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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Iditarod Trip, Ceromonial Start Day – Part I

When Joseph and I went down to breakfast, we were seated in a part of the restaurant that we hadn’t been in before.

The Brits at Breakfast

Next to us were a table of Brits. They seemed to be a skiing group that evidentially knew each other very well. I eavesdropped in on their conversation for just a bit and finally leaned over from my table and said: “Pardon me guys; but exactly what part of Brooklyn are you from?”

That broke the ice and we dug into each other’s background a little deeper from this point. These guys turned out to be a group of skiers that had met way back in 1992 when they all had booked a ski outing in Europe and found that they had made great friends. They in some sort of assemblage have managed to gather to ski somewhere in the world every year since. This year they had really splurged and bought their way to Alaska and they just happened to be in the hotel at the same time as those of us there for the Iditarod Start.

The group consisted of a bunch of guys from all over the UK. I here present their names and residence as they themselves wrote it out. I’m sorry if I have made a mistake deciphering their hand writing.

Roland Topf, Island of Jersey
Tony Newman, London, UK
Ewen Cameron, Dillington, UK
Charlie Elliot, Stow on the Woods, UK
Damian Simor, Hackney, London
Andrew Tipton, Tooting Bec, London
Charlie Foster, New Forest, UK

Tordrillo Mountains

They were headed to a Lodge in the Tordrillo Mountains, northwest of Anchorage, where a group of guys operated a heli skiing and snowboarding operation. Elevations range from 1,000-feet at the Lodge, to over 11,000-feet on the highest peaks; the vast expanse of the range (1.2 million acres, 65 X 35 miles) provides a variety of climate zones. The guys had come half way around the world for this adventure and were really pumped to get at it.

Roland’s Facebook Post 13 Mar 15:

“Feeling sad this week as it is coming to an end. It was the trip of a lifetime with amazing friends and we always knew weather could be an issue so only got 2.5 days out of a max 6 days skiing BUT the days we got were mind blowing and have so much more unfinished business on those steeps of Alaska. If anyone who skis well wants the ultimate ski experience go to Tordrillo and meet the amazing team out there - you won't be disappointed!

It was a trip off firsts as well. Fist time jumping into a frozen lake, First time doing a Shotski, first time Heli skiing, first times skate skiing AND first time seeing the Northern lights wow!

This is a drug and I’m addicted to it already – help!”

Here’s a link to one of his runs:


I have always regretted not to have learned to ski. But after being called in to LTG James F. Hollingsworth (MG at the time) office and ordered not to go anywhere near the ski area during my time in the Army in Alaska, I have stayed far away from that activity. Having served two tours of duty at Army Posts with their own Ski Hill and Lodge, I will never know how good (or bad) I would have been at skiing.

National Guard Assignment

Another of the guys in the group had spent an exchange tour of duty with the the First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry; an old and excellent unit in the Pennsylvania National Guard. The Philadelphia Light Horse has the distinction as being the escort for General George Washington to New York to take command of the Continental Army. It is the oldest military unit in the United States still in active service, having been organized in 1774 and is the only military unit in the US that owns its own armory building, built with private funds in the Rittenhouse section of Philadelphia.

I’m sorry that I didn’t pay close attention to this guy when he wrote his name on my roster of participants so I could divulge his name to you. He was very proud of his duty with these guys and rightly soa great opportunity and memory also.

They kept coming and going to and from the four seats at the table (see 7 names above) until all had finally finished their breakfast and left for their flight to the Tridrillo Mountains. It was my great pleasure to have met them and spend time in conversation with them about their upcoming adventure.


I was reminded of an earlier time in my life when things would most likely have been reversed. I would have been going off on the adventure and the others would have been watching. At this point in my life, the roles were reversed. I do not mind it one bit; I’ve had many adventures and need to leave a few for others to experience. Besides, I’m about to revisit an adventure that I had some 43 & 44 years agowatching the Iditarod and help move it along.

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