Lavon Barve was first into this Yukon River village early Monday as the lead mushers in the 10-day-old Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race prepared to make the swing toward the Bering Sea coast.
Barve, who came in third last year, checked in at 3:25 a.m.He was followed by four-time winner Rick Swenson at 4 a.m. Defending champion Susan Butcher of Eureka, the only other musher to win the Iditarod four times, logged in at 4:02.
Joe Runyan, the only musher to beat Butcher in the Iditarod since 1985 by finishing first in 1989, arrived in sixth place at 4:15 a.m.
The trail from Kaltag to Unalakleet, a coastal community on Norton Sound, should offer teams a short respite from the driving winds the mushers had been facing coming up the frozen Yukon River, Iditarod officials said.
The overnight low in the Kaltag area was reported at 13 degrees above zero, with light snow falling and the wind at a tolerable 10 mph.
The Iditarod covers 1,163 miles between Anchorage and Nome, passing over remote mountains, tundra, frozen rivers and windswept, bone-chilling Bering Sea coast.
The race usually lasts from 11 days to 14 days, with unpredictable Arctic weather often playing a critical role in setting the pace in its final days.
Teams were 804 miles into the race when they reached Kaltag.
The Iditarod commemorates a historic 1925 relay of diphtheria serum to ailing Nome residents during an epidemic.