Sleepy Yukon Quest musher falls off sled, dogs continue, passerby completes part of race

A Yukon Quest musher who fell off his moving dog sled after falling asleep had to hitchhike to the next checkpoint, while a man in the area jumped aboard of the fleeing sled and guided the dogs to the end of this stretch.

“Most of that stuff would be profanity,” musher Richie Beattie said of his internal dialogue when he saw his sled dog team running without him toward Dawson City, Yukon.

“In six days, I had acquired about eight hours of sleep, so I was incredibly sleep deprived,” he said in a CBC interview on Saturday.

“Apparently I lost a little more than touch with reality. I lost touch with my handlebars.”

The Two Rivers, Alaska resident was one of 15 mushers who took part in this year’s Yukon Quest dog sled race.

Richie Beattie participated in the 2020 Yukon Quest dog sled race. (Steve Silva/CBC)

The race started on February 1. The trail stretched between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, a route of approximately 1,000 miles.

Beattie said he was about two miles from the midway checkpoint when the incident happened on February 7.

He said he chased after his team, which was on the frozen Yukon River at the time, for a short time before becoming too tired to continue.

Beattie said he thought someone would catch the 10 dogs soon as they continued down the trail and approached Dawson City.

Rob Cooke, a Whitehorse resident and fellow musher who was right behind Beattie on the trail at the time, was the one to rescue the exhausted musher.

“I had an interesting encounter with Richie,” Cooke said.

Beattie accompanied Cooke to the checkpoint, where Beattie said he saw his wife crying.

“She thought I fell in open water,” the impromptu hitchhiker said. “I think she was very relieved when she saw me.”

The checkpoint is one of the busiest places in the race. The mushers had to stay in the city for 36 hours before leaving.

Rob Cooke, a 2020 Yukon Quest sled dog race musher, drove Richie Beattie to Dawson City, Yukon. (Steve Silva/CBC)

Beattie’s team ended up coming to town with a musher, but it wasn’t him.

“A good Samaritan jumped on the sled as it passed and led the dogs to the checkpoint,” he said.

“Apparently he just, like… pulled himself, jumped off the sled and disappeared.”

Beattie, who arrived in town at 1:18 p.m. that day, said he did not know who the man was and was grateful for the temporary replacement.

He did not receive any penalties for the incident: “It didn’t give me any competitive advantage.”

Beattie has participated in this competition three times. Prior to this year, he said he last raced in 2007.

“I’ve been dog sledding for 20 years, and it’s been – knock on wood – it’s been about a good decade and a half since I lost a team,” he said.

Beattie, who finished the race in eighth place overall, said he had no ill will towards his rogue team members.

“Our dogs are trained to leave. They’re not trained to stop,” he said.

There were no physical injuries associated with the dog sled leak, Beattie said.

“Maybe my ego was a little bruised,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m sure people are going to criticize me for this for a while, just as I would [to] someone else who was in that situation.”

Bette C. Alvarado