I just heard a funny story. It’s only funny because no one got hurt. The story could have had a very different outcome.
So, a guy and his wife are traveling across country in their modified Sprinter van. The wife has something to do all day and will be staying with a friend that night. So, the husband decides to camp at Tahoe for the night.
He drives up Blackwood Canyon, a paved road, and sets up camp only a half mile from the summit. It’s cloudy, it’s raining a bit but he’s in his Sprinter van that he and his wife have been living out of for weeks on the road.
It starts to rain.
He goes to sleep.
He wakes up with three feet of snow all around his van.
He’s wearing shorts and sandals.
He thinks he’s screwed.
He has one bar of cell coverage on his phone. He calls his wife. She calls the Sheriff. Placer County Search & Rescue rolls out their snow cat and goes up to rescue him. He asks about getting his Sprinter van out. They tell him it might be there until spring. They take him down the hill without his van.
He calls around and gets Nick of the Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo’s. Nick has a rescue service when he’s not engineering something or racing the Baja 100, literally. Nick was instrumental in recovering “Glacier Girl” which was buried under eight feet of snow some years ago.
The guy thought he was prepared. He had the traction block, tracks, boards things. The problem was that they were mounted UNDER the rig. Hard to get to with three feet of snow all around.
Nick was the hero again. It took some work. The Sprinter is only 4wd if the rear axle starts to slip. Nick had to literally pull the van DOWN the hill the snow was so thick even after it was packed down by the snow cat.
This should be a lesson to everyone. Check the weather before you travel.
Be safe, don’t be this guy.
So, I get a random phone call late Friday afternoon. I actually missed the call and just listened to the voice message. I didn’t get all of the details but something about a guy, Dan, stuck on the Ellis Peak Trail, a side trail off the Rubicon on the Tahoe side.
I called him back and got the short story. Slipped off to the side of the trail, rocks gave away underneath, slipped farther off to the side. No winch points anywhere to be found. Could I help him out?
An email and a few phone conversations later. I had a friend and fellow Lake Tahoe Hi-Lo, Paul, lined up to take two rigs out (never travel alone) and get this guy a winch point to get him unstuck. Saturday morning 9am we were at the staging area ready to help this guy out.
I should mention that I was running later that expected as I left my phone on the charger and had to go home after fueling to get it. Only a 15-minute dely. I actually picked up the guy where he was staying and gave him a ride to the staging area and then his rig. But wait, he forgot his keys to the stuck rig and we met his wife half way back. Now 30-minutes late.
Paul and I pulled up on the rig which ended up being on the Buck Lake Trail. We got out, surveyed the situation and then I said to Dan, “if you had sent me a picture, I would have brought more help”.
This guys Jeep was completely off the trail on a 45-degree slope. I have no idea why this thing hadn’t tumbled down the hill. Then I heard the story of his wife and two large dogs bailing out the passenger side, the high side, and then the driver, Dan, climbing out.
Paul and I had a plan but didn’t like it. So, we decided to drop back, punt, call in reinforcements and come back the next day.
Note red circle around Jeep hanging on cliff.
More phone calls and emails, this time with pictures. The Hi-Lo’s stepped up and we went back in at 8:30am the next day with six rigs. One of which was a bright yellow, 8900 pound Unimog!
The initial set up, using the Unimog as the anchor and a winch and snatch block on each end to pull the Jeep a little sideways, just pulled the Unimog toward the Jeep.
Both winching rigs had a back up rig anchoring them to prevent them from getting putted forward.
I have to admit it was a beautiful place to spend a day at Tahoe.
To prevent the Unimog from getting pulled sideways, I had to drive up the trail and work around to a position above the Unimog and send down a 200’ winch line extension to secure the Unimog.
A second rig would have been nice to anchor me but all I had was a boulder with a tow strap around it.
That allowed the Jeep to be pulled side ways to get two tires on the trail, sort-of. The lines were reconfigured to pull the Jeep forward. A come-along from the bumper of the Unimog to the rocker guards of the Jeep was used to keep tension sideways.
Three hours onsite and the Jeep was back on the trail. No body got hurt and no further damage took place.
It was a very rewarding day working with a bunch of great guys and helping someone had had only met the day before.
Let me start by thanking my friends who are getting out on the Rubicon Trail much more than I am. They keep me informed of trail conditions and occasionally pass along a good story. Here is the latest story.
So, last week my good friend got with one of his friends and they headed out for a day of snow wheeling on the Rubicon. My friend is on 38’s with lockers front and rear. I’m sure his friend was running something similar. I do need to teach them to take pictures.
They came across another guy at the Rubicon trailhead they didn’t know who was thinking about heading out on the trail. This guy was less equipped but they dragged him along anyway.
I guess it got interesting when they got to the intersection of the Rubicon and Forest Road 03-04. That’s the road to Barker Pass. As my friend and his buddy turned left down the Rubicon, they turned the lesser rig around and sent him back to the staging area.
Their thought was not to let this guy wheel downhill as it would be too difficult to get him back up that hill later in the day as the snow melts and gets really slick.
My friend, and his buddy, wheeled past the narrow section that looks down on Miller Creek and then another maybe ¼ mile. It was getting late, no reason to take chances, so they both turned around.
They reached the intersection where they turned around the lesser rig and headed to the staging area. Just a few hundred yards from the intersection, there was the lesser equipped rig they had turned around. While my friend and his buddy had wheeled about a mile out and another mile back, this guy had only gone a few hundred yards.
With one rig in front, again breaking trail and occasionally using his tow strap, of the lesser rig and the other behind (not easily done in the snow), they headed out to pavement.
Near the turn for Richardson Lake, they came across a few rigs also out to play in the snow. They had no shovels, no winches, no tow straps, no gear to spend the night. And they were stuck.
What should have been a quick drive out, turned into quite the exodus. Again, there is no room to maneuver one rig around the other to be able to pull rigs through tough spots but these guys made it happen. Five hours after my friend thought he’d be home in his warm house, he finally got there.
The question is, how do we educate these people about the seriousness of the conditions when you go snow wheeling? The unequipped rigs did well to get in as far as they did but it’s a four mile hike out from the Richardson Lake Trail. In deep snow, with out snowshoes, if they had tried to walk out, someone might have died or lost toes or feet to frost bite.
So I have a thought. What about yet another sign…
I don’t know what it will take to get this sign out there but I’m going to try. Even if I turn one rig around who isn’t equipped, it would be worth it.