Iditarod mushers reach Rainy Pass, prepare for climb
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Twenty-two mushers had reached the Rainy Pass checkpoint by mid-afternoon Monday after the first day of racing in the 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
They were led by a rookie, Jessie Holmes of Nenana, who paused at the checkpoint for just 16 minutes before continuing up the pass with 16 dogs.
Sixty-seven teams departed Sunday on the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) race from Willow, Alaska, to Nome on the state’s west coast.
The trail winds over frozen lakes and rivers, through mountain passes and over trails once used for delivery of mail and supplies to mining communities.
The Rainy Pass checkpoint is 142 miles (228 kilometers) from the starting line. From the checkpoint, mushers and their teams begin a 48-mile (77-kilometer) leg to Rohn.
From the checkpoint, teams climb from an elevation of about 1,800 feet (550 meters) to the highest point of the pass at an elevation of 3,160 feet (965 meter) over gradual, mostly barren terrain. A sharp descent follows along a creek and a river.
By mid-afternoon, three other Alaska mushers had departed the Rainy Pass checkpoint, including Richie Diehl of Aniak, Wade Marrs of Willow and Ryan Redington of Wasilla.
Reigning champion Mitch Seavey was among mushers resting at the checkpoint.
The winner is expected to reach Nome about nine days after the start.
Zoya DeNure of Delta Junction, Alaska, became the first musher to scratch. She reached the Skwentna checkpoint 72 miles (116 kilometers) from the starting line shortly before 8 a.m. Monday but pulled out of the race, citing personal health reasons. DeNure has entered the Iditarod eight times and finished twice.