Next morning my coworker knows there is frost on the airplane, because he watched it starting to form as he was holding the flashlight for the AME. Ay carumba, I know he doesn't have very good gloves either. He still has all his fingers, and he's ready to fly, so we go. We don't have proper deicing fluid, because it's not available here and it's considered a hazardous material that we don't have a permit to carry with us. So we're using winter windshield washer fluid, which you can buy at any gas station in Canada, but which, when diluted with water from the frost, will freeze to the airplane in these temperatures. To get around this, we first brush off as much frost as we can, then as we apply the deicer and immediately wipe off the resulting solution with rags, before it can freeze. Yes, this is slow, cold and irritating. But it works and our airplane is now as clean as one in a Transport Canada training video. What do other people do? Other people most likely don't operate out of an aerodrome with no hangar space or deicing services in the Yukon in October.
There's a helicopter parked at the fuel pumps, so I walk down to verify that it isn't blocking the avgas. There's room, so we bring our critter around to top it up. The bonding strap is broken. Like most fuel pumps, there is a retractable reel of wire next to it with a big spring clip on the end. But when I pick up the spring clip, I discover that it isn't actually attached to the wire. I run the wire out to the airplane, wrap it a couple times around a contact point on the nose gear and then clip it down with the spring clip. I'd call the fuel supplier and get them on fixing it, but it's Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, so there's unlikely to be a response.
We chat with the helicopter guys while we are fuelling. They are with the Yukon department of natural resources, coming from Whitehorse, I think they said. They ask where we're going. It doesn't have a name that I know of, so I wave my hands in the air and say it's by a particular wiggle in the Yukon-NWT border. "Oh I know where that is," says one of the helicopter guys, "I use it for navigation reference, too. I call it the nipple."
The flight is spectacular. I take pictures knowing that they will never convey what it is like t be in the clear cold Yukon air looking out at these peaks, range after range of mountains all perfectly iced with snow. There are literally thousands of peaks and probably no one has been on most of them. Most of them have never even been given names. I jokingly name one after the mission specialist, and we take some pictures of it, but now that I look at my photos I don't know which one is his mountain. Feel free to claim one for yourself. I think there are enough mountain peaks here for everyone to have one.
There are flatter valley areas, but much of the area is like the picture. Some of the mountains are unbelievably steep. I'm not sure how the snow and ice cling to it. In places the rock itself has strata and the striations are visible through the snow, because each layer juts out a different amount. We try to guess which areas of white are glaciers and which are just October snow, but it's hard to tell. I imagine bighorn sheep balanced on the edges of the rocks, but it's hard to know the scale, and I never see any sheep.
We return to Watson Lake after six hours, and as my co-worker turns final I tease him. It's a perfectly aligned approach, with two red and two white PAPI lights at the side, so I say, "What's with this stabilized approach thing? I thought you were an aerial work pilot?" He knows what he's doing. The CARS guy notes us down and reads the zulu time to us as we taxi off. Quite useful, really, for pilots who aren't good at remembering to note their downtime as part of the after-landing checks.