkpoint.
Currier says it's all about making sure there's a level playing field.
"There'll be some impact, but as long as [the impact is] the same for everybody," she said.
Just before 10 p.m. Friday, Currier said that the bags for the top 35 teams had been delivered to the checkpoint by Iditarod trail breakers on snowmachines. Good timing as Ulsom, Petit and Peter Kaiser navigate the 62 miles from Grayling to Eagle Island overnight.
Editor's note: This story includes updated information about the bags being delivered.
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