A SCOTTISH adventurer has spoken of his battle with freezing blizzards and temperatures of -40C as he competed in a 180-mile dog sled race in the US.
John Stewart faced blizzard conditions as he raced in the hills of Minnesota in the first week of the new year.
Mr Stewart, originally from Aberdeen, is a professional dog sled racer and was competing in the Gichigami Express race, near Grand Marais.
The Aviemore resident was accompanied on the mountains by 12 dogs along the three stages of the 180-mile race.
The 28-year-old started the final stage in first place among 13 ‘mushers’, but as temperatures dropped to -40C and the wind chill plummeted to -63C he was overtaken in the final stage of the race by his team mate Buddy Streeper.
Mr Stewart, who is a former Scottish and British junior sprint champion, finished second with an overall time of 15 hours, 45 minutes and 10 seconds, just under three minutes behind his Canadian team mate, who took first place.
He said: “The Gichigami Express was a tough race. The terrain was demanding due to the hills and because of the weather conditions during the race it became colder. The windy conditions didn’t help and we also had a fair bit of snow.
“We prefer to race on trails that are hard and fast but this wasn’t. The cold snap did not affect our training as it basically hit the night before the race. It wasn’t so bad the first day but by day three we were looking at -40C with the wind chill factor.”
Mr Stewart works as a commercial diver in the North Sea to fund his racing career.
“I haven’t really moved from Scotland yet, I just take time off in the winter to run sled dogs all over North America.
“My ambitions for the future will be to continue my progress in my diving career as I enjoy the work. Ultimately it helps me fund the sled dog racing passion and gives me the time off I need to race sled dogs at a high level.”
Mr Stewart grew up in the village of Ardrishaig, Argyll, spending the first 13 years of his life on the west coast of Scotland and has been a dog lover since his childhood.
“My parents bought Siberian huskies when I was five years old and they have been a part of my life ever since.
“I lived in Ardrishaig where I went to primary school, I finished school in Grantown on Spey before moving to Aviemore where I did my commercial diving course and have been running dogs in the winter since then.
“I competed in the UK as a junior musher and with the support of my mother and father I was able to compete further afield, and have since gone on to race in Italy, Alaska, as well as North and South America in all styles of mushing.”
While racing in the US with his current team, Streeper Kennels, Mr Stewart met his future wife. He said: “I met my wife back in December 2011, we got married in November of just this year gone and the ultimate plan is to immigrate over here [the US] and set up a kennel for Liz and myself to compete all over North America.”