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On January 30 at Shipyards Park, more than 60 athletes from 16 nations will converge on Whitehorse to begin the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra, one of the coldest, toughest, ultramarathons in the world.
Since 2003, the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra (MYAU) has been held every February along the Yukon Quest Trail – the route of the 1,000-mile sled dog race.
A cumulative total of nearly 900 hardy souls have toed the start line in Whitehorse next to the Yukon River to cover their choice of four distances along this brutally cold and challenging trail, with a marathon, 100 and 300 mile races.
Every second year there is also a 430 distance, which is the case again in 2021. In 2020 an expected 65 athletes from 16 countries will compete, with more than half signed up for the 300-mile race.
The 300-mile race sees athletes travel to Pelly Farm, there they will leave the river to turn around and go to Pelly Crossing on the farm road.
“Once again we have an amazing race roster with great athletes from all over the world,” said Robert Pollhammer, MYAU race director. “It’s a perfect mixture between veterans, newcomers and athletes returning to finish unfinished business. As always, I keep my fingers crossed that they all reach their respective goals.”
Athletes can complete their chosen distance either on foot, fat bike, or cross country skis.
Shelley Gellatly is a local racer and is a 300-mile finisher. This year, she will attempt the trek to Pelly Crossing again, this time on skis.
Gellatly has been involved in the race since it’s inauguration and was inspired to try it as a way to see the Yukon Quest trail.
“I did it the first time in ‘03 because I wanted to see the trail,” said Gellatly. “I originally thought I would try and mush the trail but realized I didn’t have the cash or the knowledge and thought this would be a great chance to see it.
“I’ve been involved every year. It’s really fun and interesting.”
During the race, competitors are expected to be self-sufficient, towing food and shelter behind them in heavily laden sleds called ‘pulks’ and melting snow to provide water.
Night temperatures can reach as low as -50 C, which when coupled with windchill and sheer physical exhaustion can be not just challenging, but extremely dangerous. Situations which under normal circumstances would be inconsequential can become life-threatening.
This year is the 17th edition of the race. There have been 891 participants, including 2019 so far. Forty-one nations have been represented. In order of most representation are Canada, UK, Germany, Italy, United States and Denmark.
The Yukon Arctic Ultra is the world's coldest and toughest ultra! Quite simply the world's coldest and toughest ultra. 430 miles of snow, ice, temperatures as low as -40°C and relentless wilderness, the YUA is an incredible undertaking. The Montane® Yukon Arctic Ultra (MYAU) follows the Yukon Quest trail, the trail of the world's toughest Sled Dog Race. Where dog...more...