Feb 10th – Leader injured and evacuated | Steve Gurney

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Feb 10th – Leader injured and evacuated

Brent Sass medical evacuation - Whitehorse StarBad news! Brent Sass has activated his SPOT rescue beacon.

Rumour is that he has fallen off and hit his head. Brent and Allan Moore were cat-n-mouse for the lead over the last 2 days, and they were less than a day from the finish of the race, so this is dramatic news!! (secretly we were hoping Brent would win, as Allan won last year, it’s Brent’s turn and he’s a friendly, approachable and intelligent guy)

Good to hear he’s alive and stable, but he’s been airlifted to hospital. Here’s a news paper report of what happened:

Just 12 miles from Braeburn -- the final checkpoint before the finish about 85 miles farther -- Sass "nodded off" and fell backward, hitting his head on the lake ice he was crossing. He soon realized he was "clearly not all there" and had symptoms of a concussion.

After getting up and straightening his team, Sass drove the dogs to a warmer spot off the lake and cooked food for them. During this time, it was difficult to think clearly, Sass said in his Facebook post.

His preparations to start running the dogs again were slow, and his confidence lagged once they were moving.

"I was worried I could get them hurt by keeping going, so I stopped again and did all I could for the dogs, collected wood for a fire and crawled into my sleeping bag to hunker down for a while," Sass said. "As I drifted in and out, I woke at one point to realize I had my arm and bare hand outside the sleeping bag and just laying on the frozen ground. I knew then that I could seriously harm myself and my dogs if I didn't get help."

Sass said he held a rescue beacon for an hour without pressing the alert button, questioning whether he should quit the race. It would not be safe to continue, he finally decided. He pressed the button, and Canadian rangers were soon there. Once they got to Braeburn, Sass was airlifted to Whitehorse, and a ranger stayed behind with his team of 13 dogs.

With the help of Quest competitor Hugh Neff, race official Scott Smith drove Sass' team into Braeburn.

"I can't thank those guys enough for what they did. It feels good to have a couple friends like them taking care of the team," Sass said on Facebook.

"Back here at the hotel in Whitehorse, Brent's body is sore, but his attitude is as good as you'd expect," wrote Horst, to whom Sass dictated his story.  "It's hard for him to fight the feeling that he let the team down, but as he said to me, 'At that point there were 14 of us in the team. If one of them can't go on, they ride in the sled, but when I can't, they don't get to load me up and carry me to the checkpoint. Someone has to drive the team.'"

Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2014/02/10/3318393/sass-says-he-nodded-off-hit-head.html#storylink=cpy

This is a pretty clear example of the team bond that is created between the musher and the dogs.

My stupid move of the day...

I was helping feed the dogs, and put a metal clip in my mouth so I didn’t lose it. It immediately froze stuck to my tongue and lips! Yeouch!!!!!!

Minus 47 Degrees!!

Sadly I have to head back to New Zealand before Curt has finished. (I have pre-booked work at the Coast to Coast race.) I got up at 6 am and walked to the outskirts of Dawson city to thumb a ride. I’d secretly hoped to be able to see the Northern lights, but they weren’t to show tonight.

Very quickly my body heat was whisked away and I felt extremely vulnerable! Fortunately the first vehicle that passed picked me up.

He was the bloke that makes the icebridge across the Yukon river, and nonchalantly pointed out that it was at that time great conditions for ice making at minus 47 Degrees Celsius!!!! 

We had driven across the icebridge several times each day to get to the musher’s camp. It was decidedly scary driving a vehicle over the ice-bridge, knowing there was a very deep, large and cold river running underneath. The very obvious cracks running through the ice didn’t help either!

The ice-bridge man was only going a couple of miles, and once again I was outside, vulnerable in the pitch-black chill, only this time there were no buildings for shelter!

As the chill ate through my Canada Goose jacket and three layers of fleece, I realised I was in serious risk if I didn’t do something about it quickly. I had three options:

  1. Get picked up by another car (but there were none)
  2. Start running
  3. Put on more layers under my jackets.

I went for #3, but had serious problems. First my fingers froze immediately when I took my gloves off. Second I lost a massive amount of heat stripping off my Canada Goose jacket to put on more layers. I was unsure if I’d ever recover from this as hypothermia was hovering! I had to start jogging and jumping to warm up. I headed further down the road hoping to find a building to shelter.

Fortunately another car finally came and I sucked up the warmth inside as we headed off to Whitehorse.

But what it dramatically highlighted to me was the intense seriousness of dog-sledding in these conditions! One simple mistake can mean a hypothermic death.

Curt and his dogs had fallen through the ice into a stream a few days ago in the race. He must have wondered whether he’d be able to beat hypothermia. His only option was to immediately stop, and build a fire to thaw and dry out.

In a blizzard or storm, death must hover dangerously close at these temperatures!