Worst wintry roads

8th April, 2015

We often joke in this country that it takes just a few flakes of snow for everything to come to a standstill; the trains get cancelled, schools are closed and the roads often come close to a shuddering halt. Yet travel to the coldest corners of the world and life goes on as normal.

For those of you who have seen the BBC series ‘World's Most Dangerous Roads’, you will know there are two episodes in which a pair of celebrities drive snow covered roads in what are truly hazardous conditions. As a company which is relied upon to be out and about driving in all conditions, these episodes make for pretty gripping watching.

Dalton Highway, Alaska

In this episode from Series 1, Sue Perkins and Charley Boorman navigate the notorious James Dalton Highway in Alaska. Built in 1974 as a supply route for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, this gravel highway runs for 414 miles from the city of Fairbanks to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and on to the Arctic Ocean.

With just three towns along the entire route, the highway's remote location and treacherous driving conditions combine to make it one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Despite that, each day as many as 150 trucks in summer and 250 trucks in the winter make the journey. Those navigating this road must contend with:

  • Dust clouds and flying rocks in the summer
  • Freezing temperatures in the winter. In 1971, for example, the temperature fell to -61°C!
  • Icy slopes and grades of up to 12%

Kolyma Highway, Siberia

Construction of the Kolyma Highway commenced in 1932, with prisoners using hand tools to build the road right up until 1953. The 1,232 mile road links Nizhny Bestyakh in the west with the port town of Magadan in the east of the country.

Despite being well-maintained since 2008, the old 420km section between Tomtor and Kadykchan offers many challenges for adventuring motorcyclists and four wheel-drivers. During the winter the area experiences extremely cold temperatures; the town of Oymyakon is approximately 100km from the highway and with an average temperature of -50°C is widely regarded to be the coldest inhabited place on Earth.

In the first episode of Series 2, comedians Ed Byrne and Andy Parsons attempt to navigate the road and encounter everything from the terrifyingly icy roads to the people who inhabit the wilderness. You can see a clip from this episode below, where Ed and Andy are forced to make the nerve wracking journey across a rotting bridge in their 2 tonne 4x4 vehicle.

We do not get involved in the gritting of public roads, but these two episodes make you realise that our own winters here in the UK could be so much worse!

Snow covered tyre

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