Axe Men

Friday 18th December 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, the Rygaard crew strives to become the best on the mountain. Jesse struggles to convince his dad that he can run the team. Jimmy heads into uncharted waters. And Bart flies into peril when his helicopter gets lost in fog.

At the Rygaard site, boss Craig is keeping an eye on greenhorn Brad. His son, Gabe, accuses him of “babying” the rookie, but Craig feels obliged to give Brad a fair chance. Out in the brush, Brad is aware of the pressure on his shoulders. “They know I’ll be good soon, they just don’t like this process of me learning right now,” he says. Communication difficulties with his Spanishspeaking colleagues hamper his progress, but eventually Brad begins to pull his weight. “I’m getting stronger. I feel it day by day,” he says.

Gabe Rygaard, meanwhile, has his eyes on the prize of outdoing local rival JM Browning. “The goal was to beat Browning. The goal was to show them that David could beat Goliath,” he says. With the team just one load short of surpassing Browning for the season, Gabe senses victory. “I only know how to do one thing – and that’s log hard,” he says, with a grin.

The Browning crew has started work on a new slope under the supervision of Jesse Browning, who needs to prove himself to his dad, company boss Jay. Jesse knows that the extra responsibility provides an opportunity for him to make up for last season’s temper tantrums, which were caught on camera. “This is my chance to redeem myself so people in the world don’t think I’m a cry baby and a whiner,” he says.

But the day gets off to a terrible start when Jesse realises the skyline car is running too low above the ground. He cannot risk damaging the $80,000 piece of equipment, so he is forced to erect an extra support to lift the line higher. Further delays ensue when the car falls off the wire. “If he wasn’t the boss’s son, there’d be a lot more said,” grumbles one logger. Eventually, Jesse’s father shows up and starts to take charge. “This is a disaster of a day,” Jay growls. Has Jesse failed his dad for the last time?

Elsewhere, Jimmy Smith has pushed the boat out and bought – a boat. Jimmy needs a bigger vessel if he is to realise a profit from aqua logging. His new purchase, a retired 1966 naval boat, has two broken engines, a flooded cabin and a cracked hull, but Jimmy declares himself in love. “It’s like a girlfriend that’s a hassle is always a little better than one that’s not,” he says, smitten.

Jimmy will need to salvage a few more logs if he is to pay for the repairs to his boat. With his son, James, and old friend Pat, he sets off on his barge in search of green gold. The Holquiam River is uncharted water for Jimmy, who must keep his eyes peeled for submerged trees called ‘deadheads’ that could rip a hole in his hull. The boys retrieve a couple of old logs, but on the return trip they find themselves on a collision course with a thicket of deadheads. “Paddle, James, paddle!” screams Jimmy. “Hard, hard, hard!” Is Jimmy’s dream about to founder?

Also this week, Bart Colantuono gives reserve pilot Steve Smith a training lesson in the chopper. “I’m hoping Steve makes it,” says logger Tyler Roundy. “We need two pilots. One pilot can’t run hard all the time.” However, Steve feels sick in the passenger seat and asks to be let down. “If this is what it’s gonna take to be a logging pilot, I might have to give this up,” he says.

Bart must complete another three loads if Conner Aviation is to turn a profit for the day. Suddenly, thick fog and snow descends on the area, reducing visibility to almost nothing. “They always said, if you don’t like the weather in Montana, wait 15 minutes,” says boss Ryan Conner ruefully. Bart completes the three loads, but is unable to find the landing site in the fog. Matters worsen when an alarm sounds in his cockpit. “I’ve got about five minutes’ worth of fuel,” Bart says. “I gotta get the hell out of Dodge!” Is he about to come crashing down?

Friday 11th December 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, James can take no more of his father’s insults and storms off the job. Falling logs put men’s lives at risk. Brad fights to keep his job. And Dwayne is given a lowly assignment.

Aqua-loggers Jimmy and James have dragged their monster log from the middle of a river to the bank. Now they need to haul the great trunk onto dry land. “That’s my Moby Dick and I’m just dying to get that thing out of the water,” Jimmy says. The boys tie the log to a tractor and begin the effort – only for it to become embedded in deep mud. After his father launches into another furious, expletive-filled rant, James storms off. “You walk off, you might as well find another place to work!” yells Jimmy.

At length James agrees to return – but Moby Dick is less obliging. The stubborn trunk frustrates the boys’ attempts to pull it out of the churned-up earth. After placing another log under Moby Dick to use as a base, Jimmy is finally able to heave it clear. Jimmy and James celebrate their prize of cured wood, which could be worth up to $10,000. Success brings the battling pair back together. “I’m just hard on him ’cos he is my kid,” says Jimmy. “He’s got me to live up to.”

In Montana, the Conner Aviation team has increased its output by using a quicker method of tying the logs together for transport by helicopter. However, when two logs accidentally slip free of the cable and plunge to the ground, work has to shut down. “We can’t keep going on like this,” says pilot Bart Colantuono. “This is just stupid. It’s dangerous.”

The team reverts back to a slower but safer procedure. However, Bart has another problem in the form of back-up pilot Steve Smith. Last year, Steve was the first-choice pilot, until he seriously damaged the chopper in a hard landing. Company boss Ryan has ordered the inexperienced pilot to brush up on his skills by training with Bart. Unfortunately, Steve refuses to sit in the passenger seat. “I don’t really see where I’m learning much,” he says. Is Steve’s pride about to cost him his job?

At the Rygaard site in Washington, Gabe Rygaard accuses his dad, Craig, of ‘babying’ greenhorn Brad. “Maybe I’m not pushing him as hard as I should,” Craig admits. “The day is gonna come when he’s gonna have to f***ing man up.” In the brush, Brad struggles to identify the types of trees they have cut down. “I’m just useless out here,” he says, dejected. The Rygaard crew’s next job is to clear a tangled thicket of trees blown down during a storm. “This is probably one of the worst low-down patches I’ve had to work in a long time,” says Gabe. “It’s hairy and nasty and dangerous and ugly.” Hardy loggers must take care that trees do not spring back at them when they fall in the cramped undergrowth.

At the Pihl site, temperamental tree feller Dwayne Dethlefs is once again at the centre of controversy. Dwayne’s co-workers criticise him for not cutting his logs into smaller chunks. Dwayne brushes off their “whining”, but has little to smile about when supervisor Keith reassigns him to work in the brush as a chaser. This job involves tying the cables to the logs and is usually reserved for the least experienced member of the team. “I can’t do this. This sucks!” Dwayne growls.

The loggers are greatly amused by Dwayne’s grumbling – which only infuriates the tree cutter further. “He thinks he’s a super logger but what he is wouldn’t make a pimple on a good logger’s ass,” says one. When Keith orders the team to work overtime, Dwayne explodes with fury and marches off the site once again. Is this the last straw for the combustible logger?

Friday 4th December 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, Dustin urges his father, Dwayne, to come back to work. Conner Aviation’s battered helicopter takes to the air to begin a new season of heli-logging. Craig battles a fire in his machine. And Jimmy mounts another attempt to drag a huge log out of a riverbed.

Last week, tree feller Dwayne Dethlefs stormed off the Pihl site after a bust-up with company owner Mike. Now his son Dustin, who is working under his dad, has to convince the stubborn logger to return. “This sucks, dammit,” he says. “I’m just trying to learn how to cut some trees. Now I gotta babysit.” Dwayne and Mike have a row seemingly once a year – but this time Dwayne is refusing even to leave his house. “Let’s take the rest of the day off, get drunk and go deer hunting,” his son suggests.

Mike is none too keen to rehire his errant worker. “Dwayne has his issues… It’s embarrassing,” he says. With his team a man short, Mike rolls up his sleeves and gets to work in the brush alongside Dustin, tying the yarder cable to the felled logs. “I haven’t been in the brush for some time, but I needed the exercise,” he says. Mike hires experienced hand Levi Brown to fell trees in Dwayne’s absence – only for the missing man to show up at work as if nothing had happened. “He really should have talked to me before he came back,” says Mike. Will the boss bury the hatchet with Dwayne?

In Montana, Conner Aviation is about to start its heli-logging season. The company’s sole chopper has been out of action for nine months after it had to make a hard landing in the forest. Boss Ryan Conner has spent that time fixing up the $850,000 machine. This time around, it will be flown by exmilitary man Bart Colantuomo. “Heli-logging is probably the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” enthuses Bart.

Heli-logging involves lifting felled trees from the hillside using a 150ft-long cable attached to the bottom of the chopper. It can lift up to 1.4 tonnes. An overweight load can drag the chopper back to the ground or send it into a ‘collective bounce’, when an uncontrollable vibration takes hold of the aircraft. “I look at heli-logging as a big live-action video game,” says Bart. He must take special care not to hit the loggers on the ground with the trunks as he lifts them into the sky. But when one of those loggers accidentally attaches too much weight to the cable, Bart struggles to control the chopper. Is he about to come crashing down to earth?

At the Rygaard concession in Washington, rookie Brad Hewitt is tasked with climbing 80ft up a tree to tie the end of a skyline. Equipped with spiked boots and a rope, Brad scales the tree and ties a steel cable around the trunk. The skyline is working well when, further up the hill, Craig Rygaard’s yarder machine catches fire. The shocked boss calls up his son on the radio. “I got a fire in here, Gabe! I’m gonna need some help pretty bad!” he cries.

Gabe comes running up the hill with a fire extinguisher and finds his dad struggling to remove his own extinguisher from the machine. The pair quickly douse the flames before they reach the fuel tank. A shocked Gabe reflects on a near miss for his father and rues the cost to the $250,000 yarder.

Also this week, father-and-son Jimmy and James Smith make a second attempt to drag a 100-yearold log worth $10,000 out of a riverbed. Having fixed the hydraulic winch on his barge, Jimmy turns the air blue in his efforts to pull ‘Moby Dick’ from its watery grave. “I’ve never been a quitter my entire life and I’m not gonna quit now,” he says. Jimmy’s hard work and swearing pays off when the log is finally dislodged and dragged to the riverbank, where it will be pulled ashore at low tide.

Friday 27th November 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, problems with new equipment delay the Browning crew. New boy Brad struggles to keep up with the pace. Bickering father-and-son team Jimmy and James battle to drag a log out of a riverbed. And a disagreement erupts in the Pihl camp.

Deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, rugged men make their living doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Their mission is to retrieve valuable timber perched on steep mountainsides, using a combination of skill, daring and heavy machinery.

This week, Jay Browning gives his crew a dressing down following the previous day’s poor display. A breakdown meant the team went home early – costing the company thousands of dollars. Now the pressure is on Jay’s son, crew boss Jesse, to prove his worth. To speed up the process, Jay has invested $30,000 in electronic chokers – clasps used to tie logs together. Unfortunately, the new gizmos do not work as they should. “They’re costing us quite a bit of time right now,” says logger Carl.

Jesse calls in an expert to show the loggers how to use the chokers and, before long, the team hits its stride. Jesse earns his dad’s congratulations when the crew achieves its target of 28 loads –worth a tidy $33,000. “Jesse’s showing that he’s capable of doing this job and getting it done with no help from Dad or anybody else,” says Jay.

To the north, another father-and-son-team hopes to challenge Browning’s supremacy. With a smaller crew, Craig Rygaard and son Gabe aim to pull an ambitious 20 loads from their patch of forest. “We just might keep up with old Browning,” says Gabe. Both Rygaards have their eyes trained on greenhorn Brad, a college boy fresh to the slopes. “It’s really hard to tell if a guy’s gonna make it or not till you put him right in there,” says Gabe.

As a graduate in environmental science, Brad is fascinated to see the business end of logging. “It’s good how they do it,” he says. “They have to replant it so it’s real nice… In 50-60 years, they’ll log the same trees they replanted.” However, the work takes its toll on Brad and by 10 o’clock he is exhausted. The final straw comes when he is told to carry a 100lb coil of steel wire down the hill. Stumbling through the forest, Brad is put to shame by 30-year veteran Rick, who carries three coils. “Compared to people back home, I am one of the toughest guys – but this is brutal in so many different ways!” he says. Will Brad last the day?

Elsewhere, Jimmy Smith calls upon his son James to help him salvage a huge log from a riverbed. The preserved trunk could fetch $10,000 – but first Jimmy needs to find a way to pull it out of the water and onto his barge. “My son’s job is to keep me alive,” Jimmy explains. “He always says I was born without the part of the brain that makes you afraid.” Hyperactive Jimmy is quick to anger – and James bears the brunt of his expletive-filled wrath as the bumbling pair struggle to lasso the log. Mishaps ensue and Jimmy is forced to call upon the camera crew to fetch him more fuel. Can he succeed in tugging ‘Moby Dick’ from its watery depths?

Also this week, conflict brews at the Pihl logging site. Supervisor Keith, sitting in the yarder machine, is annoyed that the loggers on the hillside are not cutting the trunks into manageable chunks. “It’s dangerous – we don’t have a lot of working room here,” he grumbles. Logger Dwayne insists he is only following boss Mike’s orders. But when Mike shows up and contradicts him, a furious Dwayne decides to give his employer a piece of his mind. “I’m going up there to tell him to go to hell!” he yells. Is Dwayne’s season about to finish before it has even begun?

Friday 20th November 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, problems with new equipment delay the Browning crew. New boy Brad struggles to keep up with the pace. Bickering father-and-son team Jimmy and James battle to drag a log out of a riverbed. And a disagreement erupts in the Pihl camp.

Deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, rugged men make their living doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Their mission is to retrieve valuable timber perched on steep mountainsides, using a combination of skill, daring and heavy machinery.

This week, Jay Browning gives his crew a dressing down following the previous day’s poor display. A breakdown meant the team went home early – costing the company thousands of dollars. Now the pressure is on Jay’s son, crew boss Jesse, to prove his worth. To speed up the process, Jay has invested $30,000 in electronic chokers – clasps used to tie logs together. Unfortunately, the new gizmos do not work as they should. “They’re costing us quite a bit of time right now,” says logger Carl.

Jesse calls in an expert to show the loggers how to use the chokers and, before long, the team hits its stride. Jesse earns his dad’s congratulations when the crew achieves its target of 28 loads –worth a tidy $33,000. “Jesse’s showing that he’s capable of doing this job and getting it done with no help from Dad or anybody else,” says Jay.

To the north, another father-and-son-team hopes to challenge Browning’s supremacy. With a smaller crew, Craig Rygaard and son Gabe aim to pull an ambitious 20 loads from their patch of forest. “We just might keep up with old Browning,” says Gabe. Both Rygaards have their eyes trained on greenhorn Brad, a college boy fresh to the slopes. “It’s really hard to tell if a guy’s gonna make it or not till you put him right in there,” says Gabe.

As a graduate in environmental science, Brad is fascinated to see the business end of logging. “It’s good how they do it,” he says. “They have to replant it so it’s real nice… In 50-60 years, they’ll log the same trees they replanted.” However, the work takes its toll on Brad and by 10 o’clock he is exhausted. The final straw comes when he is told to carry a 100lb coil of steel wire down the hill. Stumbling through the forest, Brad is put to shame by 30-year veteran Rick, who carries three coils. “Compared to people back home, I am one of the toughest guys – but this is brutal in so many different ways!” he says. Will Brad last the day?

Elsewhere, Jimmy Smith calls upon his son James to help him salvage a huge log from a riverbed. The preserved trunk could fetch $10,000 – but first Jimmy needs to find a way to pull it out of the water and onto his barge. “My son’s job is to keep me alive,” Jimmy explains. “He always says I was born without the part of the brain that makes you afraid.” Hyperactive Jimmy is quick to anger – and James bears the brunt of his expletive-filled wrath as the bumbling pair struggle to lasso the log. Mishaps ensue and Jimmy is forced to call upon the camera crew to fetch him more fuel. Can he succeed in tugging ‘Moby Dick’ from its watery depths?

Also this week, conflict brews at the Pihl logging site. Supervisor Keith, sitting in the yarder machine, is annoyed that the loggers on the hillside are not cutting the trunks into manageable chunks. “It’s dangerous – we don’t have a lot of working room here,” he grumbles. Logger Dwayne insists he is only following boss Mike’s orders. But when Mike shows up and contradicts him, a furious Dwayne decides to give his employer a piece of his mind. “I’m going up there to tell him to go to hell!” he yells. Is Dwayne’s season about to finish before it has even begun?

Friday 13th November 8.00pm

The documentary series that explores the treacherous work of loggers in the Pacific Northwest returns. This new series follows five logging companies as they battle tough terrain, wet weather and harsh conditions to rip precious timber from the hillsides. The first episode looks back at highlights from series one and introduces new faces, including tree fellers who specialise in aqua logging and helicopter logging.

Deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, rugged men make their living doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Their mission is to retrieve valuable timber perched on steep mountainsides, using a combination of skill, daring and heavy machinery.

These larger-than-life characters spend their days among towering trees and powerful machines and their nights in outposts far from the comforts of civilisation. Many of the men belong to logging families that date back to the early 19th century when the American West was first settled.

The second series of ‘Axe Men’ follows five crews through a season in the Oregon and Washington forests as they compete for their share of the logging fortune. Plagued by mechanical failures, relentless weather and unpredictable terrain, these fearless men risk their lives to retrieve the timber upon which the country depends.

Two of the companies from series one, Pihl and JM Browning Logging, return to face competition from three new crews – S&S Aqua Logging, Rygaard Logging and R&R Conner Aviation.

As the season begins, the tree fellers learn that one of the breakthrough techniques from last year, helicopter logging, will be a mainstay of the new season. This innovative technique involves using a chopper to harvest pre-cut trees from the hillside. Helicopter logging can have less environmental impact because it speeds up the process and removes the need to build so many access roads. However, the risk of strong winds and flying debris means that it can be extremely hazardous to pilots and loggers. Of the new teams, R&R Conner are experts in this form of logging.

Also new this season is an approach called aqua logging, which entails recovering logs from riverbeds. These tree trunks were abandoned by loggers over a century ago and are now perfectly preserved. The naturally cured logs provide stressed timber ideal for making luxury furniture and musical instruments. S&S Aqua, run by father and son Jimmy and James, are pioneers in this field. Their commitment is to never cut down a live tree – but can they realise profits from this endeavour?

This time around, the axe men also face the bite of the worldwide recession, which has devastated the US housing market and building industry, with a knock-on effect on the timber business. Alongside the practical hardships and difficulties they face, the axe men are fighting an unforgiving economic climate. With budgets tight and delays costly, mistakes on the hillside could risk not just life and limb, but also the very futures of these logging companies.

The documentary series exploring the work of lumberjacks in the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest concludes. In this instalment, it is the final showdown in the Oregon mountains as the four logging crews race to cash in on the green gold.

With only one week left of autumn, this logging season will go down as one of the toughest on record. The axe men of the Pacific Northwest have survived the worst storm to hit the region in over 50 years; myriad technical problems have seen crews unable to work for long periods; and staff shortages have brought the loggers into conflict on numerous occasions. Now, the stakes have never been higher – it is either cash in, or lose everything trying.

As one of the biggest logging crews in the Northwest, JM Browning has pulled more loads than any other team this season, and has recently landed another lucrative contract. However, last week’s storm has transformed Big Creek from an easy tree-farm site into a chaotic blowdown that will be very dangerous and time-consuming to log.

Despite the risks involved, company owner Jay needs to get paid, so he pushes on and sends his cutting crew ahead to clear the area. “It’s real live right now,” says Jay of the treacherous site. “It could end up turning into a nightmare.” Sure enough, his men run into all kinds of problems as they tackle the tangled mess of broken trees. It is at times like this that Jay considers his future in the logging business. “I don’t plan on staying in the industry and continually going backwards,” he says. “I think I’m just going to quit.”

Just a few miles away, Jay’s son Jesse is not ready to give up so easily. With the deadline only days away
at the Shingle Mill site, the pressure to perform is on – and Jesse is stepping up to the plate. “We’ve got to keep logs going down the road to make a buck –it’s the only way to keep this company going,” he explains. The veterans of the Pihl crew have kept their heads above water this season by taking on every job they could find –and have somehow thrived. The storm blocked their access to the Beaver site, but they have managed to get back on track. “I think we’re going to make it, thank goodness,” says Mike.
“Somehow or another we always do.” But with this unruly bunch, anything can happen.

Running the yarder is one of the most complicated jobs on the mountain, and even the most experienced operators can make mistakes. In the line of fire today is Dustin –and it is not long before he suffers at the hands of operator Bill’s haste. He is about to hook a log when Bill prematurely pulls the carriage up –ripping the choker out of Dustin’s hands. This time the rigger is lucky –he narrowly escapes losing a limb. “That’s how easy it could happen,” he reflects.

At Round Top mountain, Melvin Lardy has kept his small company alive by taking big risks, but he needs a payday to compensate for the profit lost during the storm. After the rain washed away the mountain roads, Melvin has cut a deal to use private access roads –meaning that he and his men have one last chance to finish the season on a high. “We just can’t mess around,” he says. “We’ve got to get this job wrapped up.” However, Melvin has one last trick up his sleeve in the form of legendary tree-faller Earl Davis. Since losing his home to the weather, Earl has had to take on any work he can find –and now he and his son Eric are about to let it rip on Round Top.

Also looking to finish the season on a positive note is Darrell Holthusen and the Gustafson crew. The
terrible weather brought an abrupt end to their effort to complete the Challenge site, but it also cut them off from $1.5million-worth of equipment. Now, they embark on an audacious attempt to rescue two massive pieces of machinery from the slopes –using a skyline cable and a loader. “There’s a chance we could make it happen,” says Darrell.

“Let’s go for a ride!” After a fraught day spent struggling up the side of the mountain, the guys are elated to see Darrell and his machines come bursting over the ridge and onto the landing. “We did what they said couldn’t be done,” shouts Darrell. “That’s how we roll!”

The documentary series exploring the work of lumberjacks in the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, the storm continues to rage through Oregon, putting lives in danger and threatening logging fortunes. When the rain finally stops, the heartache begins as the axe men learn the true extent of the damage to their community.

In just three days, the storm of the century has seen the rivers of Oregon swell some ten feet above flood stage. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, 13 lives have been lost and the toll continues to rise. In Vernonia, Stump Branch loader operator Donald battles Mother Nature as rising waters overtake his house. Heading back to his home, he strives to salvage what he can. “I’ve got to rescue the little kitty cats,” he says. “The rest will have to fend for itself.”

Meanwhile, Melvin and the rest of the Stump Branch boys make another attempt to reach the job site and their stranded equipment. But as he and the crew make their way to Round Top mountain, the extent of the storm damage becomes clear. While some roads are closed owing to high waters and fallen trees, others have been completely washed away. After making a big detour to avoid closed highways, Melvin encounters a huge gully where a logging road used to be. With no way for Melvin to reach his valuable machines, the future of his company is under serious threat. “We’re talking months of road building here,” he says. “This is screwed up.”

On the way back to town, the devastation is overwhelming. The Nehalem River has burst its banks, sending water flooding into the streets and homes of Vernonia. Melvin’s first stop is the Davis house where a logging family is in trouble. Eric is Melvin’s man in the rigging, while his younger brother Cody works for the Pihl company with his father, Earl. When Melvin arrives, the three loggers are picking up the pieces of their home. “This is not supposed to happen for another 50 years,” says Eric of the storm. The flood has cost the family almost everything, but in this close-knit community, everyone comes together to help with the cleanup.

Outside of town, Darrell Holthusen calls an emergency meeting with the Gustafson crew. With completion of the Challenge site now impossible, the men’s goal is to retrieve their machinery – worth around $1.5million – from Buck Mountain. “We have an absolute disaster on the horizon,” says Darrell. “The devastation is incredible.” As he and his men make their way up the winding roads, a big mud slide blocks their path. A county tractor is struggling to clear the road, until a twisted stack of collapsed trees brings the operation to a standstill. Now, only manpower and chainsaws can clear the way forward – but the tangled mess of logs throws up all kinds of hidden dangers. “We’ve got our work cut out for us,” says Darrell.

After an entire day spent cutting a path up the mountain, Darrell and his men are closer to their equipment and feeling happy with the progress they have made. “I’m feeling a lot better about things now,” says Darrell as he heads for home. However, nothing can prepare him for what he finds the following morning.

As the storm finally subsides, the unruly members of the Pihl crew try again to get to the potentially lucrative Beaver site. “Here we are,” says experienced cutter Dwayne. “Round two!” When they do arrive, however, raising the skyline amidst the tangled undergrowth provides another challenge. But these men are determined to get back to work. Six hours after arriving on site, the path is cleared and work can begin. With all that these men have been through in the past few days, the first turn of the yarder is very significant. “We’re finally logging Beaver!” shouts Dwayne.

The documentary series exploring the work of lumberjacks in the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest continues. This week, the storm of the century pummels northwest Oregon; the Stump Branch crew is left stranded on the mountainside; a greenhorn goes missing; and Darrell Holthusen must fight to save his family.

A hundred miles off the Oregon coast, two dying typhoons have come together to form a new storm that is growing stronger by the minute and heading east on a collision course with logging country. They do not know it yet, but the axe men are about to face a disaster unlike anything they have ever seen.

At the top of Buck Mountain, Darrell Holthusen and the Gustafson crew are back at the Challenge site after a two-week layoff, but they quickly run into problems. The riggers have hooked a massive log weighing ten tons, and the yarder is struggling to cope. Operator Richie fears that one wrong move could snap the skyline. “If things aren’t perfect out there, something bad is going to happen,” he says. After 45 minutes of work, they finally manage to pull the mammoth tree to the landing, but it is a hollow victory as the wood is rotten and worthless. However, with the storm fast approaching, things are about to get worse.

Over at Round Top Mountain, Melvin Lardy and his Stump Branch boys are beginning to suffer at the hands of high winds and heavy snowfall. To make matters worse, greenhorn Michael has failed to turn up to work and is not answering his phone. “This separates the men from the boys,” says rigger Eric.

Eleven miles away at Pig Farm, the unruly members of the Pihl crew are scrambling to finish the job before moving onto their next site. They have so far pulled 15 loads and need just five more to meet their target, but the weather is making things tough. “It’s going to get nasty tonight,” predicts Kelly Baska. But this is just a hint of things to come.

Other crews are already halting work and heading for home – but not the Pihl team. Before packing up his saw, experienced cutter Dwayne has a dangerous task to tackle. In order to fell the one last tree standing in the middle of the slope, he must climb onto a pile of fallen logs that could fly in any direction. “With all that pressure below me, it’s a pretty unsafe practice,” he says.

In the end, Dwayne’s experience wins through and the Pihl men can complete the Pig Farm site and head home. It is while travelling to their new logging location the following day, however, that the full rage of the storm hits the coast. Heavy overnight rain has flooded the region’s many rivers, while winds of over 100mph are blowing down trees and buildings, turning Oregon into a disaster area. Still determined to get to the potentially profitable Beaver site, the Pihl men push ahead and make their way up the mountain. “I have a feeling it’s going to be a white-knuckle ride,” says Dick Scroggins. Sure enough, the men soon encounter roads under several feet of water, forcing them to give up and head for home.

By 7am, the storm is even worse and the Stump Branch boys are stuck in the middle of it. “It’s probably a good day to stay home and drink whisky,” says a hopeful Eric. But for this small outfit to stay afloat, Melvin needs his men to log, so he pushes his luck and heads for the hillside. The ride up proves very treacherous, with some stretches completely submerged and others blocked with fallen trees. But when they reach part of the road that has been completely washed away by flood waters, the boys know they are in real danger. “We’re screwed right here,” says Melvin. “This is what I did not want to happen.” Now the race is on to get off the mountain before it is too late.

In Astoria, winds of 135mph mean that the Gustafson crew will now definitely miss its deadline. More worrying for Darrell, however, is the instability of the trees surrounding his home. “I’m a little panicked about this,” he says. Fearing that the trees might come crashing down on his house at any moment, he makes the brave decision to start cutting them down. Despite the dangers of felling trees in such high winds, Darrell has no choice but to proceed in order to save his family from disaster.

(7/13)

The documentary series exploring the treacherous work of lumberjacks in the remote forests of the Pacific Northwest continues. Following four teams of loggers, Axe Men brings to life one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and profiles the brave men who risk their lives on a daily basis. In this episode, the downturn in the housing industry begins to take a financial toll on the crews.

At the Pig Farm site, 35 miles from the Oregon coast, the Pihl team members find themselves with little work. “Somehow or another we’ll live through it, but it’s scary,” says owner Mike. To make matters worse, numbers are down because a key yarder operator is away sick. This means that inexperienced site boss Todd Cutright must take the controls. His initial attempts to pull logs result in several breakages. As well as damaging profits, Todd’s amateur driving skills are making the other crew members nervous. In additon, the felling team is getting too close to the skyline, which means there is a very real danger that one of the two-storey-high trees could crush the cable.

Poor performance is also an issue over at the Challenge site. Gustafson Logging’s hook tender Robbie Motsinger says, “If I had to sum this Challenge job up, I would have to say they named it perfect.” But it is Robbie’s needless mistakes that have cost the company most dearly. His latest blunder is leaving expensive equipment unattended at the site overnight.

The next morning, Robbie calls team leader Darrell Holthusen to break the bad news – 3,000 feet of top-quality synthetic rope has been stolen. With a total value of $4,500, the development comes at a bad time for the struggling business. “As much as the thief is at fault, probably Robbie is too,” says Darrell. To add to the blow, a two-week period without work is looming. As activity grinds to a halt, all Darrell can do is take the law into his own hands in conducting a ground search for the thief.

Business is slow even for industry giant JM Browning. Owner Jay has been forced to take on smaller jobs and use sub-standard equipment. As a result, Jay’s son Jesse is becoming disillusioned with logging life. He must operate an 18-year-old yoder that is less powerful and reliable than the machinery to which he is accustomed. “I’ve never had a good day on it,” says crew member Carl Hazen. “Something always goes wrong.” So far, only two out of the projected 18 loads have been shifted from the site and no further progress is to be made – a yoder malfunction means work must shut down for the day.

At Round Top Mountain, Melvin Lardy’s Stump Branch team is making the best of the industry slump. The young company is known for its gungho attitude, using innovative and risky methods to reap maximum rewards. “My philosophy always is lower your shoulder, lower your head and go through and get it done,” says Melvin.

In order to save time and increase profits, Melvin decides to do some jammer logging. This technique involves fishing for logs with a yoder instead of collecting them with a skyline. The yoder operator flings the steel cable around like a lasso, releasing it at just the right moment to catch a bundle of logs. The process is fast and produces a greater yield, but carries with it a high risk of injury to the crew if the driver releases the cable at the wrong moment. “It’s gonna be exciting, that’s for sure,” says Melvin.

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