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. The race director will pass on reports of trail conditions as they come in. Denali State Park rangers (907-745-3975) may also be a source of information. 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 stretches of snow that need to be crossed. Most of the snow generally melts from the trail by June 15, according to Alaska State Parks.
Why was the race moved up to June?
On September 12, 2015, the race featured hypothermia-inducing conditions (rain and sub-40-degree temperatures). Matias Saari 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 to be scheduled before most other long Alaska running races, Saari moved it to late-June in 2017. Holding the race in July is not an option because Denali State Park’s trails and campgrounds are deemed too busy then.
Why are there no aid stations?
There are no aid stations because Kesugi Ridge is a remote trail and hauling food and drink onto the course is not feasible. Volunteers 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. Racers should not rely on it. Course volunteers are equipped with DeLorme inReach devices and/or Sat phones.
Why does the Half Traverse cost the same as the Full Traverse? Why were entry fees raised in 2019?
The Half Traverse costs the same because it requires just as much organization, if not more, than the Full Traverse does.
Entry fees were raised in part because Alaska State Parks dramatically raised permit costs in 2019.
The entry fee also includes Ultrasignup registration charge.
If I’m in the Full Traverse but stop at the Half Traverse finish line, can I still get a result?
You can stop halfway, and that may be a prudent decision if you are in danger of missing the final cutoff or are injured. But doing so will result in a DNF. Racers who anticipate wanting to stop at Ermine Hill Checkpoint should sign up for the Half Traverse.
If I finish the Half Traverse but want to keep going to Byers Lake, can I?
No. The sweepers already are busy enough with 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.
Can I wear headphones?
Headphones are discouraged. Racers need to be aware of wildlife such as bears and moose.
Can I bring my dog?
Racers cannot bring dogs. Spectators can bring dogs but need to keep them under control.
If I decide not to race, can I get a refund? Can I transfer my bib to a friend? Can I get a deferral?
No on the refund. No on the bib transfer. In extenuating circumstances, the race director may grant a deferral to the following year.
Should I let the race director know if I am unable to race?
Yes, please do. It helps our planning and opens up spots on the waitlist.
What is the camping situation at Byers Lake?
We have a group area at Byers Headquarters 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 race weekend.
Where can I stay besides Byers?
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.
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. We hope that will again be the case in 2019. The remainder will need to carpool to Little Coal Creek.
Will the Half Traverse finishers be shuttled once they reach the Ermine Hill Trailhead?
Yes, several volunteers will shuttle finishers to Byers Headquarters (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. 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.