Alaskan Winter Run - Carnage in the Ice and Snow, Still haven't recovered one rig! - Pirate4x4.Com : 4x4 and Off-Road Forum
 
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:09 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Alaskan Winter Run - Carnage in the Ice and Snow, Update - Recovered the last rig!!!!

Our club had been planning our annual winter run for almost a year, and we weren't going to let bad weather stop us! Friday when I left the house it was raining, and there was no sun in the forcast, but deep inside I hoped that the rain would turn into snow at the higher elevations I was headed for, so we could have our usual rough weekend before the snow got too deep. As I neared the trail head, a few hours south of town, the clouds lifted, and the sun came out. It was one of the most beautiful days I had seen in weeks. The sun provided the most beautiful fall light, that light up the trees like never before. If you have ever lived in the northern territories, or Alaska, you know what I mean. When you only get a few hours of daylight per day, you really learn to appreciate this kind of thing. Even though I was hoping for snow, the sun was nice to see! It had been nearly a month since I had seen sun and clear skys.

I met club member John Wichman at his cabin, parked my truck and unloaded the Freak. Once I got all the junk transfered from the back of the tow rig, to the back of the Freak, rather than waiting around for everyone else to show up, we headed out for a little Pre-Run run. John jumped in the truck and we blazed down the trail to the local water hole. (yes, its actually a WATER hole, ya know, one you get WATER from ) The trail was mostly hard pack dirt, but was saturated from the previous rain and snow fall. The sun was out, so all the frozen ground was melting, creating a good 2-3" of slop. After reaching the water hole, we stoped to clean off the windshield, and headed back to the cabin for a few drinks.

I like camping, but this guys cabin takes the cake. Shower, sauna, propane heater, wood stove, etc. Its got it all. A few hours later the rest of the crew started showing up, thus the fun began. About 4:00 am, I went to bed

3 hours later my alarm clock went off.

I had to meet a fellow buggy guy, who had driven about 8 hours to come wheelin with us. I hopped in the tow rig, wiped the sleepys out of my eyes, and blazed down the road, back toward town. At about 7:30 I met Gus, and his wife Diane, who had trailered their Moose Buggy down from Wasilla. (Gus's wife built her own buggy) They had driven down the night before, and camped in their truck on the side of the road. It was raining pretty heavy now, and alluded to some great wheeling ahead.

By 10:00 our whole crew of 5 rigs was on the trail, and headed for my cabin, about 5 miles away as the crow flies. The first portion of the trail was mostly gravel road, with a few small gravel washouts. From the gravel road, we dropped off into a large valley with a small creek in the bottom. This part of the trail consisted of rutted up swamp crossed up with several fallen trees.



All the trucks made almost to the creek with out incident, until I found a small hole, and burried my front pass side 45. A quick tug from the rear, and we were on our way again.



One thing to note about these swamps is that some times they are just mat floating over a lake. Break through, and its over.
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:10 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Fortunately, I had been here before, and knew that even though my 45's couldnt find bottom, the mat was more than strong enough that as long as I didnt dig all 4 tires in, It would be easy to back out. Notice the lack of winch points. Travel here requires either a pull pall or another rig of similar weight to winch off of. As we neared the creek, we had to carefully navigate between some springs, and a few large boulders that had been placed there by qlaciers from hundreds of years ago.

Last year we had record rain fall, which caused major flooding and sevear damage to much of the creek beds in the area. The section of creek we needed to cross looked to be fairly un-harmed, but once we reached the edge, it was apparent that the shorter wheel base rigs might have trouble. The tubed out Geo (Wichmans) was the first in line, so he pulled to the side, as I blazed by, and eased off the bank into the Creek. 127" WB has some advantages The rest of the trucks followed in the sideways rain ...





The trail started to head up hill after the creek, and quickly became difficult. The swamps were getting softer, and had more and more little "creeks" running through them. None of these swamps are firm enough to easily walk through, but with tractor tires, and cut boggers, most of the rigs were still doing Ok. Winching for 20 to 30 feet at a time was becomming common at this point. Running the winch cable out entitled wading knee deep in mush, and pulling cable out of winches full of half frozen gear oil.

By now, we were farther down this trail than we had been in the last 10 years. Things were going very, very well. By this point last time, we had blown up winches, bent leaf springs, caught on fire, killed electrical systems, and wasted a whole day on the trail. This time, we had only spend 2-3 hours!



We all stopped for a quick snack, and group photo. Two of the rigs are hidden behind the mamoth buggys



From the group photo, to the next photo, it took several more hours, and it was only .5 miles to the next photo/final destination. Soon the sun came out, the wind slowed, and it once again became a became a beautiful day.

More up hill swamp, and 30- 40 minutes of heavy winching. I made several trips down the hill to tow or winch people to the top. Once everyone was up, the trail made a hard left, and headed back into the trees where it turned from thinner swampy mud, to this thick, SUPER sticky clay. I think at one point every truck in the group was stuck. Even with the Big Block, and tractor tires, I could not spin the mud out. After winching through the clay, my tires were literally twice as wide as original. I was plowing at least 4 feet of this goop, and had to snatch block the front 8274 to move at all.



We did some trail maintenance, and continued on....



I didnt get pics, but there is this small hill that we have always called widdow maker. Its short and steep, with a creek running along the bottom, and trees on both sides, so it takes lots of throttle, and some balls to drive up. Tipping over backwards is a definate possibility, or you can just run cable to the nearest tree. Gus was the first to make an attempt, and took the most traveled and logical line. He was most of the way up when the soft, wet, ground over came the traction of his 45" tractor tires. Out came the PTO winch, and up the hill he went. About half way back up, the incline became too great and his engine died. He was hung tight, unable to release the tension from the winch. Wichman tried to take the tension off with his little Geo, but to no avail.
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:11 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I was next inline, and took this as a challange. I had driven this obstical before, but only on the line that was now blocked by a very large moose buggy. The only option was to take the line to the right, which was 50" + vertical, and very muddy. My first attempt was denied, and so was the second and third. The 4th try involved lots of throttle, and plenty of verbal expletives. I made it and was able to then winch the moose buggy from its position on the hill.

Here is the final destination. Not much to look at, but its mine. Nobody has been here in a 4wd for at least 10 years. This cabin is 26 miles from the nearest highway, and 8 to 9 hours from the nearest large town. For the most part this cabin is only accessable in the winter, by snowmachine (snowmobile for you southeners). Generally we get 5-6 feet of snow on a bad year, and 10+ on a good year. More than enough to have a good time



Every year bears get into this cabin, and usually they tear the wood stove out, and eat all the bedding. They bite a hole in every can, tank, container, and wipe their sweaty noses on all the windows, then dig a hole in a wall to get out even when the door is wide open. When we arrived, the door was open, but it didn't appear any bears had been round the cabin for a while. We lay plywood down, with nails and screws sticking up through it, all around the cabin, to keep the bears from getting too interested in whats inside. Apparently it had been affective.

The log book noted that some people had used the cabin this hunting season, but other than that, the only users over the last several years had been during the winter. These hunters appeared to have come in from the south, and prolly with track rigs, or 4wd Quads.

We turned around after a short rest, and nailing the door to the cabin shut. The sun was falling quickly, as it was already ~3:30 pm, so we knew we were in for some carnage as we left the old cabin. (built in the 50's) As night fell, visibility dropped cause of light, and the weather started to turn again. Several long winch sessions later, were were about 1/2 mile from the cabin. It was dark, starting to rain, and I was stuck in the clay pit again. Two rigs in front, and two behind. The Geo made the pit, only winching once.



Behind him was the sammy, which did very well due to his light weight, but eventually his tires loaded up, and it was over. His winch was on its last legs, so I decided to give it a shot, and try to get around him. I made it only a few feet before my tires loaded up again, so rather than dig ruts, I hooked up the front winch, and tugged my way to hard gound.

Now I had to find my way around the stuck Sammy, between him and a tree. My 93" track width was about 6" too wide, so I ended up brushing up against the sammy, and driving over his little 31" terra tires. His passenger looked kinda supprised as I went by . I ended up stuck before I cleared the sammy, and had to winch again. Once free, and clear of the samurai, I hammered down in effort to keep the tires clean and to clear this hell hole. I made it through, but in the process, I blew a bead. Beadlocks are nice, but these 16.1" rims dont have a safety bead for the inner. 5 psi seemed to be a tad too low.

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Old 11-14-2003, 04:11 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I was mostly clear of the mud pit, but still in enough mud, that I couldnt walk around the tuck without loosing a boot. The first attempt at jacking the truck up was completely futile. The 60" hilift never did find hard ground, so I borrowed a plank from Tom, and chained up the axle. The jackwas bowing under the pressure, but I was able to lift the tire free of the mud and roots, enough to clean out some of the mud. I would have just ratchet straped the tire, and filled it with CO2, but some how I forgot my regulator at home. All I had was a can of starting fluid, and a 12 dollar air compressor from Kmart. Three tries with the starting fluid, and no seated tire. The 4th and final try emptied the can, so I was really hoping I'd get it right this time. We had no matches, , so I did the blow torch thing, and nearly burnt my face off. All I remember was a huge ball of fire shooting out directly at my face, and a loud pop. After picking my self up from the mud, I remembered that the tire was getting ready to suck its self right back off the bead. Fortunately I keep a valve stem cap with a core removal tool on it, on two tires. Fortunately this was one of them. I quickly pulled the core, and let air back into the tire. About an hour later, the ElCheapo compressor had enough air in the tire that I could continue down the trail. By this time everyone else had squeezed by, and were all headed for camp.

All three little rigs were out in front and kinda taking care of themselves now, so it was just me and the big moose buggy in the back. Clouds had hidden the moonlight, and masked most of the already hidden obsticals. Gus and the red moose buggy were next to get stuck. Up until now, I dont think he had really gotten stuck even once. Very impressive for a buggy that was built 16 years ago! Impressive as it was, he was still stuck. And not just stuck, he was stuck BAD. I first hit him with the tow strap, but after several heavy shots, it was apparent that the strap was not going to work. I tried to winch him out to the front to no avail, so out the back was the only remaining option. A pull from my rear winch, to a stump, through a snatch block, and to the buggys bumper proved fruitless. Through a snatch block, back to the stump, provided enough mechanical advantages to move the truck ever so slowly.


(there is a very large tire under there somewhere)

All the while were were communicating with the three smaller trucks ahead of us. "We are working through a little nasty spot" they reported.

Once I pulled the moose buggy out, he found a line that allowed him through without any more winching, and on we went to find the other group. A short blast down some much welcome hardened trail, we ran up on the other trucks. Apparently their idea of working through a "Little Nasty Spot" involved tearing the pass side Hysteer arm off of a built to the hilt dana 44. When we got there, they were trying to winch the truck over on its side, so they could access the broken steering components.

(btw, its about 3:00 in the am right now, so if my grammer sucks I have a good excuse )

I pulled over and let Gus drive by to go help the Toyota. As he wiggled his way around the toy, he got sucked into another very deep hole. His tires cocked to the pass side, so as we winched, things just got worse. Eventually he broke his 3/8" steel cable, I broke my 3/8" Plasma, and his drivers steering knuckle.



At this point some of us were nearing hypothermia, and we all were looking forward to the warm cabin that await us back at the trail head. We decided that we would all be better off to leave the two broken rigs, and come back in the AM after some food, and a good sleep. Gus and Timmy loaded some of their gear onto the Freak, and jumped on. We were now down to three rigs. The Freak, the Geo, and the Sammy.
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:12 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Not 300 yards later the sammy got stuck, and discovered that it was only driving off the front tires. Upon further inspection, we found that it had lost its rear driveshaft. No, it didnt just break the driveshaft, it actually LOST it. We searched through the mud and swamp for a good 20 minutes, and decided that it too, would be better off in the day light. Now we had only 2 rigs left running, and the geo only had room for the driver and his passanger. I ended up carrying 8 people in the freak. Rememeber that this thing only has two seats.

The remaining trip out was fairly uneventfull, we got stuck a few times, and had to winch, but other than that, it went well. The geo guys were now freezing to their seats, and their gloves were freezing to the steering wheel and "oh shit" handles. A quick blast down the road landed us back at Johns cabin, and around a warm wood stove.

The next morning a few calls were made, and we had a tracked rig headed up to help with rescuing the three rigs we left overnight. Gus and I loaded up in the Freak and headed back to start the recovery. Timmy and Doug followed in Dougs DD, Fortunately, because about 3/4 the way back, I ran out of fuel

A few hours later Doug and Timmy returned with 20 gallons of gas, and we were once again on our way. I made it clear back to the sammy without getting stuck, but soon mired into the swamp, clear up to my front bumper. Some handy double line winching, and we were off again. When we arrived to the buggy, and toyota, we were greeted by a good covering of ice, and a nasty wind.





Gus cut some dead fall, to provide a base for our highlifts, and we started to work on the Toyota. Timmy pulled the hysteer arm off the pass side knuckle, and I straightened it back out (as much as possible) with my hammer. Out came the ready welder, and I welded up the broken arm.



Once welded, Timmy re-installed the arm with the one remaining good stud. I then welded several passes around the exposed portion of the arm, and he proceded to re-install the tire. (not as easy as it sounds, it took about an hour to get the tire back on, and put the truck back on the ground.





In the mean time, the track rig showed up, and yanked Gus's moose buggy back up the hill, after a few forward attempts, and out of its icy grave.



I started welding the broken knuckle, but ran out of wire before I could do a complete repair. We had more wire in another kit, but I kinda though that the repair would hold as it was. I was wrong. Gus was able to drive the moose buggy onto dry ground a few hundred yards away, but the weld broke out, and once again he was stranded. The track rig towed the sammy the rest of the way out, and most of Gus's gear. Gus hopped in with me, and we picked out way back out to the road very carefully.

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Old 11-14-2003, 04:15 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Im headed back up this weekend to finish the job and get the moose buggy out. But in the mean time, Im going to have to thaw out all this snow, and chip off all this frozen mud My shop kinda reminds me of one of those swamps right now.
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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To be Continued...
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:16 AM   #8 (permalink)
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that camara takes nice pics cool, but too much mud for me looks fargin cold too
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks,

I hear ya on the mud, but I like a good challange more than I hate the mud. This was definately a good challange
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Old 11-14-2003, 04:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Brook, thanks for a entertaining breakfast.


wheres my coat suddenly its cold in here

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Old 11-14-2003, 05:08 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Excellent pics, nice write up!

Cold doesn't bother me, but that fawkin mud sucks!
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Old 11-14-2003, 05:11 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Nice writeup and pics.
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Old 11-14-2003, 05:20 AM   #13 (permalink)
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damn....looks like an awesome time! (and reminds me AGAIN why I hate mud....lol)
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Old 11-14-2003, 05:39 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Awesome post & pics keep them coming! Reminds me of the tundra in Northern Manitoba.
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Old 11-14-2003, 05:42 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Dam! Yup I will be sticking to the rocks! But looks like alot of funa nd great job on the write up.
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Old 11-14-2003, 06:22 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Great story. What an adventure. You guys worked your asses off, but it's cool that you wheeled to the cabin for the first time in ten years.
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Old 11-14-2003, 06:28 AM   #17 (permalink)
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looks like a great time
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Old 11-14-2003, 06:33 AM   #18 (permalink)
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What you guys do is a whole different concept from wheeling around here.

First, we don't have bogs like you all have and also have many trees to winch from and make bridges/skids/levers if necessary.

Second, we likely won't die if we get stranded. You are seldom more than 1/2 day walk to houses.

I would have to put a lot more thought into my equipment/tools if the stakes were as high as yours.

Great write up, great picks
Thanks
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Old 11-14-2003, 06:40 AM   #19 (permalink)
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That is amazing!

I cannot imagine fixing those broken parts with all that mud and freezing water around!

to you guys and thanks for the PRIMO writup!
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Old 11-14-2003, 06:50 AM   #20 (permalink)
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WOW!

ANYTIME you guys go out be sure to take a camera and get home as quick as you can so you can tell us all about it.

That is the shiat!

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Old 11-14-2003, 06:59 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Awesome writeup, thanks for that
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Old 11-14-2003, 07:12 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Awesome morning read.....Thanks Brook
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Old 11-14-2003, 07:15 AM   #23 (permalink)
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I wanna go to Alaska, thatplace even has the UP beat all to hell.

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Old 11-14-2003, 07:20 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Great story. I'm shivering just reading it.
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Old 11-14-2003, 07:47 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Great read.
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