On a good day when the sun is shining, and the winds are calm this little spot is heavenly. On this particular morning “heavenly” is not the adjective I am looking for. Maybe “stressful” would be a better description. I took this shot first thing in the morning after a big storm in August. Did I mentioned that the “lake” is more-or-less our airstrip. Can you see that yellowish speck at the lower left corner of the lake … that’s their North Face tent. They shook the snow off so we could locate them. 16 hours earlier the wind had been blowing 80 mph and it managed to break tent poles in every camp we had out in the field … hahahah, you gotta love Alaskan weather, it can do anything. We actually decided not to land until they got some of the snow removed because it was just too marginal.
We came back after a few hours and they had managed to reveal portions of where the airstrip was. They did a great job considering there were no shovels to be had, they used an old rake that was laying at the site. You can see in the one picture the dude is not even wearing his shirt because he was working so hard at snow removal. I mentioned in the post on Dec 24 that conditions like this remove ALL braking effectivity. It was great when the sun came out and started doing some of the work for us. Unfortunately, the sun turned the air-strip into a mud pit. I had to hose the plane down when I got home because I had mud stuck to the engine cowl, tail feathers, and tops of my wings. Mud is no good because of the little rocks that get picked up and slung into the propeller by my huge 35″ Bushwheels … it can cost me lots of money and then I get grouchy and start whining.
This strip is only 350′ long, at 5500′ elevation, and it is susceptible to some very undesirable wind effects. This is one of those strips that could bite you hard. When you add 8 inches of wet snow into this already challenging mix it means that we made a lot of trips this day. We actually shuttled 6 or 8 loads down to a longer strip where we left with half that many trips. Weight is a big deal, especially when you are dealing with excessive drag at slightly higher elevations. Long story short, we got everybody out of the mountains only slightly behind schedule, and we never even had to put skis on.
One of the nice things about doing simple day trips with Blue Ice Aviation is that storms like this don’t get you stuck out, because the plane is with you all the time. If the weather is bad, we don’t fly. If we are out exploring and the weather is getting worse we go home. It’s a real luxury. The Super Cub and myself are always with you so you can get home in time for a bacon cheeseburger and beer on tap at Sheep Mt. Lodge. This is very important :o)