Yellowknife ice trucking

Discussion in 'Shiny Things' started by squonker, Sep 18, 2007.

  1. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    I’ve been in touch with a moderator, hoping that I could put this in ‘Ride Reports’, but unfortunately because my KLR is hibernating October to April, I can’t really pretend that this has anything at all to do with adventure riding. It is adventure, however – it’s just adventure trucking.
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    This story takes place February and March each year, when I drive the ice roads from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place><st1:City>Yellowknife</st1:City>, <st1:State>Northwest Territories</st1:State></st1:place>, to the gold and diamond mines along the Tibbett to Contwoyto Winter Road. I haven’t seen it, but I gather that there’s a series about the ice road on TV right now. Someone even said it was #1 in the ratings in the <st1:country-region><st1:place>U.S.</st1:place></st1:country-region> Well, I ordered the DVD from The History Channel yesterday, so I’ll be able to check it out soon enough.
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    I noticed that many of the threads about <st1:City><st1:place>Yellowknife</st1:place></st1:City> mention the ice road, so I thought I’d post some pics. I kinda wanted to do a story about one trip, but all my pics are jumbled up in no order whatsoever. I did 21 trips my first season (Diavik, BHP and Lupin), and then either 16 or 19 my second season (<st1:place><st1:placeName>Snap</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType>Lake</st1:placeType></st1:place>, Diavik and BHP).
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    I drove the ’05 and ’06 seasons, but took last year off (as I will do this year) while I’m at school. 2009 I hope to have my own rig, but I’ll be driving again whatever happens. This job has everything I ever wanted in it, other than cheerleaders. I live for this job!
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    Ok, I’ve never posted any pics here before so I’ll try a little experiment, and write/post some more soon. A word of warning – you might want to wear some warm clothes to read this thread. The very first trip I ever did, when I got to Diavik it was -87c with the windchill. Hold on, I’ll go online and convert that into Farenheit: ok, it’s -124F. That’s no exaggeration. It was cold, believe me!
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    Here goes with some pics.

    When the ice is really sketchy they slow us right down to 15 or even 10 kmh. We're all paid by the trip, so it really hurts to have to slow down at all. It breaks my heart every time I see one of these signs!
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=134531&stc=1&d=1190142767

    Some of these loads are massive. I've hauled heavy equipment up there, but they never had to take it apart so it would fit on my trailer! I took this pic just 'cos it was cool, then found out that a writer from Maxin magaazine was riding in this truck. Bastard could have dropped a few of the Maxim girls off at dispatch for the rest of us to take as passenegers!
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=134533&stc=1&d=1190142904

    And one more for now 'cos I'm still just experementing with uploading pics. Do they need to b bigger? Smaller? I'm only allowed to upload one at a time so it takes a while. This one is pretty self explanatory, I think.
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=134534&stc=1&d=1190143029
    1202 is diesel fuel. I carried it in 45 gallon drums to the Lupin gold, literally just metres from the Arctic Circle. Who can say they drove big rigs into the circle across frozen lakes?
    #1
  2. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Ok, I guess I need to work on actually posting pics into the link...not very computer savvy....

    View attachment 134537

    Let's see if that worked.

    Alright, maybe I have this figured out. Here's one I took of myself at Diavik. I guess it was cold that day too. Believe it or not, I would be allowed to vote wearing this in Canada.
    me outside at diavik 1.jpg
    #2
  3. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Maybe I'm only allowed one pic per post. Here are the three from the first post that didn't appear.

    When the ice is really sketchy they slow us right down to 15 or even 10 kmh. We're all paid by the trip, so it really hurts to have to slow down at all. It breaks my heart every time I see one of these signs!

    15kmh sign.jpg
    #3
  4. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Some of these loads are massive. I've hauled heavy equipment up there, but they never had to take it apart so it would fit on my trailer! I took this pic just 'cos it was cool, then found out that a writer from Maxim magazine was riding in this truck. Bastard could have dropped a few of the Maxim girls off at dispatch for the rest of us to take as passenegers!
    992 loader.jpg
    #4
  5. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    And one more for now 'cos I'm still just experementing with uploading pics. Do they need to be bigger? Smaller? I'm only allowed to upload one at a time so it takes a while. This one is pretty self explanatory, I think.

    1202 is diesel fuel. I carried it in 45 gallon drums to the Lupin gold mine, literally just metres from the Arctic Circle. Very cool to be able to say that I drove there across frozen lakes.
    cold trailer.jpg
    #5
  6. kootenay kid

    kootenay kid Lets Ride

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    Very crazy job you have there. I would love to try it. I guess you dont shut the trucks off in that kind of weather very often. Keep the pictures coming. Oh and I watched a show on Tv once that explained how if you travel on the ice too fast you create a wave under the ice that will lift the ice up when it hits shore because it has nowhere else to go. Do I have that right?
    #6
  7. bg

    bg Rainbow puppies Super Moderator

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    More pictures please. I wish my job was as interesting as yours. :lurk
    #7
  8. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Here's one I didn't show my mum.
    IMG_0986.JPG

    It went through while they were building the road in '06, and for whatever reason they just left it there until the end of the season.

    Kootenay Kid: basically the trucks aren't shut off unless it's say -2c or above. In '05 I didn't shut mine off once. '06 was a short, warm season and there were a few days when I was parked in Yk and it was warm enough to give the girl a rest, but even then my boss wasn't overjoyed at the thought of his machines being started in those temps. I would never shut my truck off unless I was sitting in my home yard, whatever the temp. You don't want to tempt fate out there in the barrens.
    As for the wave, I did have this explained accurately to me during orientation one year, but I forget. I tell everyone that the wave you create in front of you will bounce back off the shore and hit itself coming the other way. That's what'll weaken the ice - and it's not you that'll go through, it's buddy behind you. Don't take my word for this, though, it may not be accurate. What I do know is that one winter before I got this job, I was out on another ice road with a buddy, taking pics of the northern lights. There were rigs using the road to haul sand from an island and stockpile it in town for the upcoming construction season. We were in my Honda Civic and I said to buddy, let's sit at the side of the road when the next truck comes past to hear the ice cracking, not really sure whether that was true, either. Holy smokes - I opened my door as the truck came past, and I swear to you know who that we could hear the ice cracking over the sound of the truck. And the wave - it felt like we were lifted up six feet! I expect it was probably only one, but we both just turned to eachother with our jaws on the floor, not saying a word. It's kinda cool though, as you're driving along you can wind down the window and listen to the ice creak as you drive over it. They say it's a good thing, that it means it's flexing.

    I have hundreds of pics. Over time I'll get a bunch up. Anyone know how to up my limit of one photograph at a time?
    #8
  9. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    The next four are from my first trip in '06. Buddy driving the white Western Star here drove off the road in a narrow, tricky section and got himself well and truly stuck. Just what you want at 2am on your first trip of the year when you aren't used to the crazy hours yet. We had a winch truck in the convoy, so Jay tries to haul Don out of his predicament. But no, that truck is stuck fast, carrying an abnormal load to boot.
    IMG_0981.JPG
    #9
  10. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Every time Jay starts to reel his winch in, his truck just slides on the ice towards the stuck truck.
    IMG_0982.JPG
    #10
  11. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    A grader operator hears our chatter, and with the road being blocked we're in danger of holding up the convoy behind us. Mr. Grader Man digs his blade as firmly into the ice as he can. Jay hooks up to that, and we use the grader as an anchor.

    IMG_0983.JPG
    #11
  12. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    It still takes some time, with the grader and Jay's winch truck now both sliding toward the schmoo, but eventually we're all good to go again. No harm done to Don's truck, as I recall. :clap
    IMG_0984.JPG
    #12
  13. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    And one more 'cos I'm logged on already.
    IMG_1011.JPG
    You can't tell me it's not beautiful above the tree line, too.
    #13
  14. Statdawg

    Statdawg Do U feel lucky ?

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    A 1990 GSPD with a sidecar took that road. The story is here www.thetimelessride.com those truckers had a heated cab and were getting paid, tough job but helmets off to Hubert. :eek1
    #14
  15. kodiakfrank

    kodiakfrank Gloria's Cheerleader

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    What are the chances of getting permission to run the road with a Ural/hack combo?:ear


    Hey Moosekiller, are you paying attention?:lol3
    #15
  16. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Kodiak,

    Technically the road is a private road that's open to the public. They can't stop you driving it, but if you were in anything other than an SUV or a pick up you can bet they'd stop and ask questions. One place you wouldn't be allowed is onto any of the mines - very tight security there. If you weren't prepared to do any winter camping, you might be in for a bit of a hard time, but I have one idea....PM on the way.
    #16
  17. Commuter Boy

    Commuter Boy Long timer

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    You won't have any problems along the main ice road to Fort Providence over the Mackenzie or to some of the other hamlets around there. We did it in the car a year or so ago no problems.

    Coming back was a little hairy, I wasn't finished my work in YK, so we got the 12 hours notice till closure. Wife had the bags packed, threw the kids in the car and went for it. No way was she camping out in YK for another month till break up was finished.

    By that time the road is covered in a foot of slush, and starting to rot out. An older Dene couple went before our Passat to act as a guide to find the potholes under the slush. Every now and then one of the wheels on the jacked up 4x4 they were driving would DISAPPEAR 3/4 of the way up, wooo, steer around that one, keep going.

    SWMBO said she only took a couple of breaths the whole way across :lol3
    #17
  18. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Holy moly Statdawg, that dude on the motorbike sure knows the meaning of adventure riding! What would possess you to do something like that?! I think I remember hearing about his plans to do the trip, but then I forgot all about it. It&#8217;s not the same road actually, but for all the difference it makes it might as well be.
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    The year before I started, a friend told me how he&#8217;d been up on the ice and his heater had quit, how he was slowly freezing as he was driving along. I wondered at the time what I&#8217;d do if that ever happened to me, whether I was tough enough to deal with it. I was to find out before too long&#8230;
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    Heading to BHP with a load of I don&#8217;t know what, we stopped at the top of Charlie&#8217;s Hill and I could feel that it wasn&#8217;t as warm in my cab as it should have been. Not uncomfortable by any means, but I could notice the difference. I hadn&#8217;t adjusted the heat &#8216;cos the thing was a little temperamental anyway. It only worked on highest heat with the fan on high too, but that&#8217;s the best place for it to be stuck, I guess, if it has to be stuck. I think it was the wee hours of the morning, and I also figured that it would likely warm up when the sun came up anyway. We got to Lockhart camp and I went in for something to eat and when I climbed back in the truck, it was colder still. I knew something was wrong now, and a quick recce showed that neither the cab nor the bunk heat was working. Yikes. I had a look around and couldn&#8217;t find what was wrong, so I called my boss in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City><st1:place>Yellowknife</st1:place></st1:City>, left him a message telling what parts to have waiting when I got back. I still wasn&#8217;t too worried &#8211; it was slightly uncomfortable now, but nothing too terribly bad. The only thing that bothered me was that within a couple of kilometers of Lockhart you break through out of the tree line, and it would be colder outside because of the wind. Also, north of Lockhart there aren&#8217;t any hills, so the engine wouldn&#8217;t be working as hard, and right now that was the only heat I had.
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    By the time I got to the mine it was officially downright cold. I wasn&#8217;t a happy chappy, and all I wanted to do was get back to town asap to get the damn thing fixed. I got unloaded and headed straight back to Lockhart. By that time it was officially brass monkeys in the cab and when I thought about how far I had to go still, I wanted to cry. I had on my long underwear, my snowmobile pants, warm jacket, boots rated for -100c, gloves and a touque, and I wasn&#8217;t anywhere close to being warm. Of course, having been driving for about 20 hours wouldn&#8217;t have helped. I also had to have the window open a crack &#8216;cos otherwise your breath condenses and freezes on the windows and windshield. I always like to be able to see out of at least one window when I&#8217;m driving! At Lockhart I ate and had about 16 gallons of tea. I wanted to call my boss and bitch, but it wouldn&#8217;t have changed anything so I saw a friend who worked for security and moaned to him until I felt slightly better. It was close to <st1:time Minute="0" Hour="0">midnight</st1:time> by this time and I was too tired to drive any more, but it was too cold in the truck to sleep. There wasn&#8217;t anywhere to lie down at Lockhart that I wouldn&#8217;t have been frequently woken up, but I decided that to try and drive would be a recipe for disaster, so I lay down on the bunk with all that gear on, and I did manage to sleep for an hour or two. Of course, when I came to again I felt worse than ever, so it was back inside for 16 more gallons of tea (if you&#8217;ve ever watched Coronation Street you&#8217;ll know how medicinal tea is to us Brits) and to summon up the gumption to continue.
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    Now there was nothing else for it. No excuse not to make a run for it back to town, so I left at what I&#8217;m guessing was about 2am, and I don&#8217;t remember the rest of the journey so I guess I either made it alright, or I was asleep the whole time! It was awful having to stop at the quarry and drop my trailer off then go to dispatch and do paperwork before I could go and warm up. I parked the truck in the yard and didn&#8217;t even look for my boss, just jumped in my car and went home for The Best Shower Of My Life. Well, alone, anyway. I called Boss Man when I woke up, and he had the thing fixed again, so I was able to book a &#8216;tee time&#8217; for that evening, and head back out again in glorious comfort.
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    But on a motorbike? No thanks!
    frosted window 3.JPG
    This isn't as a result of the heater having broken, this is as a result of driving a Freightliner!
    #18
  19. Surlyguy

    Surlyguy Guest

    Lake athabasca in February. Now I have to go back and wait for a big truck.
    This wave thing sounds cool!

    [​IMG]
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    #19
  20. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    There's gonna be someone who's going to try to ride that road in winter on a bike.. gotta see it.. thanks for the pics and report :thumb
    #20