Standing on American Summit, a windswept, snowy mountaintop sparsely
colonized by mangled and stunted ice-plastered trees stuck in the frosty
Alaskan air at 3,420 feet, Becky Bristow panned the landscape with her video
camera to capture the pastel mauves and pinks of the northern sunset.
From a distance she heard the jingling of dogsled harnesses, and as they
drew closer, the panting of 14 huskies and their musher’s exerted shouts as
they crossed over the cold, lonely summit en route from Fairbanks, Alaska to
This was but one of 31 such teams that bounded from the start line of
the Yukon Quest sled dog race — known as the toughest sled dog race in the
world. One thousand miles of frigid northern wilderness. Ten thousand feet
elevation gain. No substitution of dogs. If a racer kills a moose en route,
they must salvage the meat before continuing. Fastest time the race has ever
been won: 7 days, 7 hours. On average, one out of three racers doesn’t finish.
Some years it’s half the field.
“On American Summit, the sun was setting, you could hear the dog teams
coming from a long way away,” Bristow recalled. “I watched the sun set for a
long time, there was ice on the trees. It made me realize the beauty of the
place they were seeing with their dog teams, and why they do it.”
Why they do it was a question that drew Bristow to spend six cold weeks
of the 2004 winter capturing the racers’ journey on camera to create
Gone Addiction: Inspired by the Women of the Yukon Quest
, a 67-minute adventure
documentary that’s part of the 2007 Whistler Film Festival lineup.
The film features three women — seasoned veteran Kelley Griffin, and
rookie mushers Agatha Frankzac and Michelle Phillips, who is cheered on by her
four-year-old son Keegan — and their four legged teammates who answer to such
names as Ferdinand, Malachi, Daisy, Zippo and Denali.
The film also showcases the unfettered northern landscape, a frozen
world of sturdy forests, bare willow bushes and icy riverbeds through which the
sled teams pass, so tiny amidst that wilderness that when filmed from a
helicopter the only clue to their presence comes with their movement.