This was our final drive and so we all woke with heavy hearts and there was a slightly gloomy start to the day. The temperature began to rise from the -41 which we had clocked on the thermometer by the window but it was seriously cold and I was suffering. I had been shaken awake early, thinking that it was another ice crack on the lake nearby reverberating through the cabin but I realised that it was my body shaking with cold in my sleeping bag on the top bunk. Those of us on dog duty wrapped up and went out to make a start, feeling so sorry for the dogs, some of whom were covered in a bloom of ice. It appeared that my team had been swapped round on their chain but on closer inspection I realised that Uno had been painted white by the frost and snow.
Within 10 minutes of starting dog duty Miloš sent me inside. My hands had stopped working and I couldn't lift the bowls. It was a devastating moment, and by the time I got to the cabin I was in tears. I felt angry that I had let the dogs down and I was in pain. Gaynor and Richard received me with such kindness, immediately understanding my distress and using their warmth to thaw me out both physically and mentally.
This was the first time I'd seen the dogs drag their heels, they weren't keen on getting up out of their straw beds for breakfast or even to be harnessed, a low point for us all. Miloš even gave me coats for my lead dogs and Sara hadn't eaten all her breakfast. The dogs had lost weight over the last few days and I realised that Miloš was concerned when he said I should be prepared to carry any dogs who were too tired on the journey, as my team are so strong.
We all made it. The last few kilometers were touch and go for a few of us as the wind chill on the lake was high and feet went numb, hands went numb and any bits of face that were exposed went numb. As we finally pulled in to Musher's lodge only the dogs seemed happy, many of us had tears in our eyes at the thought of leaving our dogs, although their obvious delight at being home and snuggling down into their kennels was heartening, as was the thin whisp of fire smoke coming from the chimney.