The cult-like following Hudson Bay Quest will depart Gillam, Manitoba on March 15th, and terminate in Churchill,MB this year. The two towns in the far north alternate starting positions every other year. Last year 16 mushers from North America contended for the mushing title and Shawn McCarty from Ely, Minnesota won the crown.
This year’s quest currently has 15 teams registered so far for the 220 mile (330 Km) race. 2011 was the first year the race changed courses and instead of braving life – threatening conditions along the ice edge of the Hudson Bay, the Gillam/Churchill route was employed. In that year, Charlie Lundie became the first HBQ winner from the host town of Churchill. He edged out Peter McClelland also from Ely, MN by just two minutes as the two raced toward Lundie’s home crowd filled with many family members of Lundie’s. After the win the crowd lifted Lundie on is sled in jubilation as goes the tradition in dog mushing. McCarty finished third that year and eventually won last year’s crown.
2012 winner Shawn McCarty from Ely, MN
Since the race has shifted more inland on the tundra following along the border of Wapusk National Parc and the Hudson Bay Railroad, a more consistent and recurring line-up of mushers have continued to return each year perpetuating a sort of rivalry between the southern mushers from the northern United States and the Churchill and other Canadian mushers. Any good competition thrives on repeat contestants challenging for the title year after year. The Hudson Bay Quest seems to be gaining that quality now that all the weather and danger issues of the bay are in the past.
While there’s still another month and a half before the race, the preparations are going strong. it takes enormous organization and communication to put on an event like this. Dave Daley of Wapusk Adventures in Churchill does the lions share of the work before hand and the Canadian Rangers volunteer their time during the race to insure safety of all the mushers and dogs is the priority. Even though the race is less dangerous these days, a winter storm can still make the trip dangerous…this is the high north after all.
As the race draws nearer I will keep you updated on the list of teams and any other new information regarding this year’s race. It looks to be an exciting time once again in the heart of winter in the sub-Arctic! With this also being the prime season for viewing aurora borealis in the northern sky, frequent updates from Churchill and Natural Habitat Northern lights tours will provide images and reports of activities and the lights.