A radio comes alive a bushy Cessna in opposite direction. Hi guys how it looks up there? Bad we couldn't make it through the pass they said. What are you up to? I am an experimental trying to make it to Galbraith Lake. Don't even try I doubt you can even make the shelf... unless you go IFR... Hmmm the shelf? what shelf?
Then it clicked. Chandalar Shelf Airport 5CD.
Dalton Highway started steep climb and I hopped over a higher terrain with it. The ceiling suddenly dropped but the airport was already under me. Let me relax a bit. I land on the Shelf 5CD and tuck my airplane in the corner. An idling truck was sitting at the parking spot the guy was sleeping. I moved my airplane a bit in case he wakes up and starts backing off in this heavy snow. The airstrip has so little real estate you have to be careful where you park.
I don my raingear and deplane to explore the vicinities. It was a surprise to see such a snow storm early August. Three days ago I was sweating in Montana lets appreciate a little chill. In one week I will be tracking the Wall in California in sweltering heat. It's good to have some snow once in a while.
A company was digging to lay a fiber optics duct. Them guys were talkers. They said the storm is a regular thing here. In couple hours there might be blue skies then snowfall again. Good to hear.
In case I am stuck they said there is a DOT employees' quarters half a mile from here you are guaranteed a roof. Then I saw those trucks.
It took them three hours to get here from Coldfoot. The truckers smiled when they saw me.
They all had Iridium sat phones and called their buddies to ask how weather looks like along the highway. They definitely had better equipment then my airplane. Sit and wait was the sentence.
In two hours the ceiling lifted a bit I took off and flew to Atigun Pass. Nope, still unpassable. Another hour or so browsing on foot. At least the snowfall stopped.
In an hour a large hole opened up in the skies right over the airport. Keeping that in mind I am taking off and approaching the Pass again. A helicopter was going southbound how is it? We literally crawled over the road the pilot lady said. What are the tops? 41 hundred.
Decision made I go on top and between the layers first layer tops at 4,000' and bases of second layer are in the flight levels. Carb heat on I retreated couple miles south where the hole in the sky was and set the power for a slow steady climb to 11,500 feet not penetrating any clouds. Turned the oxygen on and thought of how good a flying life is almost fell asleep so nice I felt. Set course to Barter Island PABA staying over Dalton Highway as long as I could.
Civilian pros could skip the following paragraph, amateur flyers and military keep reading.
At 11.5 I give a touch of trim to return to level flight. Another touch what the heck never needed that much. A third one... trim indicator moves... but I am still climbing. Airspeed is looking good. I push the stick forward it doesn't move! It's stuck in climb. Shoot my elevators are iced up! All that moisture from melted snow! I should have known... The two brain cells I have bombarded the scull. Sure the pitot is frozen. But very little ice on the wings nearly clear windshield I had more. I won't reduce the power for now I need enough heat to keep my carburetor happy. Spin ready, a good shake is applied to the stick, then another more violent one and it's loose... Pitot is inop it's not the heated kind (future builders please note). My heartbeat was at the rate I experienced some 30 years ago. A close call? Yes it was, but you would be surprised how fast we forget things.