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61-year-old rookie musher missing along Iditarod trail

61-year-old rookie musher missing along Iditarod trail

A 61-year-old rookie musher in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was reported missing on Thursday.
Alaska State Troopers have launched a helicopter to help search for Deborah Bicknell.
She was last seen at 9:12 a.m. Wednesday, leaving the Rainy Pass checkpoint, 224 miles (360 kilometers) into the race from Anchorage to Nome, said Megan Peters, a troopers spokeswoman.
Iditarod spokesman Chas St. George said "sweepers" on snowmobiles positioned behind the last mushers failed to spot her on the trail. Sweepers keep their distance from mushers in the back of the pack but help out if needed, St. George said.
Ground searchers are looking for camping sites that Bicknell might have picked to hunker down, St. George said.
They also checked out an alternative route through the mountains, the Ptarmigan trail, a former route for the Iditarod, that another musher took by mistake earlier.
Two airplanes affiliated with the race also are searching.
"There are all kinds of what ifs," St. George said. "Right now we're trying to cover as much ground as we can to try to find her."
Rainy Pass Lodge is 1,835 feet (560 meters) above sea level and mushers continuing on climb another 1,325 feet (400 meters) in the 48-mile (77-kilometer) leg to Rohn.
According to Iditarod officials, the climb is gentle but the terrain is barren except for a few willow thickets. Wind packs the snow hard and the trail often is icy.
After crossing a lake, the trail climbs to the summit, then starts a steep descent along Dalzell Creek. The creek runs to the Tatina River and continues about five miles (eight kilometers) to the Rohn checkpoint.
When reached by The Associated Press on Thursday, Bicknell's husband, Sandy, said he was waiting for more information and declined immediate comment.
According to a musher's biography provided by Iditarod officials, Bicknell began mushing in 1956, with her early experience in sprint mushing.
She won the International Sled Dog Association's silver medal and the Canadian Open Championship, both in 1976. She also won the World Champion Sled Dog Derby in 1979 and 1980.
She moved to Alaska in 1981.
In 2000, she began thinking about running the Iditarod and began racing in distance races in Alaska and Canada.
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Associated Press Writers Dan Joling and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-20 15:15 GMT+08:00