Wildcat Mountain Hike
. . . of dragging his Chevy Blazer out of a ravine!
He has been setting off on weekends to find adventure. This weekend, he drove up Wildcat Mountain Drive (Mt. Hood National Forest) passed the forest service gate, through 8"-10" of untracked snow, and eventually slid the truck off the road, and down the embankment. Not being quite satisfied, he dropped it in reverse and spun the left rear wheel until the axle was on good ol' terra firma. I was frankly uncomfortable just driving in on the roadbed with the amount of snow, and the remote location. The road is a narrow single vehicle, no shoulder National Forest Service Road, I believe it is NF-36, but it could be NF-3626.
After seeing just how screwed in he had gotten the Blazer, I was unsure if it was coming out without some serious winching. But I had the Suburban, and 3 or 4 drag straps of different length, and a few drag chains.
First pull, I used a long strap, hoping the snow would be heavy enough to keep the truck from sliding, it wasn't. The truck was 20˚ down by the front, and 20˚ down by the drivers side, and the left rear was dug deep and riding on the axle. The belly of the Blazer was also solidly riding on the snow/ground, which is the reason he could not get traction. I did not have a winch, just the Suburban. The truck needed a little tug to bump it up over the sunk left rear wheel, and slide the truck up on its belly until the front wheels were able to again support the vehicles weight. This food a few tries, since I did not want to damage either the Blazer or the Suburban. The Blazer bumped up nicely over the deep hole, but the snow didn't hold at all, and it slid parallel to the road. Essentially, the Blazer was sliding sideways, but not making any movement towards the road. I decided to reset.
Reset required Maddogsson dig out, but he didn't have a shovel. I gave him an improvised shovel, and he did a bang up job clearing the dirt, and snow from the rear of the truck, and the front wheels. The Suburban was comfy and warm! Luckily, it was about 35˚ and raining, so it was nothing more than a pleasant afternoon outing, in freezing mud, and knee deep snow!
The Blazer was able to hold without sliding, so I had Maddogsson unhook the long drag strap, and rehook with a short drag strap on a hard diagonal from the Suburban tow hook to the far left side of the Blazer frame. I was hoping to force the truck back up on the roadbed with a bit of geometry. I like this pull much less, since it puts the vehicles very close together, but I had no other choice at the time. The slow pull was not very effective, the snow was too deep, and the Blazer was too draped over the steep shoulder. It only took a couple of bumps to get the Blazer moving, and then a good solid pull put the truck's back wheels up on the roadbed. Then all it took was a little bit of straight power to keep the whole thing moving until he was fully out of trouble. My concern was the narrow road, the steep the shoulder, and I was on a curve backing up on a curve. I had to keep an eye on the Blazer, and the rear view mirror, to keep the Suburban on the road, in the tracks, and out of trouble.
I've pulled more than my fair share of vehicles out of all kinds of trouble, but this was unexpected, Maddogsson had left the impression that the Blazer was not in any real trouble, but is was about as bad as any non-rollover I've seen. Yes, Iv'e seen deeper snow, and steeper train, but this was moderately deep snow, steep nose down, and steep driver side down, and he had sunk the left rear wheel. I am still a little surprised we got the Blazer out without needing to go back for more equipment, a winch, and a some good long handled shovels. I didn't even need to bump pull the Blazer hard enough to make me worry about damage.
We finished with a short discussion on safety. He had passed about a good place to park less than a 1/4 mile from where he ended up stuck. The road was covered in untracked snow, and he could not determine exactly where the roadbed was located. We discussed how in this case he should not have ventured up this heavily snowed in road without a shovel, and an Army entrenching tool in the vehicle. If he had those, he still should have walked the ravine side edge of the roadbed making sure he knew exactly where the road ended and the soft shoulder began.This would have given him a clearer idea of the location of the road bed. He had failed to leave me a map of where he was headed, and he didn't know the names of the road exiting from I-84, although I knew basically where he was due to area familiarity. I told him for safety, he always needed to leave a basic road map of where he intended to park the car, and a simple, map and description of the hike.
Next week, before he goes seeking adventure, I will have another talk about minimal food, and water, and lightweight emergency survival gear he needs to carry with him in snow country.
He knows all of this, but seemingly has forgotten to implement these precautions. That needs to change.
He is young, he always likes the stories I have to tell about my wilderness experiences. I admit, I like it better when I get in trouble. I am good at solving these problems, he is young, and green. Of course, the only way to obtain the experience is through experience. It is good he is out in the wild, but close enough to home to allow me to help him find his feet. I expect the Marine Corps to help speed this along nicely.