DAWSON CITY, Yukon - Defending champion Hans Gatt has jumped into the lead in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race early today.
Gatt, from Atlin, B.C., arrived at Dawson City at 11:49 p.m. Alaska Time with 11 dogs running and one carried in his sled basket.
More than an hour behind him was Martin Massicotte of St. Tite, Quebec who had been leading the race into the previous checkpoint at Pelly Crossing. Massicotte arrived at 1:03 a.m. Hot on his heels was William Kleedehn of Carcross, who arrived at 1:08 a.m.
Next in were John Schandelmeier of Paxson at 2:27, Hugh Neff of Coldfoot at 2:36 and Thomas Tetz of Carcross at 2:55.
Dan Kaduce was the most recent arrival in Dawson, arriving just after 10 a.m. this morning.
The teams have a mandatory 36-hour layover in Dawson, which is 466 miles into the race. During the layover, team handlers care for the dogs, and the dogs will be checked by race veterinarians before resuming the race.
Race officials said this morning that winds were picking up in Dawson and the temperature had dropped into the low teens.
Most of the 20 teams in the thousand-mile race to Fairbanks are still making their way to Dawson from Pelly Crossing. Mushers have to climb 3,800-foot King Solomon's Dome before reaching Dawson.
By mid-morning today, all of the mushers had reached Scroggie Creek, the unofficial halfway point on the trail to Dawson.
Race officials said this morning that reports from Pelly Crossing indicate musher Darrin Lee is on his way back to Whitehorse. He had not yet officially scratched.
Three of the original field of 23 mushers have scratched, including veteran musher Deborah Bicknell of Juneau.
Bicknell, who chose to end her third try at the Quest in Pelly Crossing on Tuesday night, spoke to the Whitehorse Star after making the decision.
Bicknell said her good sled was damaged on the trail into Pelly Crossing. While race officials would have allowed her to replace it - while assessing an eight-hour penalty - Bicknell said she was not comfortable using the smaller replacement sled on the jumbled ice of Pelly River.
"Everything would dump," if she hit a rough patch, Bicknell told the Star.