10 years of mush: Lots of howling as landmark Trappers Trail race is the largest ever

youngmusherfinish

It’s come a long way from the small cluster of amateur dog lovers doing something of an anything-goes race ten years ago, but one thing remains consistent: the world’s northernmost dogsledding race attracts an amazing eclectic mix of participants far more into the revelry than the rivalry.

For instance: How does 640 feet equal 2,000 kilometers? That’d be the 160 dogs covering 70 kilometers (80 in a few cases for racers in an competitive “open” class) in the largest-ever event Saturday and Sunday. If the math seems barking mad, imagine being asleep when the first of all those hounds started barking at roughly 6 a.m. the day after a long day of mushing and merrymaking.

Which is why, on its 10th birthday, the record 28 teams participanting in the Trappers Trail dogledding race last weekend didn’t have miuch ferver about their finishing times, but had lots to say about being buzzed by the scenary, the weather, their dogs and their companions while on the course.

“I wanted to do this before my dogs got too old,” said Arthur Kvammen, a Ny-Ålesund resident, who with Verena Mohaupt mushed a three-dog team called Team Verthur´s Circus in his first-ever dogsledding race.

Sharing the icy trail with him were pros such as Tommy Jordbrudal who’ve participated in many here as well as major races aboard. And first-timer Emil Johnsen, 7, the race’s youngest-ever participant who was accompanied by his parents, and had a simple but effective strategy.

“I will drive fast,” he told Svalbardposten.

Miriam Marquardt, who has participated in five races since 2013, said her favorite part of the weekend was “singing stupid songs” while mushing her 10-dog team. As for what she knows now that she didn’t during her first race with five dogs, “in terms of being reliable, they’re much more reliable than snowscooters.”

Then, of course, there was the overnight stop  at Semmelbu, which due to poor conditions at the traditional stop of Kapp Linné one of those impromptu adjustments necessary on short notice. The combination of lots of racers, volunteers, food, beer and dogs is for many the best part of the weekend – even with all the howling.

“It’s the best noise,” said Daniels Karin Amby. “Trappers Trail is the best tent night of the year because of the all the dogs. Lots of alarms.”

The dogs tend to quiet down during the night, but Amby said it might not made much difference.

“I slept good because it took me nine hours to get there with one dog,” she said, noting she had a two-dog team during her first race. “Niether I nor the dog was trained a lot.”

As usual, the final steep summit just before reaching the finish line at the south end of Longyearbyen was described by most participants as the most difficult part of the race. Mohaupt also noted her “circus” team had one dog eager to cross the finish line, one scared of it and a third getting pulled from both sides. But like most mushers, the couple was more exhiliated than exhauted (the dogs asleep in their car, not so much).

What would they do different for an encore?

“If we were competing, younger dogs maybe,” Kvammen said.

Another notable element of the 10th annual race is the sponsor fees and donations, totalling 58,819 kroner, given to the HOPE project, a non-profit charity organization that is working to create a better and sustainable future for youth in Gweru, Zimbabw.

Oh, by the way, the winners were:

Ski & sled division, 70km: Harvey Goodwin – Team Skulsfjord Ultra 5.04.18; five-dog team, 70km: 5-span, 70 km; Anja Wied and Petr Elster – Arctic Husky Travelers 4.02.28; eight-dog team: Irene Welle – Team Rusk & Rask 4.20.06; open class, 80km: Stefan Claes and Ingvild S. Vatn – Team Parafin 4.14.06.

• ?????: Cans of beer consumed: Let’s not go there.

To illustrate the race’s quirkyness, here’s a bit more fun with numbers:

• 1: Smallest dog “team.”

• 11: Number of racing teams in first race.

• 42: Number of mushers this year.

• 160: Number of dogs in the race.

The winners were:

Ski & sled division, 70km: Harvey Goodwin – Team Skulsfjord Ultra 5.04.18; five-dog team, 70km: 5-span, 70 km; Anja Wied and Petr Elster – Arctic Husky Travelers 4.02.28; eight-dog team: Irene Welle – Team Rusk & Rask 4.20.06; open class, 80km: Stefan Claes and Ingvild S. Vatn – Team Parafin 4.14.06.

Leave a Reply