Mineral Creek Mistake, 08.18
We were on the second day of an annual Land Cruiser meet, the 200 Series Land Cruiser Destination Club (#200LCDC). In its 4th year, the 200LCDC brings 200 Series Owners together in destination locations with great trails, cool towns and amazing views. The meet has been held in Ouray (2015-16), Breckinridge (2017), and this year in Telluride. We’ll be back in Ouray in 2019, you can read my first account of participating in the 200LCDC, also in Ouray, here.
The first day of trail runs we ascended Imogene Pass (11.6 miles to the 13K’ summit from Telluride) then onto Black Bear Pass (12.8K’ summit) and down its infamous switchbacks. The second day we chose to run the Alpine Loop, a famous route of trails through the “Swiss Alps of America”– the San Juan Mountains. The Alpine Loop begins with a run up Mineral Creek, up and over Engineer Pass (12.8K’ summit) then back to pavement via Cinnamon Pass. My ‘learning experience’ happened along the Mineral Creek route, on a section that wasn’t especially technical but next to a drop off.
The Learning Experience
We were in the lead of a group of four trucks and a couple miles up Mineral Creek. There was an off-camber rocky section on the trail. I wasn’t happy with my initial line and decided to back up and re-align. I thought I had room to back up, I thought I knew how far I had rolled forward while deciding on the line. I didn’t look carefully, so despite what I thought, I was WRONG. The passenger side rear dropped off the road (packed rock/dirt with a slight berm). I stopped, told my Fiancé that I didn’t like how that felt, turned the steering wheel hard driver-side in preparation to change direction...and then the road beneath the passenger side front sloughed off. That felt decidedly worse. It was time to stop and think about the current situation, life, reasons to live, etc., and most critically how to get out of it.
Fortunately the trucks we were with were equipped with recovery gear, although much of it was brand new and not all drivers had the opportunity to learn/use their equipment prior to this trip. Well it was time to learn by doing. My truck was sitting on its rear differential but I did not feel comfortable getting out and disturbing whatever delicate balance we were experiencing, in addition, there was no place for my Fiancé to get out on the passenger side so we were stuck in the truck together. Where we were sitting, there was no winch point available for me to self-recover so we squeezed one truck by and secured my winch line to that truck via its rear bumper’s built-in recovery point. In order to secure the rear of the truck from further sliding down the mountain a second winch line was run from the truck behind us to a snatch block (pulley) secured to a tree-saver strap placed around a tree and then attached to my rear bumper.
Recovery gear came out of every truck, and we used a surprising number of soft and hard shackles. I say “we” although I was stuck in the truck. Thankfully our fellow drivers were all level headed and methodical about the recovery, there were checks and double-checks. When it was time to start the pull we weighted the lines, cleared everyone out of the way, said a little prayer, and started reeling line in from my truck and the one behind via the snatch block. The pull went smoothly and worked as planned. Once back on the proper road, we got out of the truck and took a little breather, collected all of the recovery gear and continued on our way. Again a huge thanks to Geoff, George and Nathan for their help and to their passengers for their patience.
Recovery gear used:
Aside the from the truck bumper’s built-in hard points we used the following gear during the recovery: Warn 9.5XP-S winch with Factor 55 Flat-Link, Warn VR12S winch a standard hook, ARB Snatch Block, large tree-saver strap, 1-2 Bubba Rope Gator-Jaw soft shackles, and at least 4 hard shackles. For dampeners we used a weighted tote bag attached with a small carabiner on the front winch line and an ARB damper on the rear line. I’ll be making a few adjustments to what and where I carry recovery gear in light of this experience (see postscript at bottom).
A few scenic shots from our trip.
Fellow driver Geoff had a Go-Pro running throughout the day and shared the raw footage with me so I put together a short (4 minute) clip of the recovery.
About the 200 Series Land Cruiser Destination Club (#200LCDC)
Some may scoff at the 200 due to its size, cost or ‘big Highlander’ vibe, yet the truck is quite capable in its stock form for fire roads and moderate off-roading. With the addition of AT tires and perhaps a small suspension lift the truck is exceptionally able although sliders are definitely recommended as the stock steps are vulnerable. Drivers in this years meet participated in a full range of year models from first-year 2008 models up through new 2016 models that had never seen dirt. Aside from a few stock trucks, other owners have added suspension lifts, bumpers, racks and all sorts of interior overland goodies. The majority of trucks at this years meet sported 32-33” tires and 2-3” of lift. For information about the 2019 LCDC and previous year’s gatherings, visit: 200LCDC.com
Postscript: I was able to attend one of Adam’s Step 22 Gear recovery equipment seminars hosted at the 2018 American Adventurist SoCal Mountain Rendezvous (@americanadventurist) and have since brought a bunch of gear up to the correct specs for the 200 Series.
It all packs into a 5.11 hardcase and a 5.11 Wingman bag that are lashed to the Goose Gear cabinetry in the back of the truck.
Thanks for reading, get out there and (safely) enjoy the outdoors.