The Iditarod is a race billed as a testament not only to mushing but to one’s survival skills in the wilderness. Self-reliance is critical, both in the Iditarod and the Alaskan interior in general. Indeed, as Kristy Berington, who is racing this year with her identical twin sister, Anna, told Fox News this week, “You’re on your own out there. You break a sled you have to fix it. There’s a problem with the dog, you have to deal with it yourself.”
Usually, but not always. Kristy and Anna have been running the race close together since Yentna. Then just outside of Rainy Pass, Anna was coming down a winding trail when she noticed some stumps emerging from beneath the snow. She put on her brake, but when she did so she caught an unseen stump hidden beneath the snow, snarling her sled. Kristy, the more experienced musher of the two, was just ahead of Anna and heard Anna’s dogs barking wildly. She went back to help her sister, holding Anna’s dogs while Anna went after the stump with her ax. Soon after Anna got her sled loose, Paige Drobny came through and got caught on the very same stump, so the twins helped her get loose as well.
Self-reliance is important out there, and the competitive nature of the Iditarod is a given, but you often hear stories like this one of mushers helping each other out on the trail. One of the most iconic images of this year’s Yukon Quest was of Brent Sass helping Jake Berkowitz over the strenuous Eagle Pass Summit. Check out the brief video below (Brent and Jake are both racing in this year’s Iditarod).