2015 Iceroad trip to Yellowknife invite (1 Viewer)

Dec 21, 2005
Kamloops BC
This years Ice road trip from Fort McMurray to Yellowknife NWT will take place from Wednesday Jan 14th and return evening of the Monday Jan 19th 2015. Convoy leaves the North side of Fort Mac at 9 AM sharp. No straglers and no late comers as we have some serious miles to cover each day and won’t be waiting for you. Show up fueled, watered and fed as there are no services for the entire first day

Day 1 (Wednesday) will see us to Fort Smith NWT. Trail side lunch, I will have firewood, you bring your own smokies/pizza/samichez etc. Ft Smith has one restaurant and one gas station. Diesel available at the cardlock

Day 2 (Thursday) travel to Yellowknife. Another trailside lunch mid day, You supply your own groceries

Day 3 (Friday) possible tour of Buffalo airways (pending availability) general touristy stuff. Dinner at the greatest restaurant in the world “Bullocks Bistro” specialize in Arctic Char, Musk ox and other regional dishes

Day 4 Saturday. More touristy stuff in Yellowknife. Looking into a short jaunt up the ice roads the truckers use on the TV show on Discovery network. Depending on enthusiasm of attendees, probably hit Bullocks for supper again. Currently trying to arrange a bonfire on the lake with locals, and other 4WD enthusiasts that live in Yellowknife

Day 5 (Sunday) Travel back to Fort Smith, trail lunch again, (bring your doggy bag from Bullocks!)

Day 6 (Monday) Travel the remainder of the way back to Fort MacMurray

Your requirements….
A Toyota 4WD vehicle in GOOD repair. There are few services along the way, parts stores are rare and extremely expensive. Don’t bring a vehicle with known problems. The extreme weather will find any weak links and halt any forward progress real quick. Synthetic fluids, block heater, healthy battery, significant tread on your tires, and no fluid or oil leaks are favourable. It has been my experience that air and oil leaks get worse when exposed to some extreme cold

Additional lighting is an extremely good idea and borderline mandantory. I had a very close call last year narrowly missing a Buffalo. My auxillary lighting is what saved my life (and my passengers life) without a doubt. Besides, with only 5 or so hours of daylight, you will love having extra lighting

One Gerry can of fuel for most vehicles has proven sufficient in the past. (diesels included) If your vehicle is particularily hard on fuel, and you have the room, bring 2

The usual supply of personal tools, spare parts, booster cables, Weener sticks, spare tire (full size) extra fluids oil, coolant etc

Warm clothes. No exceptions. I will personally guarantee the temperatures will be in the -40C area with out a doubt. Don’t try to dress fashionable, you will get laughed at. Dress warm, like everyone else in Yellowknife

Camera. Soooooo much cool stuff to see on this trip from spectacular bridges, to Monuments, unique wildlife, Northern lights, stuck or flipped over trucks etc

recommend 2 drivers per vehicle. You will spend A LOT of time behind the wheel and its nice to have someone help keep you awake or take over for a bit, even if its only half an hour

Bring a great attitude and a friendly disposition. You will be travelling with the same 8 or 10 people for a week. Lets all get along

All hotel rooms have been booked already and based on double occupancy. This is a very couples friendly trip, and is not like a typical 4 wheeling off roadadventure. Your wife/girlfriend/life partner will enjoy this better than wheeling. Its more like a really slow, long road trip on a s***ty road with some nice stretches. Not sure kids would b a good idea since we will spend as much as 10 hrs a day on the road

I may reserve a set of 2 way radios, one for each vehicle on a private channel licensed to the NWT, unless we have enough ham radio operators along

Due to the nature of the trip, the high miles required to cover each day, and the limited hotel rooms available in certain places we will have to limit this trip to the first 5 vehicles that sign up.

Costs involved are as follows (based on last trip) and subject to change without notice and are in no way a guarantee….
Ft smith Hotel $170 each night (x2 once on the way there, and once on the way back)
Yellowknife Hotel $354 for 3 consecutive nights
Each travel day will use approx one tank of fuel (plus a bit) x4… Gas prices are significantly higher in remote northern communities
Groceries and restaurants are a little more expensive than what you are used to down south, but its reasonable
Same goes for alcohol and of course, depends how much you drink

This is a Toyota only event due to reliability issues of other brands and also because there will be an article submitted to a Toyota-only magazine and they dislike pictures with Jeeps, chevys and dodges, but mostly they hate jeeps! This is not a commercialy guided tour of the north. I’m just a dude that has done it before a few times and knows the way and I’m letting you follow me. I’m not cooking your food, I’m not doing your laundry, I’m not cleaning up your mess and I’m not fixing your junk (but I will help when I can)

if you have any questions you can post them up here, or e-mail me direct for privacy at sucker4pigtails@gmail.com

hope to see a good turn out, but will limit the trip to 5 vehicles due to miles needed to cover in a day, hotel availibility, and resturant capacities.. Bryan
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Jan 22, 2003
Rockyview County AB
If it is on, I am in. Shaker says he is up for the adventure in the new Sequoia. Now to see if Behemoth60 and Greg_B want the back seat. It will be a reunion of the 2002 Surf N Turf run where the four of us drove 27 hours straight-through in an HJ61.
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Jul 2, 2002
Nice! Our 2011 trip was great.... ;)

Flashback available here:
It's been too long since the three of you did a trip like this. Although, here's hoping the No-Fun-Police traction control feature on the Sequoia is either (a) not a factory option on your model, (b) broken or (c) is easy to break. :)

I've tempted Ty by saying he really ought to take his Troopy out for a test drive. :)

Anyway, have a blast guys.
Sep 22, 2004
Peter's perspective on the trip...

Loewenbrau picked me up in his 2002 Toyota Seqoia at 8AM on Tuesday, January 13. We loaded, and headed back to his place to pick up the HAM radio he left at home, then to Bass Pro shops for some last minute gear, where I realized that I left my wallet at home, so back to Xanadu, where we ‘officially’ departed Calgary about 2 hours after our planned departure time.

We headed North and stopped in Ft. Saskatchewan where we procured some grocery supplies, and topped up with the cheapest fuel in Canada, including 3 jerry cans strapped to the roof. We made it to Fort McMurray just in time for the daily traffic jam, and rendezvoused at the Padollan Pub where we met up with a few of the Tarsand Toyota crew, one of whom, Ryan, kindly offered Bruce and I beds to spend the night in Ft. Mac. After some wings and generally revelry, our first transit day was very easy going.

On Wednesday morning, we met up Thrillbilly and Darren at the designated Rendezvous. Bryan was driving Lucky, his 13th Toyota truck with Darren manning shot-gun position. By 8:20, we were full of Timmy’s breakfast sandwiches and topped with fuel and supplies, heading North from Ft. Mac.

The journey North on Hwy 63 goes past the oil sands facilities that, as a Calgary based consultant in the Oil and Gas field, that I have heard of but never seen…. Syncrude, Firebag, Albion, and Fort Hills. It was nice to see these familiar locations, if only on the road signs we passed.

The ‘Bridge to No-Where’ crosses the Athabasca river very near Fort Mackay. Built in 1982, at the time, there was nothing of interest or value on the other side of the bridge, hence it’s name. Shortly, we arrived at the beginning of the ice road, and we switched from get-there-mode, to Tourist mode.

The Ice Road begins as a fairly wide road through the forest. A work crew was rebuilding the bridge over the Firebag river. A temporary ice bridge was used for vehicle traffic, as they had totally disassembled the old bridge, leaving only the pilings and abutments behind. The road was snow covered, windy and hilly until the Richardson lake area, which is a popular ATV destination in the summer time for hunting and fishing. Then the road descends into the lake Athabasca basin, and the terrain changes to an iced in wetland. We drove through the west tip of Lake Athabasca, which was essentially a very large marsh. We drove past grass taller than our trucks, and through endless fields of dried cat-tails. It was interesting to come to actual rivers within the marsh land, which road crews driving snow machines would flood to increase the ice thickness.

Bruce commented that the Ice Roads are like opposite land. In normal world, water flooded roads are impassable, and we put down sand to get traction on the ice. On the ice road, the roads are flooded to make them stronger, and water trucks put down ice on top of Sand to make it passable and Graders drag giant equipment tires to push the ice into the ground rather than remove it from the road.

At the North side of lake Athabasca is an intersection to the Town of Fort Chipewan, which is land locked during the summer. We took the left turn, and continued North West into and through Wood Buffalo National Park. This wsection of the Winter road was through unusually tall old growth boreal forest. The road was windy, rough and snow covered, and our rate of travel was often 30 to 40 kmph. We stopped near an ice bridge to make lunch, where we discovered that the beautiful birch firewood that Bryan had secured from a local source needed a few more years of seasoning before it could cook a smokey. But we made due and soon were pressing onwards.

The last ice bridge in this section is the Peace River. Once on the North side, we were back to ‘regular’ highway and our rate of travel picked up, which was good as we still had 180km to reach Fort Smith. It was 499 km from Ft Smith to Ft Mac between services, so we each put in a jerry can of fuel along the way. We stopped at the Peace Point look-out, but the wind-chill made that a very short visit, and with failing light, we pushed on to The Pelican Inn in Fort Smith, where we dined on local Chinese food at the adjoining restaurant, and I pined for the locally hand-made beaver fur mittens on display in the gift shop.

In the morning it was -30C, and we easily started our plugged-in-trucks and fuelled up. The local corner store/fuel stop was amusing in its devotion to cold. Upon entry, the ice chest full of cubed ice and across from that was the three ice cream coolers, and no less that five slushy dispensers were in operation! We also learned that a charity ride of enduro motor bikes had departed Ft. Mac the same day we did, although we saw no sign of them. Brrr.

We hit the road and journeyed West skirting the AB/NWT border, through Wood Buffalo National Park. Established in 1922, it is Canada’s largest national park, and home to a self sustaining heard of wood buffalo of approximately 5,000, of whom we saw… none. I did, however, see a lot of boreal forest, and how different power line contractors used all manner of power-pole technology. A few of them contained enormous Pterodactyl nests, in which we saw… nothing. We stopped in at Hay River, the birthplace of my Sister, and refueled for the remaining 500km North around great slave lake to Yellowknife. We wondered if there was an ice road across the lake, as a direct 200km transit from Hay River to Yellowknife would shave 300km of the trip around the edge of the lake. If you had not guessed, Great Slave Lake is large… out 500km only took us half way around! It’s the deepest lake in North America, the 4th largest in Canada, the 10th largest in the world, yet only the 2nd largest in NWT! Great Bear lake is even bigger, second only to Lake Superior.

Bryan’s girlfriend, Carly, was waiting for us at the Yellowknife Inn, as she had flown in to join us for the weekend. The next two days were a whirlwind of playing tourist in Yellowknife. Shopping at Weaver and Devore, Fur Only for hats, and a medley of unique gift stores. A tour of Buffalo Airways Hangers, a drive to Detah down the ice road on Great Slave Lake, taking in the scenery from Pilot’s Point, checking out the Ice Castle under construction on the lake, a trip down Ragged Ass Road, and a visit with some locals to learn more about mysterious Knifer traditions, and an evening bonfire to a spot across three frozen lakes with some local offroaders. Calories racked up quickly with visits to the best local eateries, including the Gold Range for breakfast, and the highlight being Bullock’s Bistro two evenings running for amazing local fish and game prepared by the effervescent Allison and Brittany. Beer dollars were spent afterwards at Harley’s Hard Rock Saloon and the Black Knight Pub. Next time, I think a dog sled trip and/or an afternoon of ice fishing would be great fun. We got skunked on Northern Lights viewing on account of ever-present overcast skies.

By Sunday, Jan 18, it was time to begin the return trip. Carly was up and out super-early, but we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, and after carefully laying out my hat, scarf and boots so housekeeping could put them into Lost and Found, we were back on the road. Bryan and Darren claim to have seen a wolverine near the house by the highway (‘near the house by the highway’ is actually a fairly specific land mark in these parts!) but Bruce and I did not. Again, there was nary a Bison to be seen through the Mackenzie Buffalo Sanctuary. While still overcast, we could at least see the entire 1km length of the DeCho bridge over the Mackenzie. With another stop in Hay River for fuel, we found a suitable place for a campfire to cook some smokies just before dusk. With the limited daylight, and overcast conditions the enormous boreal forest started to all look alike. Based on my direct observations, I have developed a theory that the northern boreal forest is large, and looks the same regardless of directions of travel down the highway.

After another evening at the Pelican Inn in Ft Smith, and a fruitless drive around Ft Smith looking for Gigi’s Bakery, we returned to the Pelican Inn for breakfast, as it was the only place we could find that was open! But, by 8:17 AM, we had begun our last Marathon day of the trip. Soon we were back on the winter road, where conditions had deteriorated… the road was rutted and wash boarded from all the traffic, and Bryan stopped to air down to smooth out the ride. Even so, our progress was often barely 30 kmph. But about half way between the Peace River and Fort Chipewyan, we encountered a grader smoothing out the road, which changed everything. From there until the highway we were able to make excellent time.

The most interesting encounter on our return along the ice road was when we happened upon the road crew on their sleds, drilling a hole in the ice at one of the many crossings along the Athabasca lake section of the highway. We stopped and watched them drill two holes, and insert pumps to flood the crossing to make the ice thicker than the 52inches that it already was. They were happy to show us the process, as they shared in the giant bag of cookies that Darren’s wife had made to nourish him along the road. Oh, and I didn’t see any buffalo in Wood Buffalo National park. They should just shut that place down.

Safely off the ice road, we found all the traffic we had left being as we neared Ft McMurray. Back in town by 3:30, we stopped to pick up some bits we were mud-shipping back to Gibbons, and with a splash and dash for fuel and food, Bruce and I ventured on with a goal to get back to Cowtown before we turned into pumpkins. I drove the Ft Mac to Edmonton stretch along the notorious Hwy 63. It was dark, the roads were wet, and spray and falling snow made visibility poor, but not so poor that I could not see the many vehicles in the ditch, and the constant stream of traffic headed North along the 2 lane highway. But we eventually drove out of the snow and the roads cleared up just North of Edmonton. We stopped in Redwater to make our mud-delivery to Tyler and refuel, and after that, the trip is a blank as I slept the rest of the way home, arriving shortly after midnight.

All in all, it was a great trip I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The Winter Road is a unique experience, and the comradery in the face of the long miles and harsh elements makes for a fantastic trip. The highlight was definitely my first ever visit to Yellowknife. That town is positively cosmopolitan!
Jul 2, 2002
Alas, Peter. Great story. One correction is a must, though. The 'Bridge to Nowhere' was actually named to throw Dr. I. Jones a curve ball in an attempt to conceal the undeniable fact that great interest and value did, in fact, lie ahead. Even if it was just for those who knew how to recognize it.
Dec 14, 2008
fort mcmurray, ab , can
nice write up Peter. That stand of trees north of Ft.Chip is impressively large as you said and was one of my favorites also. The Peace River crossing is great too.

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