A long time ago, the board of directors of the Yukon Quest in the Yukon Territories and Alaska agreed to hold biannual mid distance sled dog races along the 1000 mile Yukon Quest trail. The idea came quite naturally:
The 1000 mile trail was already broken and marked ahead of the YQ1000 race day. Checkpoints along the route were already established, manned by professional volunteers, prepared by villages and their residents to welcome any sled dog team willing to take on the YQ trail.
All this was plenty of reason to give mid distance mushers and their teams a chance to experience part of the mail trail on both sides of the border. After a few discussions, the YQ300 was born. In just a few years, the YQ300 (formerly the YQ 250) quickly became a qualifier for the ‘big’ Quest as well as the the Iditarod. Shortly afterwards these biannual races also became qualifier for major long distance races in Europe.
The YQ300 trail in Canada’s Yukon Territory holds far different challenges than the alaskan trail of the Race.
"One cannot compare apples to oranges”, was once the answer of the now famous musher Rick Mackey in 1996, when asked about the challenges of the Quest and the Iditarod.
The same holds true for the YQ300 on both sides of our common border.
When mushers mention the fact that they ran the YQ300, knowledgable people inevitably have to ask: “Which trail ? Alaska or Canada?”
To avoid any future confusion between the two biannual races, the alaskan board of directors decided to give the YQ trail between Fairbanks and Circle a name, which will be added to the ‘YQ300’ brand.
From now on, the alaskan YQ300 will be known as ‘The Summit Quest”.'
There are good reasons for choosing this name.
The trail between Fairbanks, Two Rivers, Mile101, Central and Circle and then according to the new rules also back to the gold rush town of Central, will feature two of the highest peaks of the 1000 mile YQ trail. Only Solomon’s Dome outside of Dawson City stands higher than Eagle and Rosebud by roughly 300 feet (90 meters). Yet Solomon’s Dome challenges teams with far gentler inclines and decents.
Win or loose, Rosebud and especially Eagle Summit have often decided the winners of YQ1000 Mile Races. Naming Alaska's YQ300 ’The Summit Quest' seems appropriate and will finally end any confusion in terms of which trail who’s sled dogs have mastered.
Rules of the 'Summit Quest’ :
As per the new rules for the 'Summit Quest’ available online at http://www.angelfire.com/de/kanualaska/2021-YQ300_Summit_Quest_Rules.pdf , a 6 hour mandatory rest will have to be taken in Central on the way to Circle City, where the Race will turn back to the finish line in Central. While past YQ300 races went past Circle City to include the ice of the Yukon River, it was decided that a finish in Central would be the best choice considering amenities and trail.
A team of experienced YQ veterinarians will check dogs in every (!) checkpoint of the race when ever possible and all dogs will be thoroughly examined during the mandatory 6 hour layover in Central on their way to Circle City. At the time of examination, mushers will have to be present at their team’s rest spot for the duration of all examinations.
This might cut down on a musher's sleep time, but it is a valid and necessary requirement put into the rules by our highly experienced veterinarians, who have had input in every aspect of the new rules for Alaska's 2021 Summit Quest.
Considering the challenges for sled dogs along the 2021 trail of the ’Summit Quest’, the rules committee in agreement with the alaskan board of Directors has also decided on a minimum of 22 hours of mandatory rest time in checkpoints for all participating sled dog teams before they reach the finish line. If a team has not had 22 hours rest time in checkpoints along the trail, the remaining rest time not taken along the trail will be added to their race time at the finish line before a winner will be declared in Central.
Further important but rather smaller rule changes include the fact that handlers/ mushers will have to supply their own straw for resting areas at checkpoints (exception is Mile 101) and mushers will have to carry or provide their own fuel in drop bags at checkpoints for melting snow.
We hope to see strong teams line up on February 13th at 11 am for ’the Summit Quest’ and also hope for good weather across the summits and healthy dogs all the way to the finish line.
Granted, …. the Summit Quest won’t be the easiest trail to mush, but Alaska’s YQ volunteers and checkpoints will do their best to keep the traditions and hospitality of the old mail trail alive.
Bring your dogs. We’ll break the trail !
Yukon Quest International, Alaska
Board of Directors
(Photo copyright Carsten Thies/ Musher scaling Eagle Summit)