Plenty of interest in Yukon Arctic Ultra race despite last year's injuries

The Yukon Arctic Ultra is seeing plenty of interest this year, despite two athletes losing limbs from it last year.

85 athletes sign up for race despite runner losing feet and hands to frostbite last year

Athletes at the starting line in 2016 at the Yukon Arctic Ultra. The gruelling 480-kilometre race has no shortage of interested candidates this year who are looking to trek from Whitehorse to Dawson City. (Phillippe Morin/CBC)

International headlines about frostbite and amputations haven't kept people away from the Yukon Arctic Ultra. 

Last year's race saw frigid temperatures and one Italian athlete lost two feet and both hands to severe frostbite after wandering alone for hours.

A British man had three of his toes amputated, two months after they were irreparably injured by severe frostbite during the race.

Founder and organizer Robert Pollhammer said candidates have been calling from across Canada as well as England, Germany, the U.S. and some new nations this year like Slovenia and Romania.

This is not some joke or funny adventure. This is serious business.- Robert Pollhammer, founder of Yukon Arctic Ultra

Pollhammer said 85 people have registered so far.

The turnout isn't a record but it doesn't seem to have dipped after last year's misfortunes.

Barry Potts of the U.K. sets off from Whitehorse in the 2018 Yukon Arctic Ultra Race. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

The Yukon Arctic Ultra is a long-distance race where athletes can choose to compete by mountain bike, cross-country ski or foot.

Routes can range between 160 kilometres to a gruelling 690 kilometres.

New screening measure in place this year

Pollhammer said candidates are being screened this year.

For the first time, each caller is now interviewed by phone. During this process, Pollhammer said he discusses the risks.

"I am literally telling people they can die out there," he said. "This is not some joke or funny adventure. This is serious business when it gets that cold."

Pollhammer said the race organizers will make it as safe as possible but that "there is no 100 per cent safety."

Yukon Arctic Ultra organizer Robert Pollhammer at the Braeburn checkpoint, Feb. 5, 2018. He says he's confident the athletes will sufficiently prepare for this year's race. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

But he said he's confident the athletes will sufficiently prepare.

One small change this year is that the Yukon Arctic Ultra will provide batteries for GPS locators. Some runners had used the wrong type of batteries in the past making tracking more difficult. 

Pollhammer said it's too early to tell what conditions will be when the race kicks off on Feb. 3 on the same trail used by mushers in the Yukon Quest. 


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