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Frostbitten hands, chilled feet from Iditarod cold snap test mushers’ resolve



  • Author:

  • Updated: 2 hours ago

  • Published 17 hours ago

TANANA — When Iditarod musher Joe Carson peeled off his gloves, pieces of his frozen skin stuck to the fabric.

He held out his right hand outside at the checkpoint here early Wednesday morning. Temperatures hovered around 30 degrees below zero. His dogs slept on top of straw and underneath red-and-green fleece blankets. A layer of frost coated his hat, neck warmer and sled. Two of his fingers were missing slices of skin, revealing red, raw sores underneath.

“The skin is frozen inside of that glove. It froze there,” said the fourth-generation Alaskan who lives in McGrath and who pulled into Tanana at 6:46 a.m. Wednesday.

Overnight, temperatures remained far below zero in town and were lower along the trail.

55 below

While traveling on the Tanana River, Carson said his thermometer read 55 below. He kept water bottles tucked inside of his insulated coveralls to keep them from freezing and to stay hydrated. He kept his sled dog team in jackets and fed them fat along the trail — chicken fat, beaver fat, beef fat and tripe.

“We were going to camp, but it was just too cold,” said Carson, a 60-year-old Iditarod rookie. “I’ve got my thermometer on my sled and I’m looking at it going, ‘Oh, baby.’ “

While the front-runners raced out of Tanana before dawn Wednesday, Carson and more than a dozen other mushers remained in town by late morning. They fed their sled dogs in a snowy lot next to the community hall, periodically going inside to eat, warm up or try to nap.

To get to the community of about 240 at the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon rivers, all of the teams had to push through the deep chill and a thick ice fog, just as Carson did.



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