From what I've heard from different folks here in Fairbanks, Donald being withdrawn from the race was a case of not being adequately prepared to care for his dogs during the race. I saw him leave the start line and have pictures of his team and him and let me say that his animals looked great. They looked fit and happy. It was interesting to note that his team wasn't wearing dog jackets but to my eye that didn't appear to be a problem because they had beautiful, heavy coats.
After I heard of his withdrawal I looked at my photos again. The one thing that struck me was that his sled looked very light in terms of its contents compared to the other mushers.
The Quest is a very different race from the Iditarod. We have had some seriously cold weather (45 to 50 below) in the week leading up to the race and from what I had been hearing on the ham radio, the temps near Slaven's cabin were and I quote, "not good." In Alaskan language, that's deathly cold. Add the winds on Eagle Summit and you've got the recipe for disaster if a musher is ill prepared.
There are almost twice as many checkpoints in the Iditarod and please don't take that to mean that I am saying that the Iditarod is easy. A thousand miles on a dogsled is a thousand miles. However I believe that a Quest musher needs a whole different set of wilderness, navigation and dog care skills in order to successfully negotiate the miles between the checkpoints. And with those skills comes the neccessity for more gear.
Heck, just running dogs out here in our neck of the woods demands that a musher be prepared for anything. Sometimes it's a very long way between cabins and a very long time before you might see someone else.
I am wondering if Donald was more in an Iditarod frame of mind when it came to packing his sled for the trip.
It should be noted that the race marshall, Grilliot, wasn't at Chena Hot Springs when he made the final decision. The vets at the Hot Springs checkpoint were the ones who initiated the discussion and to me that shows that they had their priorities straight - the dogs must come first.
While it must have been terribly disappointing for Donald the welfare of the dogs must be the highest priority. The race marshall has to be strict. It's not a popularity contest.