Things are heating up in an Iditarod that has dished out extreme cold in recent days.
Aaron Burmeister and a full team of 14 dogs were the first to reach Rohn as the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race rushes to what could be a dramatic conclusion.
Burmeister arrived at the Rohn checkpoint at 4:26 p.m. Saturday, but Dallas Seavey stole the lead while Burmeister was taking a break.
The third musher to reached the checkpoint, Seavey left after six minutes. He’s on his way to Rainy Pass as teams make an unprecedented return trip through the Alaska Range in this year’s novel out-and-back race.
The exact opposite scene played out early Saturday morning in Nikolai, the checkpoint 75 miles north of Rohn. Seavey got there first, but Burmeister left first.
By reaching Rohn first, Burmeister wins the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Fish First Award, which comes with $2,000, 25 pounds of Bristol Bay salmon fillets and a piece of artwork by Bristol Bay artist Apay’uq Moore.
Brent Sass reached Rohn at 5:26 p.m. Saturday, followed by Seavey at 5:30 p.m. By 5:36 p.m., Seavey and his 12 dogs were moving on.
A big group of mushers was out of Nikolai and headed to Rohn by Saturday afternoon. They’re putting distance between themselves and bone-chilling temperatures of minus-50 and below in the Interior.
Rohn is 172 miles from the Deshka Landing finish line and 35 miles from Rainy Pass. From Rainy Pass, it’s 70 miles to Skwentna, where everyone takes an eight-hour layover to gear up for the final 67 miles.
The 832-mile race is expected to have a winner by Sunday night or Monday morning.