Juneau musher Deborah Bicknell scratched from the Yukon Quest in Pelly Crossing on Tuesday after hearing reports of continued rough trail conditions beyond the checkpoint.
Bicknell was the third musher to drop out of the field of 23, which at last report was led by Hans Gatt of Atlin, British Columbia.
Gatt took the lead from early frontrunner Martin Massicotte of St. Tite, Quebec, at the Stepping Stone dog drop station, 30 miles past Pelly Crossing and 295 miles into the race, when Massicotte stopped to rest his team.
According to the most recent update on the Yukon Quest Web site, Gatt was being trailed by, in order, William Kleedehn, Thomas Tetz and John Schandelmeier.
Reports from the trail indicated jumbled ice on the Pelly River over the 70 miles between Stepping Stone and the Scroggie Creek cabin, where veterinarians and race officials are on hand to check teams as they cover the 203 miles between checkpoints at Pelly Crossing and Dawson City. The leg is the longest on the Yukon Quest trail, and takes mushers to the summit of 3,800-foot King Solomon's Dome.
According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Bicknell heard the reports of jumbled ice on the Pelly from fellow musher Nicolas Vanier, who turned around 10 miles past Pelly Crossing and decided to scratch after his remaining lead dog quit.
Bicknell - who has one artificial knee and one rebuilt knee - had been jostled by rough trail conditions throughout the race, and decided that she could not handle the continued abuse from stumps, rocks and ice.
Prior to scratching, Bicknell, a 57-year-old grandmother, talked to reporters at McCabe Creek - 31 miles before Pelly Crossing - on Monday night.
By that point, Bicknell told the Whitehorse Star, she had dropped two dogs due to sore shoulders, and she had hit her head and one of her legs when the sled overturned.
Bicknell also lost one of dogs a few miles before McCabe Creek. Enauk, one of the leaders, slipped out of his harness, and by the time Bicknell realized what had happened the team had passed him by and was not about to stop.
"With this team, if you don't tie down to a tree, you don't stop," she told the Whitehorse Star on Monday. "In fact, I think it was 'kill the dog driver' today."
Enauk wound up following the team and showed up in McCabe Creek, saving Bicknell a snowmachine trip to find and retrieve him.
Bicknell said Monday she was grateful for the cooperation and support of her fellow mushers, who urged her to continue on to Pelly Crossing.
In addition to Bicknell and Vanier, musher Alden West has also dropped out of this year's race. For race standings and further updates, visit the Yukon Quest Web site at http://www.yukonquest.com.
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