Latest New February 10,2017

Iditarod has made the official announcement they will restart in Fairbanks. The ITI will start in Knik on the Historic Iditarod Trail and for those continuing to Nome it will be on the Northern route following the trail first broken by Iron Dog. Those continuing to Nome from McGrath will get to meet back up with the Iditarod on the Yukon.
We have had a much more typical Alaskan winter this year and the low snow at Rainy Pass and bad ice in the Gorge is the exception. Barring a major weather change before race time getting a machine through Rainy Pass due to low snow on top and bad ice in the Gorge is not possible. The broken trail will most likely be from Puntilla up the Ptarmigan valley dropping into Hell’s Gate on the South Fork of the Kuskokwim and down river to Rohn. It is roughly 35 miles further than over Rainy Pass. I was told one of our skookum racers could probably get through the Pass and Gorge. Here’s the deal: You can’t get a machine as far as Pass Lake and you can’t get a machine past the first crossing on the Dalzel from the Tatina so in between should you decide to take the Pass you are on your own with self rescue probably your only option. Last time we went through Hell’s Gate two racers went over the Pass. One was rescued. So the choice will be yours. Ptarmigan Valley tends to be very grown up, with in places head high willows and alders which will only be mashed down somewhat by Iron Dog machines then by our machines on our way to Rohn. Bikers watch out you don’t tear off your dangly parts. Broke my little finger last time I rode a machine through there. Might be easier to carry bikes and sleds or not. Its pretty committed because going against the grain of the smashed down bushes would be no fun at all should you decide to go back. The Pass is hardly recognizable (I have never seen it and been there twice on nice days in the daylight) then you climb over a little hill on valley right on a single track trail which shortly drops you out on the river at Hell’s Gate. Its stunning scenery but pay attention and pick a safe route downriver using established trails and sand bars where possible. If a distinct main trail is evident stay on it unless it disappears into a hole. Just before the confluence with the Tatina a trail leaves on river right which will take you to the cabin. If you miss it you will soon hit the Trail out of Rohn and turn right to Rohn Roadhouse where you will find our tent camp. Miss this one and you either end up at the headwaters of the Tatina or eventually Nikolai by way of the Kuskokwim (Been tried don’t do it). Keep in mind navigation and safe route finding can be critical even if it only snows an inch after the last person goes through so be aware of your surroundings and travel safe. For those thinking of using an Iron Dog gps track for the South Fork remember what they cross at 80 mph can fall out from under you walking or riding. Use your senses not just technology!!!!
I am excited to finally have what’s shaping up to be in the words of Aussilla Vistarini in 2012, “A Real Alaskan Race!!!!!!!!!” See you all really soon somewhere on the Iditarod Trail. I’ll always have hot coffee or a sip of an adult beverage should you prefer.
Bill Merchant
Race Marshal

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