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01-04-2013, 04:54 PM
I need an opinion from those that live and work in the remote backcountry. Short of using a Cat or snowcat in snow, is there anything else that is half-way suitable to move men and equipment?

I am considering a new Polaris Ranger with winch and treads. Any experiences? With snow? Or melted tundra?

01-05-2013, 06:36 AM

In looking at the area around Bettles, there aren't many options that haven't already been presented. I looked at the trail up Wild River to Wild Lake, for example. The trails are remote to say the least. Yes, there's a trail on the topo map. Alaska throws every obstacle imaginable at you. The only vehicle that can break trail is a bull dozer. Some operators use just a cat tractor without the dozer blade. The conditions are never the same from one area to another. You may have six feet of fresh soft snow or you may have ground with little or no snow. Snow is good to an extent. Well traveled trails are broken by the regular traffic - usually snow machines. They require a snow machine.

- Geowizard

01-05-2013, 07:05 AM
Anyone considering Cat skinning in Alaska should read the autobiography of Elmer Keturi at www.keturi.com

About the only thing that has changed is equipment prices and fuel costs. This type of "adventure" requires a skilled dozer operator - preferably two or more. Extensive experience in polar winter conditions + Alaska + Bush + Logistics are on the short list part of a long list of prerequisites.

I think ote added comments earlier on the topic.

It's the reason I learned to fly in Alaska and became a bush pilot. :)

- Geowizard

01-05-2013, 07:51 AM
A Nodwell will get you there and carry a bunch of equipment

01-05-2013, 09:56 AM
I'm stuck doing everything "poor-boy" and it brings a plethora of problems. A multitudinous plethora.

If I had the financial assets, I would contract all hauling.
Take this pile, haul it to there by calender date. Post performance bond and sign on the dotted line.

It seems every contraption I've ever used gets me just as far from the highway as possible before breaking down. Now imagine that it is your season's chance at making money.

1. Is the transport system fairly new. If not, expect breakdowns far from anywhere.

2. Is the transport equipment going to be used on the mining/prospecting site? If not, contract it out.

3. Are you the mechanic w/tools and parts? If not, contract out.

4. Can you afford to walk away from it? If not, contract out.
About 30 years ago a buddy of mine bought a snow-cat from a dude in the Healy area. Ran it x-country to Ft Wainwright where he was stationed. Halfway to garrison, the VW engine died. He was fortunate. He heard a UH-1 helicopter, flagged it down and got a ride w/engine back to FtWW. There are certain advantages to being a helicopter mechanic with the Sugar Bears. Even got a ride back to the snow-cat several days later with good engine.

He had hometown advantage is my point. And 1 hot steaming pile of luck. What hot steaming pile awaits you?

Myself? I even considered kicking door bundles of supplies for prepositioning. The problem I run into with this is willing pilots with cargo-drop capable aircraft. Oh, and money.

Whatever choice you make, do it with eyes wide open, disposable monies and a list of contingency plans. The further you are from support, the greater every problem becomes. Figure every repair part not on hand will cost several hundred dollars; even a fuel filter.

May your adventure be profitable.

01-05-2013, 11:00 AM
We could use more information. How far off the road? Trails or are you going to have to bushwack for miles? High country or all low muskeg junk? Any substantial creeks to cross?
Anyone else equipment mining in the area, or close by? Are you opposed to using snowmachines in the Spring?

01-05-2013, 08:11 PM
Thank you Chris, Eric, & Dick. I value your input highly.

Advice taken. Food, fuel, equipment, and generator going in via snowcat last of Feb. Tracked Polaris will follow on packed snow. I get to fly in after the thaw to assist other local operator build airstrip. 30+ years on a Cat, working on them too. Self sufficient country boy with lots of years spent in the wilds, just none in frozen arctic. (Inexperience up there can be fatal) What ever goes in, stays in. Considered expendable.

Only way in or out takes sat phone, bush plane 24 hours this season. I'll fly my own next season. I was just looking for alternatives for 12 miles of trail and 10 miles of muskeg

01-05-2013, 08:21 PM
Good deal! Sounds like you got it figured out. Best of luck. Gets awful cold in February still.
I'd say wait until mid-March at earliest, unless you have a time crunch.

01-05-2013, 08:47 PM
Can't wait, Dick. Hauler specified the date.

01-06-2013, 05:58 AM
I can't wait, either. So, we're going to build a runway with a Nodwell (proposed) and/or a "Tracked Polaris"? Yes, one of the "local miners" has a contract hauling company that operates out of North Pole. As ote said, it's good to know the locals.

It's all about logistics. But, if contingency planning is not considered, supplies and equipment can be stuck in the middle of and/or at the bottom of a river if "stuck and can't move" happens and spring time in Alaska happens.

Have fun and have a great summer! :)

- Geowizard