After Alie Zirkle's Wipeout & Concussion, Iditarod Mushers Fret About The Stumps & Ice At Rohn As They Return

 Mushers Saw Zirkle's Headlamp, Still Lit, Lying On The Ice As They Went By  (Photo, GRDE Headlamps) (March 11th, 2021) The entire enter...

 Mushers Saw Zirkle's Headlamp, Still Lit, Lying On The Ice As They Went By 

(Photo, GRDE Headlamps)

(March 11th, 2021) The entire enterprise of dog mushing is dangerous. Only five months ago, in early October, Lance Mackey's partner, Jenne Smith, died in an ATV rollover near the mushers' Fairbanks-area kennels.

Two days ago, Alie Zirkle, one of the all-time fan favorites in the Iditarod, scratched at the Rohn checkpoint. She had a concussion, and had battered up her body badly. It was almost 200 miles into the race, and she was evacuated to Anchorage in an emergency helicopter. 

Alie Zirkle was a major contestant in the Iditarod. She was a 3-time runner-up and was the first woman to win the even more grueling Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race across the Canada border, in 2000. She and her husband, Allen Moore (who won the Yukon Quest 3 times) had already announced on Sunday that they intended to retire from racing while they were still ahead. 

But the disaster near Rohn caught Zirkle ahead of the curve, and she got out of the game earlier than expected.

An extraordinary story in the Anchorage Daily News ("As the Iditarod prepares to shift into reverse, mushers dread what's ahead") mushers speak of the Dalzell Gorge near the Rohn checkpoint, and crossing it in the dark, headed up the trail. They describe seeing a headlamp lying on the dark ice, its light still shining into the night – and then realizing it had fallen off of Zirkle's head at that spot when she crashed and was so badly wounded. 

Earlier, on Sunday, as the dogs were leaving the Deshka Landing starting point in Willow, experienced mushers were already talking about how difficult this year would be, with the race turning around at Iditarod and coming back the same trail. 

There are stumps, bumps, and glaze ice along parts of the trail which are unfamiliar to mushers who only go through there in a certain direction and are not used to the challenges of the backwards route. 




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