This will depend on snow conditions and temperatures. During the first few years hardly any athletes took along snow shoes. However, climate change has arrived in the Yukon, too. In past years "warmer" temperatures, fresh snow and more wind than normal have some times caused trail conditions which were better coped by with snow shoes. Our trail crew does travel back and forth with their snowmobiles a lot in order to pack the snow onto the trail but if weather conditions are bad they won’t be very fast. Then you may have bad trail conditions for many hours. Therefore, just check out the weather forecasts prior to the race. If you already have snow shoes take them along. Just in case.
One thing is for sure, you should take along as much water as you can. In the cold you dehydrate very quickly and melting snow takes a long time. Athletes often can’t be bothered to get out their stoves to get snow melted. They decide to go on without drinking. Depending on how long the distance to the next checkpoint is, this can cause serious trouble.
If you take a CamelBak you should carry it on top of your first layer of clothing and underneath any other layers you wear. The tube and the mouthpiece should be insulated. There actually are CamelBaks for winter sports but it is also possible to do the insulation DIY.
Then you should use one or two thermos cans. These are quite heavy but there is nothing like hot chocolate or tea when you are really cold. A very efficient way of transporting liquid is to take e.g. a coke in a plastic bottle and attach a heat pad to it. If you wrap this in some piece of clothing it will stay liquid for quite some time.
The extreme temperatures go down to minus 50 degrees Celsius and colder. Don't forget the wind chill, either. Minus 25 degrees and wind will make it extremely cold, too.
We have had athletes with serious frostbite and mild hypothermia. Never make the mistake of thinking it won’t happen to you. It can happen very quickly. Some things to keep in mind:
Also, please check out our section on Hypothermia & Frostbite.
Yes, all checkpoints will have hot water, tea and coffee. In some cases also hot chocolate. Upon leaving a checkpoint we will provide water for you. At the remote checkpoints it is good to let staff/volunteers know when you will need water and how much as water supply gets tight if everyone leaves at the same time and we don't know about it in advance.
Regarding food, there is one hot meal for every athlete and usually a dessert. It is important that you note that it is only one meal, i.e. you can have this meal when you arrive or before you leave but you can't have two meals. To complement the meals you get at checkpoints I recommend good and light weight freeze dehydrated expedition food. You only need to add hot water and within minutes you have a great meal. Also, keep in mind that you need extra food in case of an emergency and being stuck between checkpoint or if you get lost.
The trail is marked with Yukon Quest markers. These are wooden sticks with a fluorescent top. On some parts of the trail, e.g. the Dawson trail, there are also permanent markers which you can use for orientation. Thus it is difficult but not impossible to get lost. You will still need common sense at times, especially if snowmobiles have driven over sticks or new snow and wind are covering the markers.
People have gone to sleep next to the trail and gone the wrong way once they got up again. Dehydration and exhaustion are also likely to get you lost or in trouble, even if the trail is well marked. Remember that.
Under normal circumstances you will see our guides out on the trail at least once in 24 hours. Usually you will actually see them more often but in case of bad weather or evacuations they might be caught up and thus take a little longer to travel up and down the trail.
How should I plan my arrival and departure dates?
If you do not have prior cold weather experience do not forget to include the training course in your travelling schedule. It always takes place the two days before race start in Whitehorse. If you do attend the training course, it's a good idea to arrive at least one full day before. If you don't do the training course it still makes sense to fly in a couple of days early. That way you can acclimatise and do last minute shopping without too much stress. And most important of all you won't have to "freak out" if your luggage does not make it right away.
IMPORTANT: it always happens to some athletes that gear does not come on the flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse. The good news is, in all these year all gear has always made it in time for race start. It may be a good idea to pack some vital gear in your suitcase rather then a bulky luggage (i.e. with the pulk), if you do have a regular suitcase or duffle bag.
For departure don't plan your schedule too tight, either. Normally, from the respective finish lines we try to avoid driving back to Whitehorse with just one athlete in the car. So, for example, you arrive at the finish at 6 PM. If we know there are at least a couple more athletes arriving later on in the night, we may ask you to stay the night at the finish before the transfer leaves next day in the morning. Having said that, no athlete has ever had to miss a flight. And if we do know ahead of time that someone has got a very tight timing we make sure to prepare for it.
Last but not least, when you do plan you flight back, consider that you may be very exhausted. It is always recommendable to put your feet up in a hotel room for at least a day before you go back and have to sit in a plane for hours and hours.
Most communites now have internet access. However, they are not necessarily set up for WLAN. So, really during the race the only place where athletes have a good chance to use the internet is in Carmacks. However, internet can't be guaranteed there either since it may be used by kids from town, the organising team or other competitors.
Athletes who want to get a message or photo across to media who are following their progress can get in touch with me and we can find a way to send emails for you. Friends and family will be able to see your progress through SPOT, the results table and our news update.
You can sleep inside at Braeburn, Carmacks, McCabe Creek, Pelly Crossing, Pelly Farm and Scroggie Creek. This means at Rivendell Farm, Dog Grave Lake and Ken Lake you do need to sleep outside. That is if you want to sleep at these places. If you are a light sleeper it is sometimes better to rest before or after a checkpoint. Since at checkpoints there are often people coming and going, eating, sorting kit, etc. So, there is a certain noise level. Having said that, usually athletes are so tired it does not matter ...
It depends. I would say more than 90% of our participants prefer the combination of a sleeping bag with a bivvy bag. It's faster, weighs less and is less trouble in general. Of course it also protects less from the elements. Therefore, without a tent you need to make sure you pick a good spot for your rest, e.g. not in the middle of a river or lake.
I know that for normal expeditons in arctic regions tents are a must. But these expeditions normally have a totally different rhythm. They rest a lot longer in which case it does of course make sense to stay in a tent. Also, an expediton like often crosses landscapes that are very exposed.
I also often get asked if we provide a full GPS-track of the trail. The answer is „no“. Mainly this is due to the fact that the trail can change from one year to the next. And it even may change on short notice - due to overflow or other reasons. Athletes who are tired may make the mistake to follow their GPS rather than focussing on the trail ahead and the trail markers. If they do that, they can get into some very dangerous situations. It is still good to have a GPS, though. It can tell you at what speed you are traveling at. Which in turn will allow you to take a better guess as to when you reach a checkpoint, when to take a break, etc. Also, if you really do get lost, you can back-track with the GPS or find a way to a checkpoint (as we do have the co-ordinates for checkpoints). But please keep in mind that walking off a trail and cross-country to a checkpoint, certainly when it is still far away, should be your last resort. Don’t forget, if you do have a SPOT and even a good rest does not help you get back, you can push the help button.
We do give out maps of the trail but like the GPS these are for rough orientation only. Since the trail on the maps is based on a GPS-track that is not updated every year, the trail can be different. So, like I say every year: follow the trail markers and use common sense.