Viper Nation

Supercar Dodge Viper site with pictures, technical info, experiential stories with a few other winter action extreme stories posted.

And For My Next Trick … Avalanche Riding

 

 

 Ted Hlokoff

 

 

      My ZRT 600 suddenly lifted up and tilted towards the sky, everything went white and I was blind!

     This day had started well.  Ron Svisdahl and I had fired up our sleds and cruised out to the trailhead on Nimpo Lake.  Several younger riders were waiting for us there as we’d planned a day of deep powder riding with them.  Since these were young riders I’d brought out my ZRT600 snowmobile so that I could ride with these guys.  My normal sled was well over 220bhp and had mind boggling performance with it’s 1.6” x 136” length track.  My ZRT 600 had a 1.5” x 121” short track with only about 145bhp.  I figured that it’d be fun to ride my 600 against Polaris and Skidoo 700s with 2” lugged 136 to 144” long tracks.  I figured it’d be more fun to “play with the boys” instead of just blowing them out of the snow with my modified Arctic Cat 1000.  Heck, the “other guys” only built up to their biggest of 800 cc’s.  Not very competitive against a modified 1000cc that only weighed a few pounds heavier.

     The trail out to the Mountains was ripped up quite a bit so it was bumpy getting to the logging roads we used for access to the Southern Coastal Mountain Range alpine areas.  We bumped and bounced down the trail to the now defunct Nimpo Lake Airport where I got tired of following, pulled out, then ahead of the group.  Faster speeds made the ride smoother since my ZRT came with Fox racing shocks and once I got out in front the trail was much smoother.  I rode the Hooch Main about 85mph, taking it “easy”.  Getting to Charlotte Main I stopped and waited for everyone to catch up.  Riding practices in the West Chilcotin include stopping every 5-10 miles and waiting for everyone to catch up.  For safety reasons this is a necessity because ten minutes riding a sled can be farther than you can walk in deep snow during an entire day. 

     We cruised Charlotte main until reaching the cement no-post barricades that marked the end of the “active” logging road, then waited again.  The trail from here was the logging road deactivated, with trees grown well past the ditches and cross-ditches for drainage at every lower spot of the road.  Sometimes this required 10’ ditches every several hundred feet.  During white-outs these ditches could be dangerous as some of them were very wide.  Jumping over 95% of these ditches was easily accomplished at more than 60mph with full throttle to keep the weight to the rear of the sled.  Worst thing you could do was to grab the brakes as you approached the ditch too fast.  The braking would cause the front of the sled to nose-dive into the ditch smashing into the upcoming wall on the other side.  Definitely not how I recommend riding a sled.

     Following the road through an old clear cut that now is overgrown with 15’ Pine trees a trail is on the left side, that goes into the Mountains.  The trail is five feet wide between the trees and there is a creek that needs to be jumped.  Jumping usually only lasts for a month of so, until someone gets too scared and shovels snow into the creek forming a bridge.  Farther into the mountains is another creek that also needs jumping.  1 spectacular creek jumping episodewas when my neighbor jumped the creek in one spot and landed beside the creek farther along … the snowbank collapsed and dropped Lloyd, and his sled, into the water at the bottom of the 12’ trough that the creek ran through.  That particular spot along the trail now has a sign stating that it is “Lloyd’s Corner”.  But, this trip no one fell in as we travelled the trails into the mountains.  Reaching the alpine meadows it didn’t take long for the 11 of us to mark up every meadow by carving out turns throughout all of the valleys.

     It was pretty spectacular watching as 8 piped performance snowmobiles screamed through every meadow.  Upon entering a new fresh and unblemished meadow all the sleds would spread out and everyone would go to their chosen area and carve their turns looking like a spiroscope of old.  Carving the snow was too much fun and a skill meant that no one was filming, everyone was ‘doing’.   I would carve until my arms were falling off, my legs were on fire, then stand on my sled and take pictures of the rest doing their carving, or wiping out, whichever it happened to be. 

     We did get to the “Play bowl”, and then rode over the ridge to the steep mountainside that we used for Hillclimbing.  About a 1500’ climb with a gentle smooth start.  I watched the Polaris 700s and the Skidoo 670s hit the hillclimb at 60mph and only make it half way.  After everyone had ‘tested’ the Hill and the highest tracks (called a Highmark) was ony 75% of the way up, I started my ZRT600 and slowly pulled up to the bottom of the Hill.  At 30mph I hit the throttle as the path headed upwards.  Where the Hill got steep I was travelling at 60mph on the tracks that everyone else had made.  At 3/4 way up the hill I moved off the tracks I was following and started climbing up fresh snow.  This would eliminate the “bump” at the end of the track, causing my sled to dig a hole and slowing down my forward motion.   I flashed past the earlier highmark at 30mph.  Diggin’ in I was slowly losing speed as the deep snow and steep slope overcame my ability to maintain my speed.  I managed a couple hundred feet before I was slowed to walking speed, forcing me to turn out and go downhill, or get stuck on a near vertical slope. 

 

     At the bottom I parked in the line of sleds ready to attack the Hill.  Mike the Skidoo guy, said, “Nice mark.” and took off.  Mike rode my track and bounced through my highmark climbing another 50’ higher before turning out and coming back.  Polaris next and he didn’t make it to Mike’s highmark before turning down.  A few more tries and the Skidoo kept the Highmark.  I fired up and shot up the Hill.  Again I left the trail before the turnouts to keep my sled away from bumps and ruts in the snow that cause the suspension to unload.  This time I climbed to within 15’ of the top of the Corniche.  Everyone tried the Hill and only Mike equaled my highmark.  The last 15’ was straight up with a “kicker” over the last couple feet.  It looked dangerous.  I knew I was going to go over the top this run.  I lined up the skis and squeezed the throttle against the handlebars and taking off, up the hill.  All the turnouts from the other riders made for a bumpy ride, but I hung on tight and blasted up the Hill.  As I reached my highmark I tensed up and felt my sled dig in as I hit the bottom of the kicker.  My sled grabbed traction, shot the snow out the back, like jet wash, and climbed the last 12’ shooting into the sky.  The last little bit of the hill happened fast and I’d overpowered, shooting me 20’ above the lip.  I’d released the throttle as I crested the top and this caused the sled’s nose to curve downwards as I flew through the air allowing me to land flat, hard on the throttle.  I landed without speed but at full throttle I regained forward motion immediately.  I rode to the top of the Mountain and waited for my heart to slow down. 

     I carefully moved 30’ to the east of my climbing track.  I certainly didn’t want to meet up with someone climbing in my tracks while I was headed downhill.  Being to the side of my climbing track meant that at the level of the kicker I was going to be falling off the cornice.  I’d picked a distance that had only about a 10’ high overhang.  Not big enough to cause serious problems if it broke off under my weight.  I burped the throttle as I went over the edge and that got me away from the mountain side enough so that I would clear the cornice by quite a bit.  As I blew over the cornice it became a 50’ drop back to the snow.  Again as the snow fell away from my sled I’d been at full throttle until I dropped from the snow, then I’d released the throttle.  The gyroscopic action of the engine kept my sled in perfect alignment with the snow’s surface and the landing was soft.  I went to the base and all the crazies tried their ride up the mountain.  Mike made it over first try by following my tracks.  Now that the trail was packed it was an easy climb. 

     That climb kept everyone busy for a half hour.  Mike asked for something tougher so I pointed out that past the cornice to the left was smooth untouched soft powder.  I explained that the wind would drop the light snow on that slope.  Problem was that the bottom of the slope had no run out and no runway to start up the hill’s slope.  What was required was side-hilling from where we were, past the cornice, then turning uphill and climbing.  I sat where I was and unpacked my lunch.  A few of the less extreme riders ate lunch with me where we were sitting, in the sunshine while the ‘crazies’ headed off side-hilling so they could try their luck at the more difficult hill climb.  About a half hour later the extreme group had mostly stopped riding and were resting below the Hill.  They didn’t look to have been able to get half way up … so I pulled my gloves and Helmet on and fired up my sled.  Climbing onto the uphill running board of my sled I side-hilled over to the softer, most difficult climb.  As I got to a good place to climb, with no tracks yet, I yanked my handlebars and kicked the running board to turn my sled’s nose towards the top.

       As the nose came around I threw my left foot over the seat and started climbing the hill.  I managed to easily pass the extreme group’s highmark (to the side) and went another several hundred feet before deciding that it was time to turn out.  As I slowly rode downhill for another try Mike blasted past me on his Skidoo Formula III following in my track going up.  As I reached the lower level of the hill I got both feet onto the left side of the sled and pulled it over onto its side in preparation of another attempt at the hill.  As I turned sideways I looked uphill and saw that Mike had gone maybe 50’ past where I’ turned out.  I yanked the handlebars over and started uphill again.  I moved out of my (and Mike’s) tracks near the top and had decent speed as I set a new highmark, but again, I was forced to turn out and head downhill.  Mike again went sailing uphill while I was going down.  He only managed about 30’ past my highmark this time.  After turning my sled sideways on the hillside I decided I needed a rest.  Wrestling these 600 pound sleds on a hillside was a lot of work.  It seemed that other than Mike everyone else was satisfied with he and I doing all the work as they sat on their sleds and just watched.  As Mike pulled up beside me I yanked my starter cord and shut my helmet visor, I was headed uphill again.  I had good speed as I passed Mike’s last highmark and continued uphill, slowing gradually in this steepest part of the hill.  But, as I slowed to walking speed I passed the steepest part of the hill and started picking up speed as the hill’s slope lessened.  When I finally reached the top, I stood and surveyed the beauty of the tops of the Southern Coastal Mountain Range for a moment.

     I started down the hill, making sure that I was at least 10’ to the side of the tracks I made climbing up.  As I approached the steepest part of the Mountain side my sled felt weird, like it had a vibration or a slight shake.  I hear a strange snapping noise and looking beside me I saw a crack in the snow, about 6” wide that came out from under my sled and headed off the side getting longer and wider while I watched.  I looked to the other side and the same crack was widening away from me on that side as well.  What was going on?  I looked at the group of guys downhill and they were freaking out many already side hilling towards our old ‘parking’ spot.  The rest were starting their sleds or running towards them.  That looked kind of scary since all their faces were looking towards me!

     Now I was starting to worry.  The back of my sled dropped a couple feet, like the earth had opened up underneath me.  I smashed the throttle and started calling GOD.  “I could use some help here, please,” I was thinking to God.  I was suddenly punched in the back of the head as a cloud of whiteness covered me and everything was gone.  I was blind, I couldn’t tell up from down.   All noise had stopped and I thought, “This wasn’t the kind of help I was asking for.” 

     Suddenly, light and sound were back, I could hear my sled at full throttle (hand still squeezing the throttle) and I leaped downhill at about 80mph.  I didn’t look back, I ducked down low and started looking at how much distance I had before I was going to smash into the trees and die.  Too close I decided so I jumped onto the left running board and tugged my sled onto it’s side carving like my life depended on it … because it did.  I saw the group watching my approach and since they didn’t have a look of panic on their faces I eased off the throttle and slowed when I got to them.  They were all staring behind me, but I didn’t look.  I was thinking, “Thank you for answering my prayers, again”

     The greatest thing about near death experiences is that they make you appreciate being alive so much more.  I was ‘giddy’ with surviving and laughing as hard as I could.  The crowd of sledders all looked away from the Avalanche at me.  I could imagine what they thought.  One of their acquaintances gets buried in an Avalanche that they barely get missed by … as their acquaintance comes ripping out of the Avalanche, back from the dead, his loud pipes screaming and then  he stops beside them laughing his head off.  Obviously they must have figured that I was the crazy one.

     The Avalanche had slowed and thinned out as it got to the trees.  Slightly more than 65% of the Mountain side had avalanched as the “Slab” had broken loose as I drove over it the second time.  Going uphill had probably broken the slab loose and my downhill motion is what pushed the slab into an avalanche.  This became another memory that will be cherished by me, and my acquaintances, till we get old. 

    

 

 

           The end    

 

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