Iditarod Leaders Leave Rainy Pass

Photo by Patrick Yack, APRN - Anchorage: Hugh Neff at the ceremonial start of the Iditarod on Saturday.

Hugh Neff is leading the Iditarod. The winner of this year’s Yukon Quest left Rainy Pass at 2:58 this afternoon. Ray Redington, Jr. left the checkpoint at 3:09, followed closely by Aaron Burmeister and Lance Mackey.

Farther back in the race, Anna Berington and her twin sister Kristy set up camp together at the Finger Lake check point this morning just as a snow storm rolled in. The snow and fog had already socked in Rainy Pass.

Anna Berington is running her first race and she says so far so good, but it’s not quite the wilderness experience that she expected.

“It’s hard to get away from anybody this early in the game. You always turn around and there’s somebody behind you.”

Her team is already down one dog.

“I had to drop one of my youngest dogs in Skwentna.  We camped like 10 miles outside of Skwentna. Just as I stopped at the camping spot something didn’t seem right with his shoulder, so I rubbed him down with a liniment and I put a shoulder coat on, kind of a therapeutic thing to help heal him. He looked pretty good leaving the checkpoint but the last few miles into Skwentna I just didn’t like it, so I left him. He’s a yearling so he has plenty of time to get an Iditarod into him.”

Her twin sister, Kristy, discovered a new lead dog.

“I think I got a new lead dog up there, Greystone. She kinda surprised me. I stuck her up there for ha-has and she did pretty good, so I might keep her up there.”

The twins stayed at Finger Lake until about 4 pm and will have go over the infamous Happy River Steps before reaching Rainy Pass. Ray Redington, Jr. hauled over the Steps this morning and was the first into Rainy Pass.

Kristy Berington ran the race twice before and thinks she and her team are ready for the steep, often dangerous challenge.

“Oh yeah, a lot of snow is good. By the time we get to it’ll be like a deep trough that we’ll be in, it’s almost like a luge. It’s obviously nicer for the guys going down first because they won’t have to be inside the trough, but yeah, it’ll be fun.”

Mushers who have already been through the Happy River Steps have reported good conditions.

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Anne Hillman is the healthy communities editor at Alaska Public Media and a host of Hometown, Alaska. Reach her at Read more about Anne here.

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