The hill that drivers call “Koyukuk” is right next to the Koyukuk River and it’s one of the steepest on the Dalton. It’s about 30 miles south of Coldfoot. The video was taken last winter.
Jack happened to be there to document this huge mod being pushed up the hill by push trucks and also being steered from the back because it’s so long. If you look close you can see someone standing outside on the load as it goes up the hill – he’s steering the rear end as it goes around the curves. The guy doing the steering is one of the former owners of Carlile and he comes up the Dalton for these types of loads that need some special care. (Carlile was sold to Saltchuk Corporation a while ago.)
In case you are wondering, the truck is going pretty slow, about 5 miles an hour in 3rd gear. The last thing you ever want to do, Jack says, is change gears when you’re going that slow with that much weight since you’ll stop before you get it into a different gear. If you stop it’ll take a while to get going again and without the momentum you’re putting a lot of strain on the truck and there’s too much potential for breaking something. The years Jack spent in heavy haul were great years he says, but he doesn’t miss it.
This truck wrecked on the Parks Highway yesterday. The driver is fine but he was cited for negligent driving. The accident spilled about 2000 gallons of diesel into a ditch. Below is a link to a short article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about it.
It’s quite common for a really heavy load to have one or more push trucks behind it to push when going up inclines. Push trucks are commonly used on the Dalton Highway as well as the Parks and Richardson when the loads are outrageously heavy, otherwise it would take a very long time and so much fuel for the truck with the load to get up a mountain, and it would also impede traffic for long periods of time. The push trucks just follow the load when not going up hills.
Taken 11 years ago, these photos really show how close Jack’s push truck gets to the load he’s pushing (a crane). You can see the pad that the push bar pushes against, how the trucks make contact.
I snapped these on Friday when this truck was fueling up to head north.
Jack says they are used for crude oil and that they lay on their sides, not upright like on the truck. You can see the actual metal portion of the pipe that is colored green with anti-corrosion paint. The black is thinner metal and in between the two is foam insulation.
This load is obviously going to Deadhorse or Prudhoe Bay. (FYI: Deadhorse refers to the “town” where companies have their operations, and Prudhoe Bay refers to the actual oil fields and is a much larger area.)
A few years ago Jack and some other truckers took these pipe rack units from Fairbanks to Alpine, an area of Prudhoe Bay owned by Conoco-Phillips. You’ll see the units being loaded, then Jack driving behind other units. You can see the pipes in the middle of the structure as well as the valve controls on the top. These units are lined up next to each other and connected as part of the process of extracting oil and getting it into the pipeline to go south. In one of the ice road photos you can see a pipeline on the right.
They drive through tundra, over mountains, and finally on the ice roads of Prudhoe Bay. The last couple of photos, the ones where the road doesn’t look particularly icy, they are passing over a river. If you are also rather astute (and here I am giving you a clue) you can also see Jack’s reflection in the mirror, as well as a reflection of the small fan that he had mounted on the dash that could turn toward the windshield to defrost it or toward him on hot days.
(The best way to view the photos is to click on the first one and then click on the right arrow.)