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This week, way off in the northwest corner of the continent, the Iditarod—the sled dog race through the wilderness of Alaska—is testing the fortitude of dozens of mushers and their sled dogs. But this year, compared to recent races, seems more hazardous than usual.

On Tuesday, competitors had to traverse the Farewell Burn, a 75-mile stretch between Rohn and Nikolai. The only problem was that there was almost no snow on the ground, making conditions especially bumpy. As four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser put it:

Normally snow filters down into those extreme low spots, kind of fills it in a little bit and makes it somewhat passable. There was nothing on it this time.

Here's what it looks like.

Along the Farewell Burn, returning racer Scott Janssen, known as the Mushin' Mortician because of his day job, had to drop out of the race after numerous catastrophes. Janssen slammed into rocks and crashed his sled. He hit his head and was knocked unconscious for at least an hour.

He then continued on until one of his dogs got loose. As Janssen walked across a frozen creek to retrieve the dog, he slipped and fell, breaking his ankle. He laid there for another 45 minuted until another competitor, Newton Marshall, caught up to him and offered assistance (Marshall is from Jamaica, by the way).

As of Thursday morning, 12 of the 69 Iditarod competitors have scratched.  Jeff King currently holds a 39-minute lead, although none of the top five competitors have taken their mandatory eight-hour or 24-hour rests. Buser, however, is in sixth and has already gotten his 24-hour layover out of the way.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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