The Trip over Eagle Summitfrom Roland Waldispühl
Roland mushed the Quest 300 and finished in second place.
I knew that it could potentially blow pretty hard on Eagle Summit.When I got to the dogdrop Mile 101 around 11 p.m. it was snowing a lot and pretty windy. I took my chance and continued towards Eagle Summit.
The biggest problem was, that I had a hard time seeing, as the snow would reflect in my headlamp. I just could make out the trail markers, and often I had to continue without seeing the next one. It changed to the worst on the last part of the Summit climb, there the storm was howling. It came from the left side and I had to turn my head, like one musher said, it was like getting sandblasted. We could see for 15 to 25 feet, that was it, no chance to see the next marker and the dogs would drift to the right side automatically.
Somebody asked me later on, why I did not turn around. That was practically impossible, as the dogs would have to be turned into the wind,which was impossible. Within seconds I could not see the tracks behind me and lost my Orientation completely. I thought it would be stupid to try and find my way and get lost even further and started to hunker down and wait for daylight. On a somewhat level spot I achored down the sled. I used all 3 snowhooks to keep it from blowing away, putting the sled sideways to the wind. I unhooked all the dogs tuglines and they all cureld up behind the sled out of the wind. The storm had such a force, that I could not stand up without being blown over.
The next 2 hours I spend to cut blocks of snow with my axe from the hard windpacked snow, to build a half circle snow wall to get more protection from the wind. Behind that I put down my sleeping bag. I had to be really careful it would not blow away. Within a short time my team and me were covered in a snwodrift.
After about 8 hrs on the mountain it would get light and I could see for about 100 feet. As I wanted to get out of the storm as soon as possible, down to treeline. As I was on a steep slope, I had to drag the sled sideways with the team beside it, foot by foot I yanked the sled down. After a lot of sweat and even sliding a bit in a small avalanche, not a nice feeling, I made it down into a valley. But where, I had no idea. All I wanted is to return to Mile 101 to scratch. The snow was hip deep and for the first time in my mushing career I needed my snowshoes. After about another hour I by accident came upon a snowmachiner who was stuck in the snow. When I asked him for the trail to 101 he gave me a funny look and told me that he came from the Central side and was looking for a lost team.
So after all I must have made it over the summit in the dark, and made it down , but for sure not on the right trail. Great, I was back in the race. I could continue on his broken out trail for about 1 hour and after that it was blown in again. After a lot of overflow on a creek and many snow drifts later I made it to Central about 1 p.m. Here I was surprised to hear that 6 mushers were missing, which left Mile 101 many hours ahead of me. I also could experience much of the now following rescue mission, some of it even on TV. The weather cleared up quickly and in the evening the sun was even shining.
From Central to Circle I had a great trail. There you can see how the trail can change in a hurry, as I can read in other race reports, that the mushers had to fight their way through deep snow on Birch Creek the night before. I like to finish with thanking my dogs. It is amazing to see what they can do. Even after a tough situation like this one, the dogs continue like nothing had happened.
Many thanks to my lead dogs Eagle, Circle, Spook, and Mickey, without them I would have never made it.