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Moving cables for mountains

Peak to Peak cables arrive in Whistler next week, after trip across Atlantic



How do you get more than 440 tonnes of gondola cable from Switzerland to Whistler, and then up a mountain?

Not easily.

New York-based company Omnitrans Corporation Limited has been working closely with Whistler-Blackcomb over the past few months to orchestrate the movement of the future Peak to Peak cables across the Atlantic Ocean, through the Panama Canal, and then along the West Coast of North America to Vancouver, Washington.

“From a transportation standpoint, everything has gone very smoothly so far,” sad Kevin Carroll from Omnitrans.

“Of course, the vessel is scheduled to arrive in Vancouver, Washington this coming Monday, June 9, so once it is there, that is when the real interesting part of the transportation begins.”

The cables started in a small town in Switzerland, where they were manufactured. From there, they were carried by truck to the Basel Rhine Port in Switzerland and loaded onto a barge, which shipped them along the Rhine River to the Netherlands’s port of Vlissingen.

In the Netherlands, the cables were loaded onto another vessel that is currently hauling them across the ocean to the port of Vancouver in Washington, anticipated to arrive this week. There, they will then be loaded onto a train and make their way north through the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, and then the Canadian National Railway in New Westminster, before finally arriving in Whistler at the Mons station around June 13.

“The reels have to be welded to the rail cars to prevent them from sliding,” explained Carroll.

“They weld bolts to the rail car, chain it down, and then they weld stops along every side of the skid that the cable is on so that it prevents it from shifting and moving during transport.”

In Whistler, the cables will be loaded onto a special German-made tractor from Montreal that is divided into four sections. Each section has six axels, and each axel has eight wheels. This truck is specially designed to distribute the load so the trailer can pass over bridges and roads safety on its way to Parking Lot 8 up Blackcomb Mountain.

“Once all the reels are there, we’ll reconfigure the trailer for the mountain road and it will be pulled by a 40-tonne rock truck, and a 30-tonne rock truck will be pushing it as well,” said Carroll.

He added that it will take seven to 10 days to get the cables from the railway station in Whistler up the mountain.

“We anticipate two days to move the reels from the railroad up to parking lot number 8, and if all goes well, one reel a day up the mountain,” he said.

In total, there are four reels of cable that weigh 98 metric tonnes each, and a fifth reel that weighs 84 metric tones. There are also four little reels weighing a few tonnes each.

After Omnitrans Corp. Ltd delivers the cables to the top of the mountain, Whistler-Blackcomb crews will work to string the cable. This will be done by first flying a small cable across the valley with a helicopter, and then pulling five progressively larger cables, one-by-one, across the line until the actual cable is finally pulled across. This should take three months.

The $51 million Peak to Peak gondola is slated for completion by this December. The gondola will cover 4.4 km between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, over Fitzsimmons Creek, and will have the longest unsupported lift span in the world, as well as the highest lift of its kind.