Redington is the first off White Mountain with just 77 miles to go to the finish line of the Iditarod

Ryan Redington arrives at White Mountain Tuesday at 4:12 p.m. (Ben Matheson/Alaska Public Media)

Update, Tuesday, 6:30 a.m.:

Ryan Redington and his team of six dogs left White Mountain first at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday after their mandatory eight-hour rest. You only have 77 miles to go to the Nome destination. Redington’s closest competitors are Pete Kaiser and Richie Diehl. Kaiser and his eight dogs left at 4:31 a.m., with Diehl and his seven dogs following six minutes later. A winner is expected later Tuesday morning.

Original story:

WHITE MOUNTAIN — Church bells and a small, enthusiastic crowd greeted Ryan Redington and his eight dogs at White Mountain Monday afternoon.

Redington immediately put his dogs on straw beds after a roughly 90-mile run from Koyuk, stopping only for a 13-minute stop at Elim along the way. All teams must stop at White Mountain for eight hours before their final push to Nome.

Redington was happy about the break.

“I’m really tired and my legs are cramping a bit,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the rest of this, the eight hours.”

a musher looks at his dogs
Ryan Redington immediately lays out straw for his dogs when entering the checkpoint. (Ben Matheson/Alaska Public Media)

The afternoon sun broke through the fog at the checkpoint on the banks of the Fish River. Redington pulled several batches of cold water from a hole in the ice to prepare a hot soup meal for his team.

Redington said he hadn’t yet realized he was capable of winning his first Iditarod.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much, but we have a huge lead,” he said. “But we still have 77 miles to go.”

That lead grew Monday when Redington’s closest competitor, Pete Kaiser, stopped at Elim for more than five hours while Redington continued to race toward White Mountain.

“I didn’t know if Pete was going to get through or not, so I took the step to hopefully get good results in Nome,” Redington said.

A musher brings water to his team of dogs
Ryan Redington fetches water for his team. (Ben Matheson/Alaska Public Media)

After his extended break in Elim, Kaiser made up some time on the way to the White Mountain – but not by the ton. He was still more than four hours behind Redington when he reached the checkpoint.

Kaiser and his eight dogs arrived at 8:29 p.m. He fed his team and settled in for a break. He recalled having two different plans as he approached Elim.

“Plan A, if the team looked strong, was to come through. Plan B, if they needed a break, was to stay there, so it was like a 50/50,” he said.

Kaiser decided on Plan B.

“It felt like they needed a little more rest and they took that chance and said, ‘I’m going to stop chasing Ryan for now and give them the rest they need,'” he said.

a musher
Bethel musher Pete Kaiser checks into White Mountain Monday at 8:29 p.m. (Ben Matheson/Alaska Public Media)

Should anything unexpected happen to Redington’s team on the notoriously unpredictable coast, Kaiser said he would like the team to rest.

Perhaps the closest race for the podium is for second place. Kaiser has a razor-thin lead over Richie Diehl, who was racing just eight minutes after Kaiser’s arrival at White Mountain. Diehl said he was having fun as he set his sights on a top three finish in his 11th Iditarod.

“To compete at this level, for me anyway – I enjoy it, it’s a riot. I mean, that’s why I race,” he said.

Diehl, Kaiser and Redington are all good friends, and they are also all Alaska Native mushers. Redington has praised his closest competitors for teaching him a great deal during the Iditarod races.

a dog team
Aniak musher Richie Diehl arrives at White Mountain at 8:37 p.m. (Ben Matheson/Alaska Public Media)

The three teams pushed to the front after a couple of big shakes in the second half of the race.

At Eagle Island on Saturday, reigning champion Brent Sass – who had led much of the race – retired with a bad cold and three broken teeth. Then Jessie Holmes, another early race leader, saw his team slow down.

Redington saw his opening and ran away, Kaiser and Diehl close behind.

Redington continued to advance by completing two marathons in the final 300 miles of the race – non-stop while his rivals split the trail into smaller chunks.

“We had to work really hard to get to that position,” Redington said. “But I knew that we have a good dog team. That’s for sure.”

Prior to this year, Redington’s best finish in 2021 was seventh.

It’s rare for the target order to change dramatically between White Mountain and Nome, but sudden storms and brutal winds have shaken the momentum of budding champions.

Redington has several leaders who can take the team to Nome through the challenging sections of the windy and exposed path, including Ghost, Elvis, Sven and Rivet.

“They are good runners and I just feel like we’ve worked hard to train them and prepare them for this race,” said Redington.

This race was prepared for Redington for generations. His grandfather Joe Redington Sr. is credited with being one of the founders of the Iditarod. His father, Raymie, graduated from several Iditarods and is one of the six Redingtons in his extended family listed in the Iditarod Archives.

Ryan Redington said he would be proud to be the first in his family to win.

“It would be a really cool honor. And it would be a really good thing for the race and for Alaska and for my family,” Redington said. “Pretty big event, grandpa started here.”

And if Redington takes first place, he will have the special honor of winning a trophy named after his grandfather.

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Ben Matheson reports on the 2023 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at

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