My brother and I started trapping together in 2007, before that I did a little with Jared Cummings and later with Jacob White learning a great deal of valuable skills passed on by their fathers and grandfathers. I think that first year we caught a couple cats, a couple marten, a fox and a coyote which was just enough to keep the fur fever going. A couple years later we finally hooked onto some wolves and could consider ourselves ‘Real’ Alaskan trappers.
In February 2013 my brother Jared and I purchased a long line off Larry Dorshorst on the upper Goodpaster and Eisenmenger Rivers for a respectable $10,000. The area had been trapped and passed on since the very early 1900’s and most likely the very late 1800’s. Everything came with it, traps, cabins, gear, raft, the works, just no ‘overflow for newbie’s’ manual. Our current lines didn’t have much for water except up the Tanana from Blue Creek and it was either great or impassible, never had to guess. On March 2nd Jared found out just what kind of pickle overflow can put you in.
He was 89 miles back and had just dropped the sled to make better time on that leg of line in the deep snow. What looked like a beautiful blanket of deep powder was actually just a foot of snow on top of 2 feet of creeping water. Realizing what he was in he powered up and headed for the bank falling just 7 or 8 feet short, swamped! After horsing with it a while it was obvious the sled was done for and he began the 6 mile walk to the nearest cabin. Early the next morning with the temp at 5 degrees he headed for the next cabin 8 miles away where Larry’s old Tundra was stowed, Jared hoped it would run just enough to get him out, and it did. Funny thing is Larry wanted us to ride that thing out for him but we said we probably wouldn’t have the time to, well it turns out nature made the time for us!
On March 10 Jared and Ryan Gilbertson headed in on fresh machines and a rescue plan in tow. I flew in with my friend Jim Cummings, owner of Golden Eagle Outfitters and met up with the guys 8 miles south of the swamped machine.
The water eventually surfaced and took that level of snow with it then froze, incasing the machine in ice inside and out, so much for riding it out. I had seen pictures of trucks and big rigs being hoisted from ice before so we went right to work with a good plan! Chainsaw all the way around the machine, chop in holes for tripod legs, build the tripod, hoist er up, crib it, done! It went just about that good!
At 2:45 the next morning we were still 20 miles out and I just broke my sled in 2(should have bought a real sled from Northern Sled Works) and broke the ramp used to get up on the bank so we bagged it, left Jared’s machine there and my sled and everything in it and headed for home, pulled into the yard at a little after 4 am then I got up at 5:15 am to go to work! Rock n Roll style!
All said and done it was a character building and integrity testing event, the 3 of us having spent our entire lives together knew what the other was thinking and made shit happen. And would you believe it? Jared bought a rope along and carries it with him everywhere, good idea, if you haven’t already add one to your bag of tricks! He would have been able to get himself out if he had that little tool to begin with. If your going on a venture like this be sure you have a comprehensive and accurate plan, be prepared for anything, good luck!!
River running gear list:
1. Rope along with 100’ spool (can be found here on amazon.com)
2. 50’ of additional rope with carabineers already attached to each end. That’s a minimum, we carry 200’.
3. 2 ice screws with a 6” minimum (can be found here on amazon.com) Be very careful putting tension on ice screws, they can pop loose and fly out of the ice with rope still attached! In my opinion an ice screw is your last resort when a tree, stump, big rock, or another snowmachine can’t be reached. Use your axe head as a hammer to get the screw started.
4. 4 small pulleys. Make sure they are the kind that can be swung open so you don’t have to feed the rope all the way through it.
5. An ascender, this will eliminate any loss in your game of tug o war with a wet machine! (can be found here on amazon.com)
6. Hip boots! I don’t care how much you love your bunny boots, when your standing knee deep in 33 degree water for 20 minutes your going to get wet. Keep your legs dry by carrying a pair of hip boots, insulated ones if you have them.
7. A change of a clothes to include: t-shirt, sweatshirt, sweatpants, gloves, and hat. There’s no such thing as having to much extra dry gear.
8. Fire starter, weather it’s lighters, flint, or flammable liquids! I like to carry a small waterproof case with sap soaked dried spruce kindling.
Note: The sled that broke in half was not built by Northern Sled Works in North Pole. It was a poorly cared for knock off version of what they build. If your just gearing up or wanting to upgrade your sleds be sure to check in at Northern Sled Works! I have a couple thousand miles on my 8 footer and have hauled loads up to around 800lbs!
Louis at Ethos Outdoors