Day Three, all about tomorrow...training
Trip Start Nov 14, 2009
13Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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That may sound cold , but in fact it is really too warm, at about these temps the snow gets soft and clingy, so when it sits on your clothing it can melt and chill you. Up here one does not wear waterproof clothing and one even avoida "breathable" fabrics if poss, this is because one wants to avoid any vapour from sweat condensing inside an outer layer. The problem is that it freezes and then chills you and of course encourages further icing....a bit of a downward spiral.
So we wear windproof fabrics like Pertex but not even Gortex works up here. If sleet and rain occur ,then only at that point would you put a waterproof layer over the top of everything...and get it back off soonest.
I tell you, my dearest reader all this to add a little sensibility to the proceedings and to draw you into the experience back there in Reality Land.
In fact the air up here is so dry that you dehydrate quicker than in the desert and every breath you take in steals vapour from the lungs.....not a lot of people know that.
Anyway, another issue with snow and temperature is that if soft warm snow, ( not yellow snow ) falls on a hard compressed snow surface, it doesn't readily freeze to it and behaves like water,
In Short, it is bloody slippery and the sleds become wildly skiddy and unpredictable...Great!!
Today, for me is Monday and it is evening, on Tuesday and Wednesday we are doing an overnight journey of 90 miles and staying in the middle of nowhere in a trappers shelter. We are going to run along a road that was built during the 2nd World War by the army to improve access to some remote mines, the products of which were needed for the war effort. The result today is a "miners track" that 4WD can negotiate in the Summer but is closed in the Winter, we are told it is relatively wide, about15 feet but with very steep and long uphills and downhills. It is above the treeline and very exposed though the veiws are fantastic.
So....Hans wanted todays focus to be on uphill and downhill control. He then added that the steep inclines will mean that we will get 2 more dogs per sled, so 8 racing Alaskans each. If you studied previuos blogs you will recall that this is perfect for uphill, but problematic downhill. Control is easily lost downhill, and breakfast and lunch can so easily escape as well. in these situations. Given this, today was about sled and bowel control.
Reading yesterdays missive, i missed some points out, such as Jeff and I hitting trees regularly and at speed, mostly glancing blows, but un-nerving none the less. Indeed I came down one run and let the dogs get away a little and ploughed squarely over a 4 inchsapling at about 15mph. It all ghappened so fast, I saw it coming, tried tosteer to avoid, but couldn;t bring enough weight to bear and as I said, just ploughed straight over it.
If it had been 8 inches wide I would havewrecked the sled and definitely injured myself to a greater or lesser degree. Jeff came flying round a corner, went up on one runner, threw himself hard onto the up air side and brought it to earth, but then skidded into the bend having over steeredas a consequence of his bid for stability. All this had been watched by Hands and advice given, but today was all about practise.
Yesterday I hit 2 tree stumps about a foot high each, and came off the sled, these stumps were just off the trail by 4 inches and there were many trees within feet of them. I felt lucky that when I fell off and the sled capsized \i did not hed butt one.
The problem was that I would lean hard away from the stump once I saw it, thereby lifting a runner off the snow, this places all the weight on the runner that is away from the stump and forces the sled to turn in the direction of the heavier runner. This is the standard method of steering....however, if that doesn't bring the sled round intime, you then hit the stump which lifts the light runner even firther in the air....and over we go.
I am now taught to look 2 or 3 problems ahead and to line up far sooner, ( easier said than done) Also the skill is to see potential acceleration coming, ie downhill or slippery corner or excited dogs..and brake in anticipation.
Today this worked for me, the downhill sapling run was negotuated without incident, bvut much tension. and the first stump was seen ahead of time and I steered well out of its way before turning sharply round it. Good Stuff!!!
Jeff likewise, flew round a few corners like Billy Whizz and did some spectacular fish tailing but stayed upright. One corner he did jump off to keep the sled upright, but ran alongside it for a few feet and then jumped back on....So professional. If he had afew more tattoos I would quite fancy him.
We went uphill and down and stayed hard on the brakes and actually surprised ourselves at the results...we will both be able to wear the same underpants tomorrow, barely soiled!!
Tomorrow will be run in the manner of an endurance race, but at less speed as these races normally have 16 dogs per sled. I just cannot comprehend the powwer and skill involved, but something to look foreward to is that as the dogs food is being boiled up, our little food parcels will be dropped into the boiling broth of meat and "kibble" and fish bits. Then once our sachets are hot, we will cut off one corner and squeeze the contents into our mouths....no weight of cutlery or crockery is carried or tolerated and of course no washing up....so I suppose every cloud does indeed have a silver lining, and hey! can a little fish guts do any harm? we will see!!
Colette has decided to have these two days off, which is a shame, but entirely within reason.
It is expected that other long distance drivers will arrive at all and any hourts to stop over for a few hours at the shelter before taking off again. Hans thought this would upset us, but we think it will be quite an eaxperience. The howling and barking when teams meet is fantastic, and big hairy men stomping into our little shelter all ruffty tuffty has quite filled me with with glee.....if only they have tattoos...
They run the dogs at night for a number of reasons but one is that the temperaure is cooler. The dogs prefer minus 20c. Also these drivers will all compete in the two big races, the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, both 1,000miles long, and they don't like other competitore to see the speed and schedule of run/rest that they are using, so this nocternal habit is all pre race tactics.
We see it as an exceptional opportunity to see this sport at it highest level and also a great way to freeze our nuts off.
More upon our return.
Jeff says kissy kissy to Jazzy Wazzy...I say night night XXX The Yukon Kid