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Thread: Susitna Summit by ATV (4 wheeler or Argo)???

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    Default Susitna Summit by ATV (4 wheeler or Argo)???

    Does anyone know of a way to access the summit of Mt. Susitna by ATV in spring/summer/fall? Specifically, the flat area that makes sort of the "stomach" area of "Sleeping Lady?"

    The Anchorage Amateur Radio Club has a VHF ham radio repeater up there that covers from the southern part of Denali National Park, all the way to Kenai/Clam Gulch, however, that site is being decommissioned because the commercial operator is shutting down due to the cost of flying fuel up to feed the diesel generator.

    We're looking for a way to maintain that site without the use of aircraft. Is it possible to gain the summit with ATV's pulling trailers loaded with batteries and/or fuel? The general concept here is a sort of ATV "train" of several machines hauling equipment, probably with an overnight, either at the base, or in the quonset hut at the summit.

    And yes, I asked a similar question in the snowmachine forum regarding winter access.

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    Yikes, i generally help cut in the trail in the winter to the summit. I have never thought about doing it without snow and can't imagine which route you would take to get there. We have been looking at routes from the Tyonek side, but haven't gotten to that point yet. Someone that knows more about the topography and watershed in summer will chime in here.
    Mike Williams from Eaglesong lodge is one of the most experienced guys out that way. He may have some more info on this question.


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    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    You have to cross the Susitina river, then the Yenhta and then maybe the Skwentna before you can get up to the foot hills. There maybe another route in from Tyonek or Beluga with a few less rivers to cross.

    You could take an air boat up to just below the Tal and then head in on ATV with just smaller streams to cross. Dealing with the gullies on the foot hills could be an issue for ATVs.

    I know there was a cell system being built up there in 2010 so maybe there is another option for co-locating a system. Is there a federal site up there like the FAA or AF? They have been known to lease space to radio clubs.

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    That whole site is going dark at the end of the year. ACS holds the lease from BLM, and Arctic ProCom was subleasing it from ACS. (Or something like that, I don't have first hand info on that part, that's just what I've been told-it's probably accurate.) There are no plans to put a cell phone site up there. There were many Federal agencies using the site until a recent FCC rule change that required most radio operators to move from wide band to narrow band. When that happened, and everyone, commercial and government, had to replace equipment, they all relocated to sites that are easier to service/maintain. I believe that we are the last ones with an operational unit on the summit.

    There are other sites, some on Elmendorf that have ham radio repeaters on them. The old Nike site ("Site Summit") is one. There are a lot of repeater sites in and around the Anchorage bowl, but none of them have the ability to cover the vast areas that Susitna can. Judging from the comments here, in the similar discussion on the snowmachining forum, and other, in person discussions, it sounds like a summer ascent with that type of equipment is next to downright impossible.

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    Supporting Member AlaskanSD's Avatar
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    Default Susitna Summit by ATV (4 wheeler or Argo)???

    I would think flying fuel in with a super cub would be cheaper than wheeler "train" anyways - especially if your time is worth anything!

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskanSD View Post
    I would think flying fuel in with a super cub would be cheaper than wheeler "train" anyways - especially if your time is worth anything!
    Let's not confuse anyone with the facts, shall we?

    Funny you would mention that though. Another ham radio guy flew up there two weeks ago in a Robinson R44, and he said there appeared to be what was left of a small dirt strip. He described it as boulder strewn and had an uphill slope to it. I talked to the pilot/trainer at work and he said he wouldn't be surprised if someone had tried it in the past, but he also felt like it would be an easy way to crack one up.

    I'd take a cub or a husky over an R44 any day, but how do you get a 55 gallon drum of fuel into the back seat of a cub? (Which brought up a WHOLE OTHER part of the debate at the board meeting when I told them to stop flying Volkswagens and get a turbine helicopter that can haul some weight.)

    But, on a more focused note, the bottom line there is that people see a thousand dollars and up for a single helicopter ride in concert with the frequency required, and they start freaking out about high costs.

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    I've been in there in a cub. The strip isn't great, but not too bad if the winds are fairly calm. I probably wouldn't want to do it every day, although back in the day George Kitchen flew in there on a regular basis hauling fuel for the facility up there.

    There's been more than one plane that's been dinged up there.

    Not sure about a 55 gallon drum, but I've hauled at least 40 gallons in 5 gallon cans, along with hunting gear. I'd think you could get 60 gallons in cans in a cub with a belly pod. Or, a plastic 30 gallon barrel might be the ticket, depending on how much fuel you need to get up there at a time.

    Nice thing about flying is you'd be looking at about an hour round trip, plus ground time, as opposed to a day or two via 4 wheeler.

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    Supporting Member AlaskanSD's Avatar
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    Default Susitna Summit by ATV (4 wheeler or Argo)???

    Guys have strapped drums to the belly of a cub before, just like they have with a Skidoo Tundra and it worked slick. But I would just put a fuel bladder in a belly pod and transfer it out on site.

    A 180 cub with 35" Bushwheels can land and take off in 100" on 10" boulders no problem.

    Then your flight would cost $250 round trip vs $1,000 for the R44 and $2500 with a twin squirrel or 407. (Turbines)

    If you're serious about ground access, I think winter with sufficient snow cover is your only option. You can easily get to the top on a nice day in February in less than two hours on a sled from Big Lake.

    Good luck!

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    Default Susitna Summit by ATV (4 wheeler or Argo)???

    What is the power needs of the site? Would a battery bank and wind turbine/solar setup do it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    What is the power needs of the site? Would a battery bank and wind turbine/solar setup do it?
    We're in the process of analyzing that right now. We are also considering buying an all new repeater that consumes less power. A massive battery bank is our current concept, and I'm trying to get time to get over to that Renewable Energy place on Dimond (across from Costco) to get an idea about options on that.

    Most folks are saying that the 100 mph winds up there eliminate the possibility of a wind turbine. We are currently trying to find a way to configure solar panels in such a manner that the effect of wind and ice will be diminished. Personaly, I'd like to see a generator-free set up, but I'm not sure if that possible, especially in winter.

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    Perhaps I really should start yet another thread over in the bush flying forum focused just on the aspects of landing on Susitna.

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    You won't have issues with frost/snow covering solar panels. The slightest bit of sun warms them up and melts anything stuck on them. Even if you have a drift completely cover up a panel it will still produce power if any light reaches it. We have 5-6 radio repeaters scattered around the Denali Highway area mountains and they get winds on par with what Sleeping Lady sees (probably higher) and haven't had any issues with losing panels.

    We use three 90 watt 12 volt panels fed into three morningstar 20 amp regulators which feed 3 banks of eight Sunlyte 12-5000 batteries. All three banks feed in parallel back to a power distribution panel I designed for power to the radios. With that much battery power we could run all winter and not even need our solar panels.

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    As far as access goes in the summer your gonna find it a challenge. If that access includes hauling a lot of stuff then it goes to near impossible. The winter months is the time to haul all your supplies and equipment into that area. The cost savings alone will justify it let alone the time savings. If you don't want to use aerial means then winter with sleds is the way to do it. If you still want to persue summer acces via land travel then do your research on google earth. Remember all the rivers you have to cross just to get to a point where you could use an ATV. Then look at the swamps, that will be your next battle besides land ownership. As you head up you will deal with gullys, alders, wildlife and vertical challenges. On a safety standpoint summer is not an option.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK Ray View Post
    There maybe another route in from Tyonek or Beluga with a few less rivers to cross.
    If there is, I never found it. I can get to the base of the foothills. There are very deep and steep gullies and canyons full of alder to cross. If my SUSV couldn't do it, I doubt if a 4 wheeler could. I gave up on hunting the back of the Lady.
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    Articwildman, sent you a PM.

    AK Bliss, yeah from the discussion here and even on the snowmachine forum, I'm prepared to recommend to the board that using ground access is not advisable. For me, the safety concerns, based on descriptions here, trump other concerns. Working with an all volunteer group, of whom who knows who has what level of riding experience (I have next to none) or the type and reliability of equipment in the group...to send THAT type of group into the area described by many here is foolhardy at best.

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    Not one of the repeaters up here on the Seward Peninsula has a generator.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FL2AK-Old Town View Post
    Articwildman, sent you a PM.

    AK Bliss, yeah from the discussion here and even on the snowmachine forum, I'm prepared to recommend to the board that using ground access is not advisable. For me, the safety concerns, based on descriptions here, trump other concerns. Working with an all volunteer group, of whom who knows who has what level of riding experience (I have next to none) or the type and reliability of equipment in the group...to send THAT type of group into the area described by many here is foolhardy at best.
    I live at the base of the Sleeping Lady and I can tell you without question going by air is going to be your cheapest route by a long shot.Summer is a no go for sure. Just think of the cost involved. Boat gas and tarnsportation is just the start. I can guarnetee you that as well as safety the biggest hurdle is private land and Native land. If you want to haul supplies in the winter you have to wait for enough snow and you will have to winch your fuel up some spots most likely. Every scenario takes much time and effort. By air is the only way to go! I have a freight bussiness here on the lower Susitna by boat and snowmachine and I will tell you, you couldnt pay me enough to do it any other way than by air!

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    Quote Originally Posted by aknome View Post
    Not one of the repeaters up here on the Seward Peninsula has a generator.
    Let's not confuse anyone with the facts, shall we? I'm amazed at how dead set certain members of the radio club up here are against solar power. This project was dead before it even got off the ground.

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