Scouts compete in Klondike Derby

Adam Urquhart Pack 21 from Hudson, New Hampshire sit in the snow by their sled at the ice rescue hut.

HOLLIS – Friday night, 101 Boy Scouts and adults braved the bitter cold, sleeping outside in single-digit temperatures, before waking up Saturday morning to compete in the annual Klondike Derby at Lone Pine Hunters Club.

Klondike Chairman Mark Gath has been involved with the derby on and off for 15 years, since his child was a Boy Scout. The event itself has been going on for more than 40 years.

“We’ve been coming here for nine years, and prior to that we kind of went around to different places but settled here and they’ve treated us very well,” Gath said.

Friday night’s frigid sleep out was what they call the “Freeze Out.” The derby consists of scouts competing in groups that move from one station to another, requiring they apply different skills they’ve learned.

Adam Urquhart Some boys with pack four from Milford, New Hampshire work together to learn how to tie a couple different knots.

“Everything they’re tested on is something found in the Boy Scout handbook,” Scout Troop 21 volunteer Jennifer Bergeron said.

This year’s derby theme was Hut to Hut, based off of the huts found along trails in the White Mountains.

Gath said the overall purpose of the derby is based on the 1925 serum run to Nome, Alaska, where sleds were utilized to deliver the serum.

“The boys concocted a sled, like a dog sled, and then they’re the dogs. They pull their sled around this course going to each station on the course,” Gath said. “There’s nine stations or huts this year and they get an equipment list and on that is tarps, ropes, blankets, first aid kits, comapsses and enough supplies to build two fires.”

One station may require the boys to use a compass and another may require them to utilize their skills with tying knots.

Adam Urquhart Troop 10 from Wilton, New Hampshire gather around their sled at the Klondike Derby.

There were 27 sleds, 164 scouts and 83 adults, while the Webelos had 12 sleds, 63 scouts and 39 adults.

There’s one council for the state of New Hampshire, the Daniel Webster Council. All the Boy Scouts at Saturday’s event were from the Arrowhead District, which serves Greater Nashua.

“What we call the Webelos, older Cub Scouts, are probably bridging into Boy Scouts next year. This is kind of like a taste of what’s to come,” Gath said. “For them it’s not really competing at winning a trophy so much as it is getting experience.”

Bergeron, who was volunteering at the ice rescue station, said the boys hear a speech when they come in before tackling the challenge. At this hut, Lonesome Lake Hut, the boys act as though they’re on an expedition and one scout is injured with a sprained ankle. The boys then must get the gear off the sled and put that “injured” scout on the sled.

She said they’re placed in a scenario where one of the ropes slips from their hands and the sled goes down onto the ice. Using the gear they’re carrying to make joining knots that will lengthen the rope enough to reach the injured scout, that scout then ties the rope around himself to be rescued and the team pulls him back to safety. Under these pretend circumstances the boys build teamwork skills while overcoming challenges together.

They’re then tested on things like whether they were prepared and had all the needed gear, tying knots, making lunch, teamwork, cleaning up and time management.

“This is my favorite event,” Bergeron said. “I love the Klondike Derby.”

She has two boys who’ve been in the scouts since first grade. Her oldest is a senior in high school and her youngest is a sophomore. Neither were able to be there Saturday.

“I was a leader in the scouts for 12 years but stepped down because my boys are almost done,” Bergeron said. “I’m here trying to help other people. It’s great to be here and watch them learn these skills.”

Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or