Quest Race Report
Right from the start of the 2014 Hudson Bay Quest (HBQ) the gauntlet was thrown down. Ryan Anderson from Ray, Minnesota returning for his second try at completing the race. Anderson had withdrawn the previous year at the mid-way point. When he got home from Churchill he hung his bib in his kennel where is had to pass it every day to remind himself of what had happened. This year Ryan chose Bib #1 with the determination of if you want to beat me, you will have to pass me.
On March 13, 2014, 15 mushers left the starting line in 3 minute intervals from Churchill, Manitoba heading 220 miles to Gilliam. At the starting line was over 200 village elders, school children and residents to wish the musher well on their trying winter endeavour. As team left town and disappeared on to the mighty Churchill River mushing enthusiast moved in front of their computers to follow the teams by GPS tracking system.
The first run for the mushers was across arctic tundra and river systems to the checkpoint of Lamprey. The trails were fast and with the temperature running around -20C during the days the dogs were moving swiftly along the trail. At Lamprey most team stopped for a couple of hours to rest their teams. Ernest Azure from Churchill, Manitoba decided to continue on and push further down the trail towards the mid-way point. As the team finished their rest they hit the second stretch of trail and found out some of the obstacles that make the HBQ one of the toughest races in dog sledding. Not far outside of Lamprey teams ran into overflows. Teams made it through but came out the other side with boots full of water and frosted up dogs and sleds.
This took a little of the competitiveness out of the racers and brought them to the realization that this is not only a sled dog race, but also a survival race. Teams continued south and Ernest Azure of Churchill, Manitoba was the first team into McLintock the mid-way point at 8:40 pm on March 13th. Within the next 4 hours all 15 mushers reached the mandatory 6 hour layover at McLintock. At the layover teams were checked by HBQ veterinarian staff, teams were fed and everyone tried to dry out and catch some sleep.
With the time differential worked out mushers started to rise around 2 am on March 14th to prepare for the last 110 miles of the race. First to check out was Ernest Azure at 3:30 am with Ryan Anderson checking out at 4:12. The rest of the mushers prepared their team for departure. Over the next 3 hours all mushers prepared to checkout, with 6 mushers all checkout within 1 hour of each other at one point.
Teams moved down the trail, to Owl River checkpoint where strategies came into play with some mushers camping out at the checkpoint, while others pushing through and camping just down the trail to keep an eye on everyone.
As the sun was setting and a full moon rising, spectators waiting for the first musher looked out a cross the finishing lake for a headlamp. Finally around 7:30 pm a light was seen across the lake. Who would it be?
At 2005 hours Ryan Anderson redeemed himself for dropping out last year and crossed the 2014 Hudson Bay Quest finish line to the ovation of the Gilliam crowd. When asked at the finish line how he felt his answer was ”tired, cold and that the final run across the lake seem to last a long time”. Anderson could not be declared the official winner of the race until all checkpoint reports were received and reviewed by the race marshal. This meant that race officials had to wait till all of the 4th Canadian Rangers Patrol were into Gilliam. The 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol are the backbone of support for this race. The Rangers operate all the checkpoints, are stand-by to rescuing sled team that have stopped on the trail and give assistance to the HBQ organizer if needed. Without these great men and women there would be know Hudson Bay Quest. We all know about the Rangers that put in the awesome trail for the Yukon Quest each year and it is plain to see that the same pride is transposed across the arctic to Hudson Bay Quest by the great support and duties completed by the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol. All the mushers at the post race meeting had nothing but praise for Claude Dauet and his staff and the picture prefect trail put in for this years race.
The second team to cross the Gilliam Finish line was last year’s winner Peter McClelland from Ely, Minnesota at 8:25 pm. Teams continued to cross the line all-night and into the early morning. Two teams called it quits on the 2014 HBQ trail. Jacob Heigers from Whitehorse Yukon left Mclintock and then decided that his team just wasn’t into finishing the last 110 miles. He turned around and returned back to McLintock and veterinarian staff looked after the dogs. They were eventually picked up at 1030 pm March 15th by the passenger train that was heading south to Gilliam. David Daley decided that after an overnight stay on the trail 40 miles from the finish line that his team was not into continuing to race. Race organizer dispatched a vet team and Canadian Ranger to proceed out and pick up David’s team by snowmobile and komatic sleds.
David and his team returned to the dog yard just as Justin Allen from Chuchill (who had spent the night on the trail with Daley) was coming across the finish line. All team were in by 3:30 pm on March 15th, 2014. Because of the great weather and superb trails the teams finished way ahead of schedule and everyone wonder what to do in the Town of Gilliam. HBQ organizers thought it would be a good idea to have some entertainment. Once it was determine that the American mushers had never participated in five pin bowling, then the challenge was on with the mushers versus handlers versus organizer verses veterinarians. It was a great time of comrade and laughs. But it didn’t stop there. Once the bowling was done, it was down to the curling rink to duct tape up the mukluks, turn then into sliders and throw a couple curling rocks.
The final event of the 2014 HBQ was held on Sunday night with the wrap-up banquet. Ryan Anderson was proclaimed the official winner by being hoisted by his fellow mushers above their heads while standing on his sled. Other awards were presented to the following:
Hudson Bay Handler Patches to each of the handlers from each team.
All mushers received their Maguse River Trading Post ceremonial Gerber Snowknife from Lousie Lawrie, HBQ Committee member, red solo cups and touques from Calm Air along with the Inuksuk trophies and monetary prizes.
As the banquet came to a close teams picked up left over prime rib and mash potatoes from supper for the trip home and everyone was wished a safe trip whether it be by snowmobile, dog team, railway, plane or by dog truck.
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