The Iditarod Trail exacted a terrible toll on Tuesday.
Nine mushers officially left the race, many with bruised bodies and broken sleds. The group included two who finished in last year's top 10 and another who had never scratched in 16 previous races
Willow's DeeDee Jonrowe, Big Lake's Jake Berkowitz and Chugiak's Jim Lanier were among those calling it quits. Last year, Jonrowe and Berkowitz placed 10th and eighth, respectively, and Lanier reached Nome for the 16th time in as many tries.
Also scratching Tuesday: Linwood Fiedler of Willow, Mike Santos of Cantwell, Gus Guenther of Clam Gulch, Jan Steves of Edmonds, Wash., and Cindy Abbott of Irvine, Calif.
Another musher, Karen Ramstead of Perryvale, Alberta, was withdrawn by officials. In a press release, race officials said Ramstead wanted to keep racing but officials made her stop because of an injury.
A 10th musher -- Anchorage's Scott Janssen -- was reportedly out of the race but had not officially scratched by late Tuesday night. According to his Facebook fan page, Janssen broke his leg after crashing on the Farewell Burn between Rohn and Nikolai.
Combined with Cindy Gallea's decision to drop out on Monday, the departures leave the race with 58 mushers out of the field of 69 that started Sunday in Willow.
Gallea, of Wycoff, Minn., ended her race in Skwentna due to illness, but most of Tuesday's departures were by mushers who fell victim to poor trail conditions.
Berkowitz, 27, was stranded for hours on the snowless Farewell Burn, a mine field of brush, rocks and stumps, on Tuesday after his sled was broken beyond repair.
Unable to get his dogs to either the checkpoint behind him (Rohn) or the one ahead (Nikolai), he eventually signaled for help. Iditarod officials sent two planes to retrieve Berkowitz and his dogs, race marshal Mark Nordman said.
"He was definitely disappointed, but the dogs were fine, he was fine -- he just couldn't get the sled going," said Nordman, who spoke to Berkowitz on satellite phone. "I know Jake was looking to win this race, and he felt his race was over. He was happy his dogs were all in good shape."
Berkowitz finished a career-best eighth in last year's race and won the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for outstanding dog care.
Berkowitz was the only musher who scratched while crossing the Burn. Jonrowe, Fielder, Santos and Guenther scratched in Rohn after a rugged trip through the Happy River Steps and Dalzell Gorge.
Jonrowe told race officials she got "beat up physically in the Dalzell Gorge."
A fan favorite, she was shooting for her 30th Iditarod finish. Jonrowe is 60 years old and hoped to use her time on the trail to heal from the death of her dad, Ken Stout. Stout was fighting cancer during last year's Iditarod -- Jonrowe placed 10th in that race -- and died in early May.
"It's been a long year, a tough year," Jonrowe said Saturday before beginning her race. "It was one week from getting off the trail and getting into crisis mode."
Jonrowe said that within a week of her finish, it was clear her dad was declining rapidly. She helped him get to a family reunion in Missouri, and two days after the trip, Stout was in the hospital. Three days after that, he was in hospice care.
Soon after that, three of her dad's cousins died. Then Jonrowe's husband, Mike, separated his shoulder on a training run with the dogs.
"I've been on overload for a year now," she said.
Lanier's troubles began Monday just before he reached the Steps, which wind wickedly down to the Happy River. His sled tipped on a hill and he was dragged. He said the helmet he was wearing smacked a stump.
"I hurt my Achilles' tendon," he said Monday. "It went 'pop.' "
At 74, Lanier is the oldest musher in the race, and news traveled quickly up the trail to Nikolai that he was hurt. Nicolas Petit of Girdwood urged him to quit. "Somebody call Jim and tell him don't do it," Petit told Iditarod.com.
Petit has a soft spot for Lanier -- he drove Lanier's team during his rookie campaign in 2011 while Lanier recovered from a hip replacement.
"It's not worth it," Petit said. "Somebody get Jim on the horn right now."
Complete Iditarod coverage
By BETH BRAGG and KEVIN KLOTT
Anchorage Daily News