July August 2005




Mountain Pacific Enterprises

Tight spaces - particularly on the edge of RMZs, are no problem for Mountain Pacific Enterprises, thanks to the design of the grapple/hotsaw head on the Tigercat 870, according to owner Craig Chambers.

By Bob Bruce

Tight spaces - particularly on the edge of RMZs, are no problem for Mountain Pacific Enterprises, thanks to the design of the grapple/hotsaw head on the Tigercat 870, according to owner Craig Chambers.

Craig Chambers has been working out in the brush since he was old enough to walk. His father moved out to the Pacific Northwest from West Virginia back in the 1930s and started falling timber. Craig grew up in that environment so it was only natural that as soon as he could heft a chainsaw, he started falling timber as well. By the time he was 18, he was working on his own. “I started out doing hand falling,” says Craig. “I tried logging for a while — tower logging, shovel logging — but then there was a downturn in the industry and the tower logging just priced me out. So I got back into the cutting. That’s what I know. That’s what I’ve been around all my life. The big difference is I’m in a machine now instead of out there packing a power saw.”

Becoming Mechanized
When Craig’s father got started cutting timber, and even for a long time after Craig himself got into the business, the demand was still strong for hand cutters to go after oversize and old-growth timber. These days, with so much of the work involving plantation wood, things have gone mechanized. “To stay competitive, everybody wants mechanized cutting,” says Craig. About a year and a half ago Craig and his partner Bob Tometich sat down and decided that even though things had been in a downturn for a long time, there were some positive signs on the horizon. “So we decided to step up and we bought two Tigercat 870 feller bunchers. So far it’s been a good move.” Their contract cutting company, Mountain Pacific Enterprises, has relationships with a number of different loggers, which lets them stay busy throughout the season.

To be successful, says Craig, you have to always be thinking in terms of customer service. “We work hard to do what they want. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t, but it makes a big difference in how the timber is cut to what they can do production-wise. And it’s all production.” Of course every logger has a slightly different way of doing things, so along with establishing clear communication with the logger, Craig says that one of his most valuable lessons in the importance of making sure the feller keeps the logger’s needs clearly in mind was when Craig tried to do some logging on his own. Before he bought his two new Tigercats, he owned a Kobelco with a quick-change head, and “That meant I could log too. So I went out and I felled this little unit, then I went out to log it. I really found out how bad you could screw somebody. I learned a lot on that — especially with this tall timber — if you don’t lay it the right way, they can’t turn it around. You get little short stuff, they can turn it any which way, but not this tall wood. I really fought that little piece.”

Craig Chambers of Mountain Pacific Enterprises stands next to one of two Tigercat 870 feller bunchers that his company recently purchased.

Flexibility in the Forest
Another reason for setting down his chainsaw and stepping into the cab of a feller buncher is that with today’s focus on Mountain Pacific Enterprises Tight spaces - particularly on the edge of RMZs, are no problem for Mountain Pacific Enterprises, thanks to the design of the grapple/hotsaw head on the Tigercat 870, according to owner Craig Chambers. TimberWest — July/August, 2005 11 in-the-field manufacturing, and just-in-time delivery to the customer, loggers want to be able to adjust what they are doing in the brush on almost an hour-by-hour basis if needed. With hand felling, the ground crews would get in well before the loggers to build up a backlog of product. “But when you’re three weeks ahead, they’re stuck with what you did,” says Craig. “Now everybody needs to be able to make decisions to change their source or destination basically at a moment’s notice. If the market changes and they can get an extra $20 per thousand board feet, they need to be able to respond.”

One of the other factors that helped Craig and Bob decide to step up their two new Tigercats was the need to deal with stricter environmental restrictions. “I’ve been in units before where it’s been a nightmare to work around,” he says. “You’ve got to get in behind trees and cut it, then you actually pack the tree out. Sometimes it is a logistical nightmare.” In Washington, on state timber sales, the loggers are having to leave more trees than in the past. Fortunately, the state foresters are moving more toward clumping the leave trees rather than scattering them throughout the whole unit. “That (the scattering) was a nightmare,” he says. “But the clumping actually works better for us and the logger. You don’t have to fight all the leave trees and worry about scarring. They want the trees to be there for a while so you don’t want to get in there and tear them all up.”

Following the Work
Mountain Pacific works primarily Western Washington, from Naselle north to Quinault and out east to around Morton and Randle. Most of the units they work run between 40 to 60 acres, but they do get a fair number of units up around 100 acres. “I kind of like that,” he says. “It’s a nice big unit so you’re there for a while. It saves on lowboy costs.” But like always, you have to follow the work. “I have a trailer. You just live away from home sometimes.” When it comes to getting from a job at point A to a job at point B, Craig converted an old log truck he had into a lowboy tractor and bought a trailer. “It’s a 1989 and it’s paid for, so it doesn’t cost that much really to sit there if it doesn’t do anything. In the summertime we try not to get too far ahead,” he says. “It’s good for the loggers and good for the timber owners. We try to stay within a week or two of the logging, especially when they are logging by the pound and them selling by the pound, so you don’t get the wood drying out.”

Even heavy western hemlock can be easily sorted and stacked in the field thanks to the 870's self-leveling base and beefy hydraulics.

Enjoying the Machines
When they first got in the market for a feller buncher, neither Craig nor Bob had spent much time around hot saws. They also weren’t sure if they were ready to buy new or just rent something used. They decided to try to find someone who would let them use a piece of equipment on a six-month lease first before making a purchase. “Pape really worked with us on that,” he says. “One of the things we fell in love with was the heads on these things. When you get along the RMZs and the trees are leaning out, you can’t get behind them. But with the 870 you can just reach over and cut a full-sized tree and just pull it right back to you.” And that was another big feature they both liked about the Tigercat. “It’s a leveling machine, so it will level on some very steep slopes. And it’s also physically strong, which was one thing we were looking at. We do a lot of clearcuts in this western hemlock, which is a heavier tree than the pine or fir.” They got their first 870 in December 2003 on a demo. “When I got it out there I just fell in love with it. It was just like you put on an old shoe and it fits real good, it was just doing what I wanted the machine to do.” The bought their second 870 three months later. “I would say it made an impression. I ran this thing for two weeks and I told the salesman, ‘I’m ready to sign the paper.’ Another thing was I just felt the timing, at that time the interest rates were probably as low as we were ever going to see on equipment, and they’ve gone up since then.”


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