May 7, 2000
After spending the weekend pre-running and clearing some of the Rock Crawl 2000 trails, I can say with absolute certainty that there will be some very entertaining vehicular carnage this year.
We spent the first day as guests of Paul and Sharon Cooper on Garibaldi Mtn. Their names may be familiar to you as the organizers of the Morningside Tough Truck Challenge. In fact, some of last year's MTTC trails will be featured at this year's RC'00 along with some new ones Paul has just developed. The first obstacle we tried was at the base of the mountain. It was a steep, weaving climb dotted by a succession of rocky steps. The loose dirt required momentum but the rock outcrops could pretzel your driveshafts if you missed the precise line. Wil was the only one who tried this section since the others had done it before. He was driving Project YJ instead of his Toyota pick-up so he had some difficulty picking the appropriate for the shorter wheelbase. Some helpful spotting from Rob Bryce did the trick and Wil cleaned the section easily.
The next obstacle was a new one Paul had been contemplating. It began with a combination ditch, 3 ft vertical step, and a squeeze between two trees. After getting between the trees and over the ledge, it was a very steep climb to the left which became off-camber near the top. Sliding sideways off the hill would reward you with a thrilling rollover culminating in a short freefall onto your roof.
At that point, there were three vehicles present: Project YJ, Rob's Comanche, and Paul Cooper's monster Ford. I made a symbolic attempt but couldn't even get my front tires over the ledge. Rob was next up at bat. His attempt came to an abrupt end when he blew his 36" Interco SSR tire. The damage was particularly painful because Rob had just bought the tire 1200 km ago.
Paul was the last to try it and he didn't disappoint us. It was a tight squeeze for him to get between the trees and he ended up taking body damage BUT he made it onto the ledge. His 44" Boggers clawed their way up the hill, faltering only when he reached the off-camber section. His big Ford started slipping sideways off the hill. Paul eased off the the throttle, the Boggers regained their bite, and he completed the climb. After he showed the way, I tried it again but was still unsuccessful. I was able to get my front tires onto the ledge but I kept landing on rear bumper. Later that day, Rob Brooks showed up in his Toyota pickup and became the second vehicle to beat the hill but he had to pay with a bit of sheet metal massaging.
Rob spends $300 trying to climb this hill.
Paul makes it over the ledge and rubs his truck
into the tree.
Paul conquers the hill!
After Rob put on his spare tire, Paul took us to another as-yet untested hill and once again, I failed to climb it in my Jeep. Paul came up next and spent about half an hour, gaining a foot or two with each attempt. He finally beat the toughest part and cruised up the rest of the hill. His 44" Boggers had mashed a rotted log that had caused me problems so Rob Bryce decided to try the hill in my Jeep. He had to use some throttle to get over a wet rock face but after that, it was semi-easy work to climb the rest of the way to the top. Climbing the trails on Garibaldi Mtn required a devout belief that you would make it, otherwise you wouldn't be willing to use the enough throttle. Using the proper amount of throttle also increased the risk of the back end sliding sideways and ruining any chance you might have had of backing down. The usual scenario was that the back end would slide in such a way that you would have a tree behind you and a difficult climb in front. In other words, total commitment. I've done pretty well with avoiding serious sheet metal damage to my Jeep so I had a lot of problems achieving that level of belief in "the line." My desire to always have an emergency route if I had to back down meant that I was often unable to place my Jeep where it needed to be to complete the obstacle. I found this steep, loose terrain to be much more demanding than rock crawling.
We continued on along a trail used in an MTTC event a few years ago which featured some interesting climbs over large rock outcroppings and tights turns among the trees.
- Larry puts a dent in my passenger door.
- Early in the day, puncture the sidewall on a new
Interco SSR Radial.
- Towards end of day I broke a stub shaft & U-joint,
driver's side front.
- End of day, I discovered missing bolt locating a
rear buggy spring.
- Fixed U-joint and replaced stub shaft that night.
Larry notices ball joints need to be replaced.
- Fixed buggy spring in the morning.
- Test run to Dumont Tire...clunk clunk clunk, unlock the
hubs, check things over when I get back to Wayne's.
Passenger side front shaft is missing a cap. Replace
that; cap went in by hand so Andy James tack welds all front
U-joint caps in place.
- At the first big obstacle on R.I.P., I nearly total my
truck (literally shaking at this point).
- At the same time, I broke the replacement U-joint on
the driver's side. It popped out a couple of caps, ruined
the stub shaft, and splayed out the inner shaft yoke (may
have already been done, who knows?). REALLY glad it didn't
choose to break and bind when my truck was ready to roll.
- Small dent in driver's door and behind door in cab from
arbutus tree when tugged to level ground by Rob Brooks.
- I've lost it. Many thanks to Andy James, Rick Reimer,
Larry Soo & Wil Girindra for basically doing the fix. I
just can't think straight at this point.
- In process of fixing axle we had to re-use a U-joint cap
that wasn't 100%; outer axle bearing dropped in dirt;
had to hammer/lever the shaft to get it out past the knuckle;
a good U-joint cap dropped in dirt; lots of filing and
"tweaking" to get it back together.
- Drive one truck length and everyone says the passenger
side is making noise now. Rather than completing the trail,
I tuck tail between my legs and turn 'round.
- Dents in passenger side box by another arbutus tree as I
climb back out.
- Have to limp out on 3-wheel drive as much as possible
because the driver's side hub/knuckle (just assembled) is
Paul tried the last untested hillclimb which brought him to the top of a lookout that provided a beautiful southerly view. We could see the northern tip of the Olympic Peninsula in the distance.
Paul's big Ford was the perfect climbing machine with
its long wheelbase, huge boggers and a healthy V8.
The view from the top: the Olympic Peninsula in the
distance and a Canadian Armed Forces base in the
foreground. I think those are ammo bunkers.
Somewhere along the trail, Rob snapped his driver's side u-joint and tore an ear on the outer shaft's yoke. He noticed this on the way back down. That left him having descent down an very steep, loose hill in 2WD. Wil was at the bottom shooting video. He ran away when he saw Rob come sliding down with the rear end locked up (he has rear disc brakes). Rob was having trouble controlling the Comanche so he had to let off the brakes and barrel down the hill in order to control its direction. He said it was an exhilarating but scary ride.
At the view point, Paul tried out yet another new trail.
This one was a drop into a shallow gully and then
a steep climb out.
Even the "main roads" on this mountain have their
interesting sections. This particular rock
is sure to cause problems for tall, narrow trucks.
Descending along the main road.
Wil admires the battle scars on Paul's much-used
4x4. Some of those scars were from that day.
That marked the end of the day for our 'wheeling adventures. We headed back to Sooke to have dinner. The next day we were going to pre-run the Rest in Pieces (R.I.P.) trail. With his punctured tire and fragged axle shaft, Rob wasn't planning on going with us the next day so I offered to help him do the repairs that night. (It was the least I could do, considering that I dented his door that morning when I closed it with my shoulder.) It took about 3 hours but we finished that night and still had enough time to have dinner and do some socializing with some of the IRC crew at Wayne and Nadine's house, our home (and work shop) away from home when in Sooke.
The next morning, as IRC members showed up at Wayne and Nadine's, Rob noticed that the u-joint caps on the other side of the front axle were loose so Andy James volunteered to tack weld them in place (this is a well-known mod that many 4wheelers use). Once that was done, we headed off to RIP.
RIP is an old trials bike trail that the club has opened up for 4x4 access. This trail is definitely too narrow for full-size trucks and too narrow for passing. If you're behind a stuck or broken truck, you'll be there until that truck is ready to move. It was for that reason that I parked my Jeep at the trail head. There was a 3:00 pm ferry sailing that I couldn't miss. This was no great hardship since the trail takes 30 min to hike and over an hour to drive. Parking and walking the trail was actually the fastest option.
The first obstacle is named the Guardian because it sets the vehicle width limit for the rest of the trail. It's a squeeze between two large evergreens. As you pass through, your truck leans hard into the left side tree. Rob Brooks broke a roof light as he scraped his way through. Rob Bryce avoided damage thanks to his cargo rack which kept the tree away from his sheet metal. This was Rob's first time on this trail. His Comanche was the longest 4x4 to ever attempt RIP.
Rob slides his cargo rack along the tree as he
squeezes through The Guardian.
One compelling reason not to leave your truck parked
on a sidehill: Rick "Tiny" Reimer.
The trail continued on along a narrow shelf that followed the hill's contours. When it rounded a bend into a blind gully, the shelf deteriorated and we were left with no choice but to get off the shelf. The only way to do that was to negotiate a short but very steep downhill. An added challenge was provided by a tree at the bottom. The pickup trucks had to stop in an extreme nose-down position just before the tree and then back-up a bit to adjust their position. It was during this adjustment that they were most vulnerable because their put into an off-camber position. Both of the shortbox Toyotas became very unstable at this obstacle but they made it down unscathed. After that was a steep climb up the other side of the gully.
Rob Brooks is about to back up so he can steer around
the tree at the front passenger side of his truck.
After you get past the tree, it's a short climb out
of the gully. This is Beener's Toyota pickup.
Having an even longer wheelbase than the Toys, Rob's Comanche had the most difficult time doing the descent. He made it into the nose-down position ok but when he began to re-position to get around the tree, the passenger side rear wheel began lifting into the air. With each inch further back, the tire lifted even higher. It was a delicate maneouver but he was finally able to reverse enough to get into position to steer around the tree. As he began to move forward, he lightly touched the brakes to control the descent. Immediately, the rear passenger side wheel floated even higher and the Jeep began a sickly slow motion rollover. I waited for the inevitable metallic crunch of sheet metal and glass but it never came. Fighting against his worst instincts, Rob forced himself to get off the brake pedal.
By the barest of margins, that one action saved the truck from a certain rollover. Rob was quite shaken by the incident. But his ordeal wasn't over yet. As he tried to drive out of the gully, a loud clacking sound was coming from the front axle. A quick inspection revealed the problem: the driver's side u-joint had broken and mangled the outer shaft's yoke. He was very fortunate that the breakage didn't occur while the Jeep was close to tipping over. If it had, the sudden unexpected movement could have caused it to destabilize and roll over. A tug from Rob Brook's Toyota allowed Rob to drive out of the gully and the repair job began in earnest. The welded u-joint caps caused some problems, as did the inner axle's damaged yoke. Rob only had spare outer shafts so we had to hammer the inner shaft into a somewhat usable shape. Other complications included me dropping the greasy inner bearing into the dirt and someone else doing the same with one of the u-joint caps. Rob was getting agitated so he let us finish the repair while he took a break. It took several attempts before we were finally able to fully reseat the u-joint caps and re-assemble the axle. By that time, Wil and I had to leave to catch the 3pm sailing back to the mainland. We hiked out and left the other IRC'ers to their fun.
The yoke/u-joint repair from the night before didn't
last very long. It broke right after Rob saved his
Jeep from rolling over.
The repair job gave Lori enough time to give Tiny
a magic makeover with tree moss. Looks like he is
ecstatic about the results.
R.I.P. is probably the narrowest trail in the club's
Full-size trucks are just too wide to negotiate this
trail so they'll be limiting the vehicles based on width
Since RC'99, the club has added 3 more hardcore trails to the roster: Morningside, R.I.P., and Dumicon (the trail now goes all the way through to another system). Rock Crawl '00 is shaping up to provide the hardest challenges to date. I'll see you there in 2 weeks.