What does K’esugi mean?
It means the Ancient One in Dena’ina. Traditionally the area was used as caribou hunting grounds.
Who are the two Dave Johnstons?
Dave Johnston the Elder (of Minus 148 Degrees fame) helped build the original trail in the mid-1970s, along with Pete Robinson, George Menard and the Youth Conservation Corps. It took 3-4 years to put in the basic trail. Brian Okonek had the idea to use Kesugi’s lateral moraine instead of some of the surrounding high country.
Dave Johnston the Younger (of Iditarod Trail Invitational fame), along with Andrea Hambach, created the Kesugi Ridge Traverse race in 2013.
What are the current course conditions?
Course conditions vary year-to-year. Participants who want to recon the course should not assume that a full traverse will be possible before race day because there may be lingering snow.
Will there be lots of snow up high?
Snow depth varies year-to-year, from virtually none to lengthy snow patches that need to be crossed. Alaska State Parks says most of the snow generally melts from the trail by June 15.
Why was the race moved up to June?
On Sept. 12, 2015, the race featured hypothermia-inducing conditions (rain and sub-40-degree temperatures). I became race director in 2016 and moved the date to August 21; the weather was inclement but not quite hypothermia-inducing (high 40s and rain). In hopes of better weather, and wanting to get ahead of most other long Alaska running races, I moved it to late-June in 2017. Holding the race in July is not an option because Denali State Park is too busy then.
Do I have to bring the mandatory gear if it’s sunny and 70 degrees at the start?
Yes, weather in Alaska can change quickly and dramatically. Also, you may need the gear if you become lost or injured.
Why are there no aid stations?
Because Kesugi Ridge is a remote trail and hauling food and drink to the course is not feasible. Volunteers at are already hauling heavy packs with supplies to Ermine Hill Checkpoint.
A standard race pack has plenty of room for food, drink and emergency gear. Also, spectators are allowed to hand-off sustenance and drinks to racers.
For emergency purposes, will cell phones work along the course?
Cell coverage is spotty at best. Don’t rely on it. Course volunteers will use DeLorme inReach devices or Sat phones.
Can I start before 9 a.m.?
Why does the Half Traverse cost the same as the Full Traverse?
Because the Half Traverse requires just as much organization, if not more, than the Full Traverse does.
If I’m in the Full Traverse but want to stop at the Half Traverse finish line, can I still get a result?
You can stop halfway, and are encouraged to if you’re having an especially tough day, are in danger of missing the final cutoff or are injured. But doing so will result in a DNF. The race director has learned that if you give people a bailout without penalty, some racers will take it even when there’s no good reason to stop.
If I finish the Half Traverse but feel good and want to keep going to Byers Lake, can I?
No. The sweepers will already have their hands full with the number of Full Traverse participants. Sign up for the Full Traverse next year!
Can the sweepers turn me back?
Yes, if they determine you are underprepared and unlikely to meet the cutoffs, they can turn you back at any time.
What if I want to keep going?
You can’t. If you attempt to, you will not be allowed to participate at Kesugi in the future.
Can I wear headphones?
Headphones are discouraged. Bears have been encountered at Kesugi in past races.
Can I bring my dog?
Racers cannot bring dogs. Spectators can bring dogs but need to have them under control.
Can I get a refund if I decide not to race? Can I transfer my bib to a friend?
No and no.
Is there a wait list for those who didn’t register on time?
No, the number of entrants has jumped dramatically from recent years so the race director will not attempt to fill the spots of those who drop.
Should I let the race director know if I am unable to race?
Yes, please do. It helps our planning knowing how many people to expect.
What is the camping situation?
We have a group area for Friday and Saturday nights of race weekend. It is suitable for car/camper camping, but flat spots for tents are few. There is no charge. RVs may not stay here.
If you wish to stay at the main Byers Lake Campground (fees apply), plan to arrive early because it typically fills to capacity on weekend nights.
Where can I stay if I don’t camp at race headquarters?
Mary’s McKinley View Lodge (Mile 134.5) is one option. A fancier option is Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge (Mile 133). There are also many pullouts along the highway where camping is possible. The new Kesugi Ken Campground (Mile 135.4) allows reservations for tent camping, RV camping and public use cabins.
Camping at the Little Coal Creek trailhead parking lot is not permitted.
When can I pick up my race bib?
You can get it at race headquarters Friday night or at the race start until 8:45 a.m. Saturday.
Do I need to check in at Byers headquarters on Saturday morning?
No. But you do need to check in at the start even if you’ve previously collected your bib.
Will there be a shuttle to the start?
Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge generously provided shuttles in 2017-18 that transported some participants to the start and we hope that will again be the case in 2019. The remainder will need to carpool there.
Will the Half Traverse finishers be shuttled to Byers once they reach the Ermine Hill Trailhead?
Yes, several volunteers will shuttle finishers to Byers (or to Little Coal Creek if necessary).
Will there be swag?
Yes, there will be an item of Kesugi swag for every participant and volunteer. There will also be prizes for the top performers as well as some randomly awarded prizes.
Will there be beer?
Yes. 49th State Brewing Co. has signed on a sponsor and will keep us well supplied!
What are the course records?
Despite horrendous weather, Scott Patterson set the men’s record of 4:38:05 in 2015.
Christy Marvin set the women’s record of 5:27:36 in 2018 en route to finishing 2nd overall.