Thursday, 12 March 2009


The 350 mile Iditarod human powered race has finished in McGrath with a hardy few continuing on to Nome a further 750 miles! The competitors stories of their arduous toil and survival are amazing. An ability to endure one of the planets most inhospitable environments is testament to their survival skills and knowledge. Would you know what to do if you fell through the ice of a remote lake or river? I'm not sure I would. Yair Kellner and Jill Homer did just that. Luckily they're both OK. Jeff Oatley won the race with a superhuman effort pushing with the other leaders over Rainy Pass in waist deep snow. It took two and a half days longer than the record in a good year indicating how bad the conditions were. Lead Briton at one stage was James Leavesley in a respectable 4th place, but a detour cost him his place so first Brit across the line in McGrath was John 'Shaggy' Ross in an impressive 4th place. Aidan Harding another Brit also finished well in 13th. Englishman Howard Cook completed the 350 miles on foot in 22nd place after walking for over 9 days. Bill Dent (bike) and Steve Evans (foot) scratched around halfway. To get an idea why even getting to the first checkpoint is creditable watch this video by race director Bill Merchant.

I was trying to work out why I'm drawn to following the ITI. Partly by the accessibility of the reports, the detail of events happening in real time and the variety of writing and images available from the people involved - devoid of corporate spin and sensational media reporting. But also, somewhere in my psyche, I like that sort of adventure. It probably stems from memories of some of the milder adventures I've had. Bill Merchant summed it up when he talked of the stories that are memorable. The blue sky days are OK but it will be those extreme moments that always be recalled and be talked about. I remember toiling up Cairngorm in a blizzard one year whilst camping and skiing up in Scotland one February when it was about -12C out of the wind. And we still talk about getting stuck on Saulire when skiing in Courcheval in a white-out and not knowing whether we were facing down or up the slope. Even walking on local fells in bad conditions has produced memorable moments. Ice and snow change everything and because it's different it produces challenging new adventures.

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