Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 2016 Race Report

The Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra took place from 4-12 January this year. It is no mean feat organising the world’s coldest and toughest ultra race, but then again, race organiser Robert Pollhammer is a paragon of efficiency and this year’s race was no exception.

Despite warmer than usual temperatures during the race, the three categories on offer this year (marathon, 100 and 300 mile distances) ran without a hitch and reports of happy runners and team members alike hit the social media airwaves very shortly after the ultra ended.

Read Robert’s race report below.


What a great race we had this year! It was cold the first few nights. So everyone got to feel what the Canadian Yukon is like. But then it warmed up.

The trail was soft in places but still okay. More Northern Lights than we have ever had before and more 300 mile finishers than ever before. A big thank you to all athletes who have been part of it and congratulations to all finishers.

Before I begin my race report, I would like to send out a few thank yous. I have always been lucky in having a great crew and this certainly also goes for 2016. What a team effort! Everyone worked really hard, on the trail, at the checkpoints and at race headquarters to make it a successful event. Thank you Diane, Adam, Scott, Gavin and Lydia from the medical team. Thank you Richard, Kim, Ricardo, Bob, Pam, Jason, Kristin, Damaris and Marc! Thank you Stewart for such a great job co-ordinating Dog Grave Lake CP. Thank you Bernard for hosting Ken Lake CP and thanks to all other checkpoint crews and providers – Rolland from Rivendell Farm, Steve, Lee & team from Braeburn Lodge, George and Cindy from Carmacks Rec Centre, the Kruse family at McCabe, Selkirk First Nation at Pelly Crossing and Sue, Dale and the Woofers at Pelly Farm. Last but not least thank you to the trail crew – Gary, Josh, Ross, Tony, Robert, Glenn and Spencer. I hope I did not forget anyone. You all did an amazing job!

I want to thank the sponsors also – Montane, Primus, Carinthia and the local businesses Driving Force, Coast High Country Inn, Total North and Fraserway RV. Your help is essential in make this race happen year after year.

Now of course it is time for my final race report.

Marathon | 100 mile | 300 mile

Even though the trail was rather soft leading up to Takhini Bridge we had a fast marathon. Joel Hegner won the bike division and David Eikelboom finished first in the foot category. The first woman was Kristin Daniel who managed to improve her already excellent time from 2015. For detailed results and specific times, please click here.

It was really great to see so many local marathon runners! If I may I would just like to ask the local marathoners to try and sign up by end of November in any future races. It would help making the planning easier.

As always the long stretch of trail from Rivendell Farm to Dog Grave Lake was a challenge for all the ultra athletes. Temperatures down to –35°C took their toll. Local athlete Virgina Sarrazin had to scratch due to frostbite. She is fine with no permanent damage. But it goes to show that it can happen to anyone. Warmer temperatures during the day cause more sweating and at night wet shoes and socks mean trouble. Not just with frostbite. We have also seen many cases of immersion foot.

So, as a bit of learning for athletes in future years: if the weather forecast is less extreme, changing socks and keeping up good footcare is just as important as it is when the weather is colder.

Other reasons for DNFs at this point in time were chafing (again a problem that occurs more in “warmer” years) and dehydration. If your water bottles freeze and you have still got a good distance to cover to the next checkpoint, it is very important to deal with it. It may mean time lost for melting snow. But that’s way better than having to end the race due to exhaustion and dehydration.

Michele Graglia finished 1st in the foot category of the 100 mile race. The Italian did so well, he almost managed to break Justin Wallace’s record from 2012. 2nd athlete to finish was David Hirschfeld from the US and 3rd rank went to Michael Faergegaard from Denmark. 1st in the women’s were local athletes Jennifer King and Gillian Smith. All 100 mile finishers did a great job! Great to see Jean Yves, Carlos Albert and Mal Smith finish previously unfinished business! And I should mention that James Binks who had originally signed up to do the marathon took Robert Hodges junior’s place in the 100 miles and finished, together with his good friend Robert Hodges senior. What makes this special is that James is 71 years old. Sorry, James, I know you probably would prefer if I would not mention your age but you are an inspiration! And I should add that James previously already finished the 300 miles. Again, teaming up with Robert Hodges. Also, he came very, very close to finish the 430 miles in 2013.

We have had a brave xc-skier, too in the 100 mile category. Thomas Keller from Switzerland took 57 hours and 20 minutes and came in well before the 3 day cut-off. I had told Thomas that xc-skiing it is a tough one and I do not recommend it. But I guess to a Swiss guy this just makes it all the more fun to go for it.

The first 300 miler to reach the Pelly Crossing finish line was Bavarian biker Florian Reiterberger. Hardly ever have I seen anybody so relaxed and calm. Only when at the finish line he was told there was no beer he may have come close to a state of nervousness. Rank 2 in the bike category went to German Wolfgang Kulow and third place was taken by Tim Sommers from Australia.

In the 300 mile distance foot category we saw a race for 1st place which eventually Jan Kriska from the USA was able to win. And he did it in style, setting a new record of 118 hours and 24 minutes.

Gavan Hennigan from Ireland came 2nd. 3rd overall rank went to Bernadette Benson from Australia. Which also means that she placed first in the women’s. Julie Pritchard (England) and Jessie Thomson-Gladish (Canada) placed joint 2nd.

And we saw many more 300 mile finishers. All of them were great and really enjoyed their adventure.

There was so much positivity from everyone – Hugo Smith, Jorge Rufat-Latre, Joaquin Candel, Jörn Theissig, Mario Villemure, Oliver Lutte, Jerym Brunton, Rick Ferguson, Omar Mohamed Ali, Davide Ugolini – all of them were, of course, tired but also smiling whenever I met them.

My special thank you goes to Canadian 300 mile finisher Daniel Héon who helped fellow racer Davide Lugato on the way to Pelly Crossing. Daniel did not think twice when he found Davide totally exhausted on the trail and made sure he was safe before he continued his journey.

Congratulations also to Team Raven Russia (Jerym and Rick) and the ’J’ Team (Julie and Jessie) who not only finished as individual athletes but also in the team category. It is very rare that we see teams in the 300 mile race actually finishing together!

I hope everyone’s recovery is going well and wish all of you many great adventures wherever you go! It would be an enormous pleasure to see you come back in 2017 or any other year! To the crew, once more a big thank you! Extremely well done and I am looking forward to welcoming you back – be it as part of the support team or as athletes out on the trail!


Read more about the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra here.

Photography by Derek Crowe Photography.

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