It’s billed as the toughest and coldest race of its kind anywhere in the world.
For 20 years, the Yukon Arctic Ultra race has challenged competitors with its extreme conditions and rough terrain.
And Brady Kyle is all over it in 2024.
The Vernon North Okanagan RCMP corporal is one of 18 competitors in the 300-mile (482 kilometres, which is the distance from Vernon to Squamish) event that started in Whitehorse last Sunday, Feb. 4.
The entrants will use bikes, cross-country skis or their feet to end up at Pelly Crossing – population 379 (September 2023 Census) – a community three hours south of Dawson City.
A 450-mile race to Dawson City is run every other year, and 2024 is not one of them.
Thirteen athletes started the marathon distance (26 miles) and 15 entered the 100-mile race culminating at the village of Braeburn. Kyle was to have passed through Braeburn on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
“Police officers and first responders often commit to physical exercise to stay mentally and physically fit to serve and protect their communities,” said the National Police Federation on its Facebook page in extending Kyle best wishes in the event.
“We wish Cpl. Kyle safety and success in his battle against the Arctic elements and exhaustion to reach this major event.
“Every participant is a winner in our eyes – for showing up.”
Race organizer Robert Pollhammer said as the event has grown over more than two decades, close bonds have remained among those who have attempted, completed or helped organize the gruelling challenge.
Countries represented among the 300-mile racers are: Canada, the United States, Wales, England, Serbia and Spain.
The longer races go north on the Dawson Overland Trail, the same route followed by the Yukon Quest sled dog race.
Pollhammer said if conditions on the Pelly River were safe, it could be used to access Pelly Farm before racers would return to Pelly Crossing on the farm road.
Due to the amount of jumble ice on the river, Pollhammer said the 300-mile racers will probably go out to the farm and back on the road.
Despite the challenges associated with this winter’s inconsistent temperatures, Pollhammer said the Canadian Rangers and others had been hard at work ensuring the trail is usable for both the Yukon Quest mushers (race started the day after the Ultra) and the Arctic Ultra athletes.
Although it might not be pretty in places, Pollhammer said the athletes will be able to handle the trail conditions.
There is also nothing in the weather forecast they aren’t prepared for – Pollhammer said an overnight temperature around -30C is expected on the race’s first night.
In years gone by, athletes have coped when it was about that cold.
“Not saying it’s not dangerous. If you make mistakes, you get in trouble quickly,” he said. “But normally, they’re all good in those temperatures, and yeah, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna go beyond that. Minus 40C at night is starting to get more critical, of course.”
Kyle is joined in the 300-mile field by fellow B.C. competitor Dave Colley of Hornby Island, who is 74.