After plunging into an icy river, Asheville adventurer Peter Ripmaster cut short his quest to hike 1,000 miles through the Alaska wilderness, completing nearly 500 miles last week.
Ripmaster, 39, said he decided to pull out of the Iditarod Trail Invitational race Sunday in part because of a harrowing incident on March 3 in which he fell through ice on the frozen Tatina River.
“Before I knew it, I was entirely underwater,” Ripomaster said Tuesday from Willow, Alaska. “It was pretty fast-moving water.”
Though alone, Ripmaster managed to rescue himself as well as the sled he dragged carrying food, sleeping bag and other provisions.
With the temperature in the teens at sunset, and coated with ice, he strode to a race checkpoint three-and-a-half miles away. Alaskans gave him dry clothes, fed him and put him next to a fire.
Ripmaster said the dunking, the constant cold (as low as minus 20), fatigue and missing his family (wife Kristen, daughters 7 and 4), convinced him to stop in Ruby, Alaska, which has an airport.
“I didn’t have another 500 miles in me,” he said.
Race director Kathi Merchant said Ripmaster did 478 miles in 14 days.
The race – competitors go by foot or by bicycle – follows the historic Iditarod Trail from Knik, near Anchorage, to Nome.
Hikers and bicyclists left Feb. 28; the famous Iditarod sled dog race began a week later.
Ripmaster completed the race’s 350-mile course in 2014 and 2015. He finished third of 13 hikers last year.