Canadian Badlands

Canadian Badlands

Beautiful drive out. The weather hadn't quite turned the corner but the clouds were moving in the sky and the roads were sparsely populated. Made good time out to Drumheller. On the way stopped off at Horseshoe Canyon. I had definitely arrived before the tourist season had begun. The parking lot at Horseshoe was closed (as were the outhouses unfortunately). Parking in the overflow parking lot, Max (my tripawd blue heeler) and I went to go check out the Canyon.

Horseshoe Canyon in the Canadian Badlands just SW of Drumheller - Photo Taken with an iPhone

Horseshoe Canyon in the Canadian Badlands just SW of Drumheller - Photo Taken with an iPhone

I hadn't been out to Drum in a couple of years, but looking at that view ... I knew I had made the right choice on where to check out on my shakedown run. Explored a bit around the top of the Canyon. There are trails that descend down into the coulee but considering that the parking lot was closed, decided to check out some of the surrounding gravel roads to see if there was some other views.

Just off the gravel road on the eastern edge of Horseshoe Canyon

Just off the gravel road on the eastern edge of Horseshoe Canyon

Found a spot around the other side of the Canyon and pulled just off the road to try and get a nice poser shot of the 'Cruiser. Since there was no cattle around for Max to chase, I let her out of the truck to run around and she wanted to pose as well.

Max, our three legged blue heeler, sitting in the grass on the edge of Horseshoe Canyon

Max, our three legged blue heeler, sitting in the grass on the edge of Horseshoe Canyon

Took a couple minutes to soak up the view and let Max run around. Got back into the 'Cruiser and headed into town. I've always like the drive into Drumheller. If you've never done it before I took a video to capture it. It's just a 20 second clip but it doesn't convey the previous hour and a half of driving along the prairies and then finally dropping down into the Red River Coulee.

As this wasn't exactly a planned trip, thought I'd head over to the big dinosaur and decide where to go next. If you're not familiar with Drumheller, a little backstory might be needed. Drumheller is dinosaur country. Also Passion Play country but let's forget that for now. Back in 1884, Joe Tyrell stumbled on some dinosaur bones. The pile of bones he discovered would be later called the Albertosaurus and they ended up building a museum to hold all the fossils and dino bones collected in the area. The Royal Tyrell Museum. Sounds impressive and it is a pretty nice museum but it was closed. So I didn't head there. I went to the World's Largest Dinosaur ...

World's Largest Dinosaur - Photo Taken with an iPhone

World's Largest Dinosaur - Photo Taken with an iPhone

Fun little roadside attraction built to cash in on those summer tourist dollars. I didn't come in the summer and I realized after a closed Horseshoe Canyon that I should probably check to see what was actually open at this time of year. Turns out not much is open at the crack of spring in the Canadian Badlands. Heading north to the museum is a beautiful drive but the museum itself would be closed. Also I wasn't sure if the ferry would be open. Decided to head southeast. There are a lot of outdoor roadside style attractions that way, that even if not open might make for a pretty good chance to take a photo. So I grabbed some old liquid dinosaur bones (gasoline) as a 'souvenir' and set off.

One of the only things that was open at this time of year was the 'Last Chance Saloon' and I planned to stop in there for lunch but it didn't open that day 'till noon. Needed to kill some time and on the way was the Star Mine Suspension Bridge. Hadn't been there since grade school, so decided to check it out. Originally constructed in 1931 for the Star Mine workers, it was rebuilt in 1958 by the Alberta gov't as yet another roadside attraction. Highlights the colourful history of Alberta coal mining for the tourists such as myself.

Star Mine Suspension Bridge - Photo via Wikipedia

Star Mine Suspension Bridge - Photo via Wikipedia

Max came with me across the bridge ... well until about the half way point at which time I realized what a shit dog owner I am. The bridge consists of metal grating and my pup being the stubborn and stoic dog that she is walked out without a whimper or complaint. However, when I looked down at my poor three legged dog, realized I probably shouldn't subject her to more of the bridge. Did get a nice iphone photo of her though.

From the deck of the Star Mine Suspension Bridge looking across the Red Deer River to the North side. Maxine is being chill. - Photo Taken with an iPhone

From the deck of the Star Mine Suspension Bridge looking across the Red Deer River to the North side. Maxine is being chill. - Photo Taken with an iPhone

So after trying to torture my dog, headed to the "ghost town" of Wayne. Getting to Wayne is a nice drive over a bunch of single lane bridges over the meandering Rosebud River. Didn't count them as I went but they call it the '11 Bridges to Wayne' so I'm guessing there are at least that many. Wayne used to be a bustling community of miners but in the early 20th century the coal started runnin' out in the valley and the town shrunk to almost nothing. Feel like "ghost town" isn't entirely accurate, it seems like a very nice hamlet or collection of cottages. Now amalgamated into the City of Drumheller.

The historic Rosedeer Hotel and Last Chance Saloon in Wayne, AB - Photo Taken with an iPhone

The historic Rosedeer Hotel and Last Chance Saloon in Wayne, AB - Photo Taken with an iPhone

Also in Wayne is the Last Chance Saloon. Touted as the oldest bar in Alberta. Nestled into the Rosebud River Coulee it's a pretty awesome little restaurant with the friendliest people running the place. Willing to bend your ear about the history of the place. As I ate, was also given a chance to browse through a photo album with pics from back when Wayne was a mining metropolis. The food was good and the beer was cold. Perfect.

Inside the Last Chance Saloon - Photo Taken with an iPhone

Inside the Last Chance Saloon - Photo Taken with an iPhone

After eating, headed out on the road south to see the rest of the Rosebud River Valley. Unfortunately the road didn't continue much further down that way and eventually I turned around and headed back across all them bridges to the Hoodoo trail. Which, if you thought there was Hoodoos along that trail, you were right!

The Drumheller Hoodoos

The Drumheller Hoodoos

These are just off the highway. If you've never seen them before, I'd suggest giving them a look while you're in the area. Wouldn't make a trip JUST to see the hoodoos however. Fond memories as a child but after being to Moab and seeing the hoodoos and rock formations there I have to say it is a little underwhelming. Still a nice spot for a hike to check them out and they've added a bunch of interpretive stuff since the last time I had been.

Atlas Mine - Closed for the Season

Atlas Mine - Closed for the Season

Next up was Atlas Mine. They've created a museum of sorts at the abandoned mine (closed of course) and it's a pretty cool little spot to check out. The last remaining wooden coal triple in Canada is here and at 7 stories is pretty impressive. Atlas was the last of over a hundred coal mines in the area and I'll have to come back and check out the site when it's open.

The dilapidated Dorothy grain elevator - Photo taken with an iPhone

The dilapidated Dorothy grain elevator - Photo taken with an iPhone

Was winding down. Thought I'd check out the "ghost town" of Dorothy. Should've explored it more but at least I got this shot of the grain elevator there. Don't think this thing it'll be around much longer. There are a few other buildings in town including two old churches. I'll be adding this to this list of places I need to check out a little better, next time I'm through the area.

After that, called it a day and headed home. Took my time however and tried to take as many backroads as possible. This province of Alberta is pretty beautiful from end to end. From the northern forests to the arid badlands in the southeast. From the west and the eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies, across the foothills and down into the prairies of the east. Alberta is home.

Country Roads

Country Roads

Ruby Falls - December 2016

Ruby Falls - December 2016

With the year coming to a close, my last trip out to Ruby not being entirely successful, and as well this being my last trip before I take off from Canada for January, Jason and myself set off to view the falls one last time this past Sunday. We both had been monitoring the ambient temperatures from Robb, which throughout the week showed a consistent temperature for Sunday as -20 C without a wind chill. Come Saturday evening, we decided it was still a go, and we would bring extra gear should we need it. 

Morning meet up was at 6 AM, and as per usual Jason was ready and waiting even earlier. I made it in to the meeting place (Tim Hortons), ordered a coffee and some food, and then we were off down the highway to Edson. Once in Edson we topped off the tanks, and set out as planned. I noted -20 C exactly all the way in and around to the air down spot, though the wind cut that down even further dramatically.

The trunk road was in great condition, and we managed a decent time down it to the trail head. The trail head showed a couple of older tracks from a quad or two, but that was it. Snow was enough to cover everything, but only around a foot deep overall. The river was fairly frozen, though a couple of open water spots were visible which was crazy as the area has seen the same deep freeze we've been experiencing for quite some time.

Noel Jones 4runner - Photo by Noel

Noel Jones 4runner - Photo by Noel

Going along the river sections proved to be a challenge as I was running off memory as I still have not got around to logging a GPS map for the main trail. Add in the fact that we were ,making fresh tracks, on an all white canvas, with no references, it was easy to end up going along the wrong way up the (frozen) river only to discover the proper route later on. Some of the established crossings even had to be "bypassed" as there was open water on them resulting in large (tall) ice shelves that I did not feel like breaking into. I tested most questionable crossings on foot, just to be sure. This area is typically muskeg and deep to the left, with a relatively shallow and easy path where I'm walking. The yellow spots were slushy, with everything else frozen solid around them. No breakthroughs here.

Checking the Depth - Photo by Jason

Checking the Depth - Photo by Jason

The weather changed from cloudy, to light snow, to sun peaking through the clouds throughout the trip up. With all the white and grey, pictures were unfortunately a little boring overall. Still, there were some that ended up alright.

Jason's Tacoma on the Way to Ruby Falls - Photo by Noel

Jason's Tacoma on the Way to Ruby Falls - Photo by Noel

Kings of the Hill - Photo by Noel

Kings of the Hill - Photo by Noel

Things were going really well, and after driving over one of the few deeper river crossings (headlight level on a 33" tire 2-3" lift Tacoma), I kept pushing forwards over the last one. right at this point I was telling my passenger how I had slightly sunk ion this exact spot a few summers earlier, resulting in me having to strip the interior of the truck and air it all out. And how it was nice that everything was frozen and I wouldn't have to worry about mud getting everywhere etc. And literally as I finished the sentence, at 3/4 of the way across, the front end drops through the ice and I'm stuck spinning all 4 wheels. 

Breaking Through - Photo by Jason

Breaking Through - Photo by Jason

Dipping the Toes In - Photo by Jason

Dipping the Toes In - Photo by Jason

Fairly minor, as I know this hole is a lot deeper than what I am experiencing. But I was mostly upset that my front end was now about to become a muddy ball of ice. And later on mud. Boooooooo! A quick pull with a kinetic rope (Bubba) coupled to a heavier tow strap to create some distance to avoid 2 trucks being on the ice, and I was out and lining up through the bypass.

Getting Strapped Up - Photo by Jason

Getting Strapped Up - Photo by Jason

A quick blast through the bypass (which is getting pretty aggressive as time goes on) and we were at the falls. Parking is where the tables are, you need to walk the remaining distance to keep the area nice (though I've noticed less ATV's are doing this). The walk is less than 2 minutes.

In the Shadows - Photo by Noel

In the Shadows - Photo by Noel

The falls look amazing frozen. I prefer seeing them like this myself.

Ruby Falls - Photo by Noel

Ruby Falls - Photo by Noel

Trail Dog Loving the Snow - Photo by Noel

Trail Dog Loving the Snow - Photo by Noel

Ruby Falls - Photo by Noel

Ruby Falls - Photo by Noel

The drive home was pretty uneventful, no surprises! Except one small one. On a few of the high speed straights I was bottoming out hard on some really small bumps! This was odd as coming in they were really smooth. A quick inspection revealed that I ad ice buildup on my frame that resulted in my bump stops being a 1/2" from the frame! Pretty much zero up travel. I had a pry bar that I chipped the ice off with, and all was well again.

Round trip was exactly 12 hrs from my doorstep, including fuel etc. Not bad time at all, especially in comparison to my last outing which was 18 hrs and not making it to the falls.

by Noel Jones - UO Contributor

Colossal 2016 - Part 2

Colossal 2016 - Part 2

The following is a writeup for a trip RMO member Addison Rickaby planned with his media company Tamarack Media Co

Day 3

I slept like a rock. A rock that woke up feeling like it had fallen from the top of the mountain and broken into a million pieces. I had a headache and some serious brainfog, although I’m not specifically sure which beverage caused it. Too much sugar from all that Tropicana we were passing around most likely.

I crawled down the ladder of my RTT to find the ground still wet under my feet. After rubbing my eyes to rid the sleep that still plagued them, I was surprised to find the campsite engulfed in a blanket of fog. Although not the dry and warm campsite I dreamt of, this was definitely an improvement. I hustled to Doug’s tailgate and began prepping breakfast and a much needed press of Stumptown’s finest roast. Within the hour, the veil of fog had begun to dissipate revealing nothing but the pure blue sky above. As we packed up camp, Chase and Peter of the Tamarack crew, grabbed the drone for a few rounds of the lake and campsite. Our damp tents and accommodations stayed out until the end to let the natural warmth of the sun do its work and dry our gear. While it magically worked, we walked to the bridge near the camps entrance to check out some of the freshwater salmon who were spawning below. Looking onward, the lake was like glass, displaying duplicates of the surrounding natural contours in its reflection.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

After a few more rounds of photos and a sketchy flight of the drone under the low hanging bridge, we scurried back to camp to clean up our now dry tents. The day was looking promising indeed.

Several members were forced to depart at this time. Due to it being a Sunday and not able to sneak an extra day away from the office, they had to head home to be back for the Monday morning grind. Regretfully we said goodbye, feeling truly bummed they would miss this sunny day in the ‘Koots’. The remainder turned focus to the task at hand: more high elevation exploration. We were within 5kms of another local trail that has been documented to climb to some of the most amazing glacial till and ice in the region. The variable again was if our trucks were too fat for the challenge.

We quickly found the trailhead and climbed what was definitely the right trail - a small sense of affirmation after the multiple turn-arounds the day before. We carried on at a good pace, following the river’s edge while gaining elevation only slightly. The clouds remained at bay as we progressed further into the valley. A couple tight sections left for some interesting maneuvers to avoid falling into the river, but it was nothing to keep us discouraged.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

We hit our first obstacle about 30 mins up the trail where it had narrowed and then a portion of the perpendicular bank had sluffed across the trail with a few accompanying stumps. I made a quick effort with the rear locker engaged but found the passing too narrow with the Tundra’s wide girth. The good news with me upfront, is that if my truck can make it, then anyone can behind me. Instead of risking the narrow crossing, we opted for the smart choice of a little manual labor to clear the washout and widen the path. We made quick work of the dirt and only struggled slightly with the haggard roots against our axes. With a quick spot to ensure I didn’t take a tree root through the passenger door, I was through and carrying on up the trail with the rest of the group following closely behind.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

We pushed onward, soon discovering the next washout in our path. This one significantly larger, steeper, and less stable. We scouted the area for a bypass but to no avail.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

We were on the right trail but even after attempting a little dirt work, we made the wise group decision to bow down in favor of well… not dying. This was a difficult decision; we were getting shut down again to what would surely be some of the most amazing views imaginable. It gnawed at me to walk away without a clear victory but it was the right decision.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

We quickly back-tracked down to the trailhead as I tried to clear my head and come up with an alternate plan to salvage the rest of the day. As the last truck rolled back onto the smooth gravel connector, we stuffed our faces with some grub and aired up. I knew the area better than most, but thought this time I was going to play the odds.

There was a trail I had done before within a 45 min drive. It had proven views and a couple challenges on the way up, but I had only attempted the trail in the summer. At an elevation over 10,000 ft and it being the first weekend in October, we were definitely pushing our luck in terms of weather and snow. Regardless, it was our best shot and I knew it could be completed, given good conditions, in about 4 hours round-trip. It was about 2:30 as we headed for the trailhead.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

With the hammer down, our crew reached the base of the mountain and turned the tires upward. The ascent was slow and tedious with constant washouts eliminating any constant forward momentum. It was late afternoon and the sun was still shining. I felt refreshed and positive that we would reach the top – I was even thinking we might be able to catch the sunset from the lookout. Switch back after switchback we climbed in tight formation. The views increasing in beauty with each bend.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The trail narrowed and got more technical but our progress didn’t falter. This particular climb seems to never end. The dank forest grew more fluorescent as the green moss covered an increasing amount of surface area. Temps were dropping quickly and suddenly I had a nervous feeling in my gut.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

Still running lead, I was the first to round one of the switchbacks and be confronted with our first dose of the white stuff. It quickly stopped me in my tracks with my tire pressure still at ~23psi. Out came the deflators and another 13 psi from each corner. The ARB compressor breathed some life into my rear differential and Doug clawed up the snowy switchback. Everyone else followed suite and we continued to climb against the resistance of a growing volume of snow. Somewhere along the line, the switchbacks became so steep and tight that it was hard to make the corners in a single pass. This effort combined with the need for momentum in the deep snow meant we needed to tackle each rise one truck at a time. Sliding backwards down each section of climb were possible so we needed to keep our spacing should something, unfortunately, go wrong. I made a few switchbacks before radioing down for the next member to start climbing before continuing onward.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The next climb rose steeply infront of me but this climb was also longer than the rest. I kept the rear end locked and encouraged more speed. The Toyo’s fought their way up the slope and by the time I had reached the switchback (which luckily had enough space for 3 or 4 trucks to fit and stage for the next ascent) I had lost almost all traction and momentum. I rolled over the lip of the hill with a deep exhale as my co-pilot expressed his concern for his life (lol). Sliding backwards would be devastating, but any lateral movement would have us skidding right off the side of the mountain. I quickly turned around in the space at the switchback to hear David’s 80-series winding-out as it clawed up the incline. I hand-gestured “more speed, more speed…” until he had rolled over the safety net and into the parking space. We quickly got on the radio and advised the next member to also keep his speed up and not to let off until he had crested the top. Dave and I then stepped aside for a brief discussion regarding the next plan of action.

After our pulses slowed enough to normalize, we looked north to see the view we had been searching for. The sun was just setting and we could see the peaks of dozens of the Purcell’s finest mountains glowing against the sun’s setting rays. It was literally magical.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The sky began to turn shades of orange and pink with the contrasting Larch trees and snowy peaks. We admittedly got lost in the view until we heard the hum of my father’s Tacoma coming up next. We quickly realized we were about to run out of room on this incline to park more rigs and that stopping mid-hill would only result in disaster. One of us grabbed the radio while the other encouraged my father up safely to the top of this rise. We were nearly pinned now. The sun was setting and temperatures were about to quickly drop off, leaving the wet snow that we had just fought to come up, turning into a sheet of ice for the ride back down. Continuing up the next switchback was possible but it really wouldn’t help us get back down safely. By the time we had confirmed radio communication back down to the rest of the group, we had one more 4Runner squeezed at the top.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickrby Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickrby Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

Even though only half of us had made it to the viewpoint, we had to share this victory with the whole group. The rest of the group below was encouraged to find a safe place to park on the trail and quickly hike up to see the last remnants of the sun before it set. Within 10 minutes the whole group panted on the ledge looking out over the spectacular view. The fare was worth the price. Quickly reality set in and now we really had to get back down. And get back down quickly before the tracks froze.

Day 4

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The walkers departed in a group to work through the challenge of turning all the rigs around that they had left parked below, while the rest of us planned the best course of action for our descent. We busted out the shovels and broke notches into the snow that revealed the dirt surface below. This would allow some braking traction as we started the steepest initial part of the descent, in an effort to maintain control and not lock up the brakes. A mix of anticipation and nervousness filled the air. The consequences were quite dire if the vehicle were to lose control and slide down the track – trees on driver’s left, and mountain’s edge to the right.

There are usually a small handful of moments on these outings that define the trip. Moments that become memories and stories to tell our friends as we grow older and cherish our life’s experiences. This was definitely one of those moments and even the most experienced drivers could not deny the magnitude of this obstacle. Mark was the first to descend in his low and wide 3 rd Gen 4Runner. I observed him scrubbing speed just enough to not lock up the brakes. He did it with great finesse but every few feet we witnessed the tail of his rig getting excited and stepping to the side. Like a real pro he jabbed the gas pedal to catch the wheel speed up to that of gravity’s request, which would allow him to again gain control. Within a couple dozen seconds (seconds that felt like minutes) he was out of sight, around the next switchback. His example only proved that it was quickly getting sketchy. We shovelled a bit more as my old man expressed his nervousness and lack of experience with these kind of maneuvers. We engaged in a technical discussion and I urged him to remain calm at all costs. “Your better to go too fast down the hill and let your gearing do the work, than to panic and hold the brakes. It’s just like sledding when you were a kid”, I said as a jest. My brother hiked up at that very moment. Chase is a nurse who works with an outreach association who deals with addicts and the homeless population on the streets of Calgary. His experience and leadership in tense and critical situations was welcomed at that moment and he quickly volunteered to coach my father down. Chase sat on the edge of the trail out of harm’s way as he walked alongside my father in his 02’ Tacoma. Not being able to hear their conversation, I could only imagine the tension that was there. With only a few ‘butt-pucker moments’ they had successfully made it through the hardest part and were continuing on. I was up next. Seeing my Dad slip around a little did not help my confidence but I still had a good handle on the driving dynamics in this type of situation. Not to mention, this is where the lower gearing really shines! I kept the truck in Low and modulated the brakes. After doing a bite-test, I quickly found the limits of my traction. Luckily for me, the 4.56 Nitro gears allowed for the perfect wheel speed to enable traction without going rogue. I was able to make the descent with very minimal braking effort and Doug tracked down the mountain perfectly. Back on the radio behind me, I could hear things getting a little dicey as one of the factory geared 4Runner slipped its way down. Adam, on his first Colossal trip this year, handled the adversity like a pro and kept his cool. He managed to navigate his near-new 5 th Gen down the slope without incident. Now in pitch darkness we radioed down to chat with the group who had hiked up the trail. They were all turned around after some tricky trail maneuvers. We urged them to head down to the trailhead and then proceed into the location I had designated for tonight’s camp. They obliged and headed down at their own pace as our second group stayed within radio range and slowly picked our way back down the mountainside. My brother Chase, who had helped coach my father down had now stood on the side of the trail and jumped in with me. We both looked at each other with a smile, happy that the tension in the previous hour had blown over without issue. These critical situations often teach us something valuable and worth remembering, but it had been a long day and we were ready for social hour.

I rolled into camp with Adam (5 th Gen t4r) and Dave (80-series). We were the last guys off the mountain. As I pulled into the large group spot my Baja Designs LED’s lit up the night and provided a good perspective of the camp site. I knew the site well, as my wife and I had stayed here previous in our own travels, but the rest of the group had only just seen it tonight for the first time. In the darkness it almost didn’t look like much but a clearing with some trees scattered around. I knew the best camp spots and gave some general direction to people on where to park for the optimum morning vista. We stacked our rigs up alongside one another and began to unfold camp one last time.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

That evening we sat back and put our feet up, it was like we could finally exhale. The day had built up to some tension in our objectives and what we had conquered. The rains had fled and left us with nothing but this gorgeous night under the stars with not a reminder of the chaos of the daily grind in sight. The evening was still as we ate like the last supper and the sounds of our laughter emitted from the fire as a bottle (or two) or Bourbon was passed around.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

I realized, as much as I/we love to hit epic terrain, scale massive mountains, and see some of the most remote wilderness that Canada can offer, the fellowship is paramount. This trip, and the many before, have proven to be stomping grounds for excellent conversation, perspective, laughter, and wisdom. I have built some of my greatest friendships through this “hobby” and the nights spent around a campfire. This night was no different and we drifted late into the night with joyful remorse that tomorrow, we would pack up and head for home.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

Colossal 2016 - Part 1

Colossal 2016 - Part 1

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The following is a writeup for a trip RMO member Addison Rickaby planned with his media company Tamarack Media Co

Day 1

There are 4 different weather websites that I frequent to obtain the most accurate prediction of the skies before heading out on a journey. Not that one has proven to be more accurate than the others, but somehow I seem to favor the one showing signs of clearer skies. As if 3 of the 4 predictions are wrong and there really is a glimpse of sunlight to be had for Colossal 2016. It’s something I can irrationally average in my head to make it seem like it’s going to be better than I know it is. The mind is funny that way, always trying to outsmart itself and I’m just along for the ride. Regardless, the forecast wasn’t looking too(very) dry and I was worried that Colossal 2016 would be an epic, wet, soggy bust.

 

All mental averaging aside, this year’s destination resided in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia around some of the most remote mining territory of(from the) late 18th Century. A region quite familiar to me having grown up in the stunning Kootenay valley of Nelson, BC. It’s an area I often encourage my Alberta counterparts to explore on their own time, knowing what a gem it truly is – the natural beauty, the culture, and the peacefulness. Colossal has been happening for 6 years now, although officially dubbed last year, and it felt right to bring it home. It’s the last camping trip of the year. The last weekend to fold out the RTT’s and sleep in the fresh air. The last glimpse of fall before we are forced into hibernation (or ski season!) for the year. But, most of all, I think of it as the last escape – leaving work stress and deadlines behind it’s an excuse to get as deep into the backcountry as possible, disconnecting from our modern world using our trusty Toy’s.

 

Departure day had arrived. This year would be slightly different – full travel disclosure and locations would not be granted prior to departure. Not sure why I chose to do this and realistically it’s something I still would like feedback on. I guess in my eyes; I see the unknown as the necessity of adventure. Not actually knowing where we would be travelling to in the weeks of anticipation prior to this day seemed like a novelty I was willing to enforce.

 

Emails, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and text messages had been exchanged for weeks pertaining to vehicle preparation but no details were given on the primary location. Included(mandatory) vehicle and camping requirements had us all bustling to prepare our trucks in time for the trip. (Ask me how much sleep Jeff and I got the night before departure…) Wipers on full, I headed for the rendezvous point just outside of Calgary to gather with the group. Greetings exchanged and the clock ticking we hit HWY 1 Westbound for Revelstoke, BC.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The drive flew buy as chatter on the radio kept boredom at bay and the od(d) hooning stint kept us alert. 10pm passes the Rogers Pass avalanche tunnels with 14 Toyotas sure brings a sense of calm, or was it abruptly loud RPM bouncing acoustics? One of the two. A pit-stop in Revy for fuel and a few choice words with(from) an enthusiastic member of the local Tinder population and we were bound for camp.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

We rolled in late with the rain still trickling over our windshields. It looked like my optimistic forecasting method wasn’t working out so well. Regardless, the group was all smiles as we rolled into our large campsite around 11:30pm. Nothing but turning birch trees, the scent of wet pine, and a backdrop of darkness to set our eyes on. Camp quickly deployed and out came the awnings and beverages to help keep us dry/warm. We had an early start to get to our final destination within a reasonable hour the next day, but without a warm dry bed this night, we figured a night-cap was the least we could do.

 

Waking up the next morning was easy – simply rely on your fellow travel companions to alert you of sunrise via the gentle and rhythmic panging of camp cookware as they prepare a breakfast feast for sunrise. All sarcasm aside, the view from our campsite made an early morning justifiable. What was a blanket of darkness the night before appeared to be an epic view of Upper Arrow lake from our campsite. A pebble beach and large moss covered rock bluffs sank into the clear waters of the lake.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

Low lying clouds wrapped our company as we took in the mysterious views and prepared for departure. We shook the water off our tents as best we could, folded up camp, and raced towards Galena Bay to catch the 9am ferry crossing. Cutting it close for time we made forward progress at speeds suited for smooth pavement; not bumpy, rutted, narrow, gravel logging access roads! Our group eagerly drove up to the ferry gate as the first cars in line were already boarding. Arriving a moment later and we would have (been a moment too late)missed the ferry!

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

Our group made form and rolled onto the D.E.V Galena as onlookers pointed at the posse of modified Toyotas. The stern deck raised and we started our journey east across Upper Arrow Lake.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The calm waters and peaceful 20min ferry ride allowed us all to stretch our legs and finish our morning coffee. As we sailed East, the sun’s rays began to burn off the blanket of cloud, illuminating the basin with dramatic visuals. Anticipation was growing in the group, as they still did not know where we were going. Soon I would reveal the area of interest, but first I pulled out the map and reviewed our route once on the opposite shore, towards one of the area’s great mining boom towns of the late 1800’s.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

Day 2

The ferry bumped the dock on the opposite shore as the convoy of Toyota’s turned over. The journey quickly turned North once off the ferry onto the desolate highway. Not a single car in either direction as we made the 30 min journey along the mountain’s base to the silver boomtown. Asphalt quickly turned to gravel, leaving us some good tack for more hooning with the still-damp road winding in front of us. It was if God himself had preserved this road specifically for our travel – the smoothest, non-rutted, assortment of earth particulates that I have yet to travel.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

After enjoying a combination of scenery and pure driving pleasure, we pulled over for a brief driver’s meeting before dropping into the small village. Relics of the long past mining era were visible in all directions: small log huts from the turn of the century and rusted mechanical equipment resided in the awkward mix of more modern amenities. The old western-style hotel looked like it belonged on a movie set for Hollywood’s next great western. Raised home foundations, tin roofs, and the scent of wood burning stoves made the remote location and (an inevitably) abundant winter snowfall evident.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The jewel of the town though was the functioning gravity-fed glass gas pump. Our crew rolled up to the pump as the owner looked in surprise down the line of heavily modified Toyotas. I believe he may have met his monthly fuel quota after topping up all of the thirsty rigs. We took turns watching the owner hand pump the fuel from the main tank and up into the glass holding cylinder, before gravity feeding back down to the truck. Now topped up with fuel, we hit the road and headed up to the proposed trail location.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The road was supposed to wind high up into one of the neighboring mountain ranges, giving us some exceptional views of the surrounding granite peaks. This area is known for not only it’s rich mineral resources, but also its massive granite spires. Unfortunately, the area is known particularly for its ATV trails, not necessarily 4x4 trails. Something that would pose as a challenge for the entire trip ahead.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The optimism we felt with the sun shining on us during our earlier ferry ride began to fade. Rain clouds had embraced the landscape and it was now raining heavily as we navigated up the road. Many branches of trail headed off in all directions. Even though I had a map in front of me, I had the group led into several dead ends before stumbling on to what looked like a promising lead. It was a fairly tight and rocky trail that appeared to lead up in the direction of our final destination.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

About 5 minutes after entering the track, I pulled around a corner and was confronted by a Ford F350 with a camper over the box. A man stood outside of the cab, looking into the interior. It was pouring rain and as we approached, the man’s line of sight did not falter. I looked at my co-pilot with a “WTF” look on my face. After about 10 seconds of us sitting there awkwardly in the truck, the man turned and saw us, looking startled. I rolled my window down and said hello with a smile to help initiate friendly conversation and break the ice. I asked if he’d been up the trail before and he responded “Ya…..” Again, more awkwardness. I then asked, “Is this the [xxxxx] trail?” The man answered “No….” before starting to walk towards the cab of my truck. He obviously wasn’t too keen on sharing any information with us which made the situation feel rather uncomfortable as he approached. With no filter, the man came right up to the truck and asked what we were doing up here. A little on the defensive, I responded politely (like a Canadian would) hoping to ease the situation but almost ready to make an evasive maneuver if it became necessary. Somewhere in the awkward dialogue that came next he glanced back and saw the line of Toyotas behind #Doug. He instantly came around and smiled, asking “Are you guys a Toyota club?!?!” “Sort of” I said “we are just up here doing some 4x4 exploration in the area and looking for a specific trail.” He was suddenly relieved and excited all at the same time. “I have a gold claim up here” he said “I thought you guys were trying to poach my claim.” My co-pilot and I laughed to ease the tension and we chatted shop with him for a few moments before he turned us around to what he thought was the trail we were after. He asked if he could grab a photo of the group as we left and we obliged. We started to scale the trail in the new direction. As I looked out the window the man was flying down the bumpy logging road that we had just departed, his camper barely hanging onto the truck. He stopped and ran up the bank, nearly slipping several times, to reach a bluff where he pulled out (the very first cell phone with a built in camera) his 1990’s cell phone and began snapping photos of our posse. No harm done, but I still wonder what he was up to and am not really confident in the legitimacy of his story. I can honestly say I’ve never met a man who was able to use the F-bomb with such enthusiasm. Maybe he was afraid of us stumbling onto something he didn’t want us to find? Like Canada’s largest maple syrup conglomerate or the super-secret Canadian bacon factory, or our Prime Minister taking selfies? I’ll let you decide.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

We carried on for a while, again finding out we were on the wrong trail. Getting slightly frustrated as it was well past noon, we put some of the puzzle pieces together and started to make progress again on a new track. The trail was progressively tight and overgrown. It became an exercise of self-control as to not let the sounds of branches clawing at the paint bother us. Having a white truck, it’s not so bad, but I truly felt sorry for some of the members with darker colored paint, and newer rigs. Everyone took it well though, hoping that a good power polish would take care of the mangled clearcoat.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The trail continued to rise in elevation but we were eventually pinched off – again reminding me that this area was known for ATV trails not 4x4. Luckily, we were stopped in an area that was easy for us to turn around and the low lying opening we sat in showed spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Larch trees provided beautiful orange contrast to the familiar green pines. The rock peaks had been lightly dusted with snow, providing even more contrast to the scene.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

It was truly beautiful and made it easy for us to justify a flight with the drone while we ate a late lunch. We captured some unbelievable footage while flying our drone, “Goose”. A small mishap led to a 3rd Gen T4R with a smashed rear window and a dented tailgate and somewhere in the mix another 4Runner with a flat tire. The day was truly becoming a test of our patience and perseverance. With full stomachs we thought it best to make for camp and attempt a good fire to turn our spirits.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The descent was uneventful; everyone just wanted to get back through the gauntlet of branches as quickly as possible. The rain had subsided but the clouds still congested us so we just pushed hard for camp. Once back into town, we had a half hour jog along the lake’s edge. More high speed gravel and we hit the primary destination for the night.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The crew crossed the short wooden bridge before spotting our campsite: a large clearing both on the shore of the lake and tributary. The rain was now coming down hard and camp was deployed in record time. The campsite was great other than the lack of thick coniferous to keep us sheltered. Fortunately for us though, there was one old growth cedar which had a firm grasp on one corner of the campsite. It must have been 4’ across at the trunk. Its branches dominated the airspace and also provided us with a 15’ canopy of shelter that kept the rain almost at bay. A large fire was ignited under the natural shelter. Laughter, craft beer, and the flame’s warmth began to bring us all back from the dead. One by one we retired as the long day took it’s hold and we climbed to our elevated shelters.

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

by Tamarack Media Co., on Flickr

The weather was out of my control, and I had accepted that… but it’s still hard not to feel responsible for what, in my opinion, were shortcomings of the journey so far. Weeks of planning, coordination, and genuine commitment from all the attendees; there is always a slight amount of pressure to deliver on the promise of epic views and adventure. Despite the group being some of the (most) positive and happy individuals I could ask for, I still lay in bed praying for clearer skies and wider trails.  

 

New Forum Background

New Forum Background

Our forum users have probably noticed our new forum background by now. If you haven't, what are you waiting for? Click Here (or on the Forum menu item). What you may not know is a little of the history behind both our forum background and the new picture we're using.

The forum started in late 2014 as a soft launch or beta and officially launched on January 1st of 2015. We wanted to give our site a distinctive look and we did that with a very epic picture of some BC mountains by Addison Rickaby.

This picture served us very well and is still available to be viewed on the main site.

We've noticed over our existence that we've got some amazing photographers on the site. We wanted to give our users the chance to showcase their work somehow. What better way to have a change to the image people see most while using the forum. The forum background image. So we held a contest and after two heavy rounds of voting we picked a winner.

So without further ado, our new forum image comes to us from Matt Bayrak (or just Bayrak on the forums).

The photo was taken near the end of last summer, in September. My friend Mat Bearchell (Blue Tacoma) and I were originally doing a scouting mission for areas on the island, as many are usually gated and locked due to logging activity. The weather driving out was misty and we though we would get caught in the fog and not able to see anything except things in out immediate vicinity. We were traveling along the far west coast from Victoria to the Jordan river area ... The road was quite overgrown, and I experienced what people call BC PIn Striping for the first time. After traveling for a few hours through the thick brush and fog, we met up with a road in better condition (side brush was trimmed back) and we followed it as it started to gain elevation. As we climbed the fog began to thin. A few twists and turns later, we popped out into this cut block, above the clouds, just in time to catch the sun setting, producing this golden moment.
— Matt Bayrak

Big thanks to Matt for the use of the photo and sharing the great story that goes with it. Thanks to all who participated in our photo contest and keep your ear to the ground for the next one. 

Dangerous Recovery

Dangerous Recovery

During the week, another RMO member and I went out to try out his new RZR. When I pulled up to the McLean Creek Campers Centre (read - General Store), I was approached by two gentlemen that had gotten themselves stuck. They needed a recovery and they didn't have a cell phone signal and couldn't give a shout out back to town to get someone to come and help them. So they bought a tow rope from the store and waited to see if anyone drove by that could help them.

Luckily we weren't on any sort of timeline and we were able to get them unstuck pretty easily. That's not the point however. The reason for all the backstory on such a simple recovery is because it illustrates a number of problems that led these two gentlemen into their predicament.

First, they were both out in a single vehicle. Of course this breaks a pretty major rule of adventuring in the backcountry in and of itself but there are ways to minimize the risk when you're doing so.

Second, they didn't have any recovery gear or secondary communications. This is where things really broke down for them. IF you are going to go and explore the backcountry on your own, you need to be self sufficient or at the very least be able to communicate back to your home base in case you need assistance.

Third, after getting back to the camper's centre, they attempted to do the right thing and purchased themselves some "recovery" equipment. That way they could flag someone down and not have to worry if the good samaritan had their own recovery gear. Unfortunately it was a tow rope, not a recovery rope or strap. Though the strap was rated for close to the weight of the vehicle needing to be recovered, it was completely under sized for the weight of the combined vehicles and the dynamic forces that might need to be applied. Even worse than this ... the strap had metal hooks on either end. So if/when the hooks fail, a dangerous projectile gets added to the mix.

Fourth and probably most importantly, a lack of education was evident in that they did not know they had made the previous three mistakes. Don't mean to say that they were ignorant ... we all make mistakes. Just a little bit more knowledge couldn't have hurt.

As luck would have it, everything turned out okay. They didn't get stuck far from the road, they were able to catch a ride to the store, someone came along that was willing to help and that person had their own recovery gear, knew how to use it and they didn't need to use their tow rope. The point, after all that, is to say that if any one of those things had turned out differently, so too would the outcome.

Stay safe out on the trail.

4x4 Fiasco

4x4 Fiasco

It's been a while since we've gotten a group together and we were overwhelmed with the turnout to our relatively last minute postings to go for some delicious gelato at the local Fiasco. The turnout was even better considering the weather forecast for the evening was filled with warnings of massive thunder showers. As luck would have it we were only rained on for long enough to go inside to order our gelato and then had back outside to be treated to some rainbow filled skies. It was a little disorganized on our end and nothing too serious got discussed but it was just so great to see all the usual suspects again and meet a bunch of the new people that we lost track of time. We swear we'll get some heavy duty topics on the table for next time. ;)

Here's a shot showing that rainbows don't actually lead to pots of gold. They lead to sick 4x4s. We'll add some more photos here as they come in.

Colossal 2015 - B.C. Canada - Part 2

Colossal 2015 - B.C. Canada - Part 2

This is Part 2, See here for Part 1

Moments earlier I went ahead, up from the valley’s floor to scout the route. We knew there was an obstacle ahead as a new 1-tonne Dodge Ram passed us earlier in the day and warned us of the impassible. I stepped out of the truck to have a look at what we were dealing with – a large loose rockslide had come down across the road. The resulting test of nerves would put us off camber at ~30 degrees towards the expanse below. The loose earth did nothing to increase my level of confidence. 
Another thing I’ve picked up over the years, is to keep a level head in situations that can dictate the contrary. To look at an obstacle objectively and negate the emotional aspect that might have you push through something that should not even be attempted, just for a chance at the scenic or unknown prize. Always evaluate the risk.

I picked up my radio to alert the others to come on up. Our group was very skilled and I figured I’d give it a go first and test the waters. I creeped forward and began to climb the mound with my front tires while still remaining relatively level. My front end reached the apex of the rockslide before starting to tilt the vehicle towards the mountain’s edge. I wanted to keep a smooth and steady forward pace over the obstacle so as not to overuse the brakes and disrupt the trucks momentum in a direction I did not want to travel; down the hillside. A little wheelspin as the rears bit into the rise. As they climbed, the front was moving down the backside of the rockslide getting only more unsettled and off-camber. Rocks began tumbling down the mountain as the weight of my truck displaced them. Despite my gut reaction to stop the vehicle in it’s tracks, I just kept moving forward at a controlled pace to keep the momentum going. In retrospect a wise choice, as my front tires reached the opposing side of the mound and started to finally combat the tippyness. In moments I was free and clear. The rest of the group followed with confidence. A couple slight hangups where consistent use began to dig trenches where the tires had been biting for traction caused a few easy recoveries. 

My father, still being relatively “green” was next. He remained quite calm and watched my hand signals as I spotted him over. It’s hard sometimes to not get frustrated when someone (especially your old man) doesn’t follow your orders, but at the end of the day I look back at the challenges we have both faced on our limited number of trail days together, and I am always impressed and proud of his stubbornness to get better. A testament to his grit as I can see his skills and confidence rapidly improve each time I wheel with him. We were over and rolling as a group in no time.

A couple switchbacks higher and the vegetation began to dissipate and be replaced with rock and a small volume of Tamarack trees (A deciduous tree that turns yellow in the fall; also known as a Larch tree). 

We continued forward, now with the scarred glacial rock consuming the landscape at a dramatic pace as our elevation continued to increase. We crested the next apex in the road and saw the prize in the distance; the glacier and ski hut lay ahead. The cabin seemed so out of place, a tiny square retreat standing atop a vast expanse of destruction from the glacier’s receding path. The backdrop was simply stunning. To the west of the cabin lay a 180-degree view of the glacier and jagged rock while the east viewpoint overlooked the valley and expansive peaks below. I have never been to or experienced a place that so easily dwarfs you into perspective, this place was absolutely astounding and honestly felt surreal. It was like we were aliens on a foreign planet, the only sounds to be heard were the breeze blowing through the canyons and the water flowing through the caverned rock faces as the glacier melted away. It was almost as if nature itself had graciously opened its forbidden doors for the day and granted us a day pass. 

Going back to the “right people” being on a trip, our entire group was so cohesive during this excursion. Not a single person took this place for granted. It was as if there was an unspoken truth and realization that this pristine place is the very reason why we pursue this hobby. It is the reason we strive to be ethical users of the backcountry. 

We slowly approached the cabin. Craig, my co-pilot and I were giddy with laughter, like little boys climbing up into their tree fort for the first time. The wooden fireplace and expansive windows overlooking the valley below added to the novelty. We poked around the cabin and scoped the terrain for where we would setup camp for the night. The next step was to cook up our dinner for the evening but our spirits of adventure seemed too great, and we decided to postpone the grub and continue up the trail towards the glacier. 

We continued to climb and the strata continued to impress with the enduring lateral layers of the earth exposed everywhere. The texture of these surfaces was phenomenal, some of which made the rock look like rotten wood from a glance. 

The pathway wound us through boulder fields as it kept climbing, until eventually, we reached the front lines of ice and a small turnaround at the top. We parked the vehicles and immediately evacuated our trusty steeds in favor of some wandering by foot. 

After walking atop the glacier, we began to explore the leading edge of the ice shelf. Craig waved me over and pointed out an opening under the glacier – which you can actually see in the photo above… We ducked under the water dripping infront of the opening and snuck inside. Immediately we were astounded. The vivid blue colors were something out of a National Geographic photo. Shiny and slippery ice boulders surrounded us on one side with the rock on our right acting as the backbone, holding the immense shelf from collapsing and crushing us instantly. To our left a small channel screamed for further exploration. 

Slowly and carefully, we wiggled through the opening to find ourselves inside of an ice cave, about the size of a large van. The ground covered with jagged ice blocks, which made foot placement very tricky, but the sheer excitement of the moment could not be trumped, despite present dangers. We passed the camera back and forth sure to get the most epic profile pic of all time. We may have succeeded….

Colossal 2015 - B.C. Canada - Part 1

Colossal 2015 - B.C. Canada - Part 1

Colossal
co·los·sal

adjective:
extremely large.
"a colossal amount of mail"
synonyms: huge, massive, enormous, gigantic, giant, mammoth, vast, immense, monumental, prodigious, mountainous, titanic, towering, king-size(d); More

The word(s) above remain as a fraction of the description for the natural beauty that I experienced this past autumn weekend in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning backcountry.

Over the years I’ve wheeled with a lot of different people, in a lot of different locations, in a lot of different vehicles (lol). Adventure can be had at any time with any of the above, but the more I venture out the more I realize that having the right people with a positive attitude, is the true key to success. The first weekend of October for the past 5 years has been a representation of these sentiments. What started out as “your average” wheeling trip, has now become the staff by which my year is measured. Why this weekend in particular? For myself, this weekend is such a priority because of the combination of autumn colors, cooler temperatures, always tacky terrain, and endless laughter that comes with the social aspect of such an outing. This trip once marked a casual venture, but now acts as a placeholder for myself and my fellow explorers. 

This year shaped up a little different as my usual go-to buddies were dropping out due to other commitments. My father had also been bugging me to take him out wheeling again, as we really hadn't got out too much together since our last epic run to NorCal/Moab last spring. I was feeling the pressure as the departure date dawned upon us and I had yet to make any plans for the upcoming weekend’s trip. I had no route, a very small number of confirmed companions, and with my recent promotion at work it was looking like I too, would succumb to the pressures of tight deadlines and responsibility. I tried to keep my attitude positive though, despite the snow looming on the horizon for the weekend's forecast. Tuesday night I sat down at my desk and starting compiling GPX tracks to create a route which would take us overland through the Castle area of Alberta, bear west into B.C. and arrive in the Fernie area. As the week endured, It was looking like my boss would lend a hand and allow me to escape cell phone reception for the weekend – after all I had already informed him that this was the yearly trip that I would not miss, as it would simply be irresponsible. The weather was still calling for cold and snow which was disappointing, but I kept throwing bait out there to see who would want to join in the adventure regardless. The commitment level was growing and I was up to 4 confirmed trucks by Wednesday night. Shortly after, over my nightly cup of tea, I pulled out my Backroads Mapbook and started thinking how I had recently seen some pretty interesting images in an area West of Banff National Park, which reminded me of the terrain North of Kootenay Lake which I had explored a little in the summer during my honeymoon. A couple clicks later and I was scoping the Doppler for the promise of clearer skies in the new proposed direction. I few text messages, PM’s on the local forums, and a phone call to each confirmed traveller, and the original idea was scrapped. We were heading West come Friday afternoon.

Planning ...

Planning ...

Friday arrived and now with 7 trucks confirmed, we were the perfect sized group to remain flexible in our plans yet still large enough for some team spirit and camaraderie. I was late to the meeting location, as usual, and rolled into the Calgary Olympic park McDonalds half an hour behind schedule to see the rest of the group waiting patiently. After my apologies we hit the highway towards our staging area for the night. About 30 minutes into the drive heading towards Canmore, a wall of black clouds embraced our convoy and propelled rain and lightning bolts in our path. Considering the time of year, this is quite unusual and my last minute switcheroo was looking to be a bust. We continued with positive chatter on the radios but there was no doubt we were all thinking about how wet and brutal this night could have become. 

We rolled into camp around 11pm in a small clearing next to a gorgeous mountain lake. It was raining lightly but nothing near as bad as the drive out. A fire was quickly ignited and a combination or fire warmth and Jamaican rum seemed to lift everyone’s spirits. Despite the rain and the trip looking like it could be a very wet, smiles were abundant and good cheer spread around the campfire. In my mind I decided that even if it did rain all weekend, I was going to have fun and enjoy the fresh air at our disposal. I often hope that I could do something to control the unforseen, but learning to make the best of all situations is a skill I'm still honing to this day. We awoke at approx. 9am after tucking in around 4:30am (lol…). It was early and we were tired, but we needed to head back into town to meet up with the final member of our crew who could not come out the night before. Good thing for us, he was also running late due to construction on the Trans Canada and we arrived in Radium around 11am to grab a coffee and discuss what lay ahead. With a late start we were back on gravel heading West towards our destination. The ground was damp but the clouds were slowly breaking. The air was crisp from the previous night’s rain and the colors on the trees were showing in full. 

Lake in the Kootenays

Lake in the Kootenays

We made several stops to take in the scenery and around every corner we were met with a new surprise and a view dramatically better than the last. The epic scenery in conjunction with the warmth of the sun seemed to lift our spirits as we progressed – the silence on the radios was replaced with livery and laughter. 

Good times with great people

Good times with great people

Literally where the rubber meets the road ...

Literally where the rubber meets the road ...

After driving for several dozen kilometers someone realized that we had burnt all of our fire wood the previous evening. We stopped near a clearing where some road maintenance had once taken place and began working together to stockpile the vehicles for the upcoming night. We new it would get colder as our intended route increased quickly in elevation.

Un camion du bois

Un camion du bois

Canadian timber reaching for the sun

Canadian timber reaching for the sun

We eventually branched off the main road and started to gain altitude. The road was wet and windy but in surprisingly good shape. I was in the lead and decided this would be a good time to test out the new Fox's at a higher velocity. Doug screamed to life and the trees began to blur as we approached speeds in excess of 100 km/hr. My good friend Craig usually takes shotgun when my wife can't make the trip and this time was no exception. We giggled like little boys as we rallied through the woods. We rounded a corner at full speed and the rear end let loose. Up ahead was a large puddle across the road but my current rate of speed was to much to try and avoid it, so I pushed forward hopeing to hydroplane across the puddle. The maneuver was executed without issue other than a temporary loss of sight through the windshield. Shortly after our nerves caught up with us and we slowed down to cruising speed once again. We pulled over and waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Nathan arrived moments later, apparently indulging in the fun as well. A crackle on the radio and Nathan says "Addison, where did your license plate go?". Clearly the hydroplane had been too much for the plate bolts and the hydro power of the water evacuating had caused my plate to blow off the bumper. After backtracking we found the plate in the road near the large puddle and my gimmicky license plate cover 10 feet in the ditch. A couple zip-ties and a few laughs later and we were back on the road.

Natural Habitat

Natural Habitat

We rounded a ben further up the road and the scenery turned from excellent to stunning. There in front of us were some of the largest peaks I can ever imagine seeing, with a field of glacial ice capped above. The cameras and poser shots came out in full.

The Flex is strong with this one

The Flex is strong with this one

Beautiful British Columbia

Beautiful British Columbia

After indulging the scenery we pursued our destination yet again. The road started to get rougher and rougher in combination with an increased inclination. I dropped the truck into 4-Lo and began climbing the steep goat trail. Around the next bend was the first real obstacle of the trip, with a daunting cliff drop to remind us of the potential consequences of our favourite hobby.

Heading to our hotel above the clouds

Heading to our hotel above the clouds

Stay tuned for Part 2! 

Not a Bad First Shake

Not a Bad First Shake

Sometimes you don't know if an idea has legs or not. When rolling in at 7pm to Peter's Drive-In last Wednesday we realized that this UO thing might not just have legs but that it was going full tilt and we might have to run to get back ahead of it. Which is actually a good problem to have when you're trying to build an off-road community like we are here with Untitled Offroad.

Photo by Marc Fossi

Photo by Marc Fossi

At 7pm there were already 20 trucks in the Peter's parking lot. Unsurprisingly, there were mostly Toyotas but we also had a mix of other vehicles including Jeeps, Mitsubishis, Nissans and a Mazda (albeit a RX-7). More 4x4s would show up too as others left. There were familiar faces and new ones and it was great to see everyone.

Photo by Marc Fossi

Photo by Marc Fossi

Got to meet Mason and his friend Ewan. Mason and his dad Harley are the ones that made the logo that Untitled is now using and it was an honour to meet them and thank them for the use of the image. Yes, stickers are coming.

Photo by Marc Fossi

Photo by Marc Fossi

Saw more than a few familiar faces, some that have been around and a few others that haven't been seen in a while and it was good to catch up with all of them. Met Korey and Simon, finally met Chase and chatted up Shayne who we haven't seen in quite a while. Brittney brought her Jeep but had to bounce early to another event. Ken and his new ride. Too many to mention but we appreciate everyone who was able to show up and show support for UO.

Photo by Marc Fossi

Photo by Marc Fossi

There were more that I didn't get to say "Hi" to or introduce myself and we'll just have to catch up next go round at this. There will most certainly be a next time. It was great to see that so many people believe in this idea that we have going here. So please join us in the Adventure Collective. Even if the next adventure is just to pick up some garbage. 

That last bit was a hint ... next up is the clean up. Wanna comment on the shake night event? Click here.

Fixing the Farm Jack

Fixing the Farm Jack

A few months back we showed how we can "Hack the Hi-Lift" ... Doing that when you first buy the Hi-Lift can actual make it easier down the road when you finally have to perform maintenance on the jack. Sadly, yes, you have to perform maintenance on your Hi-Lift. The amount of work changes with how much and where you use the jack and where and how you store the jack. In the case I'll be describing below, the beam of the jack has been bent and damaged and needs to be replaced on top of general maintenance.

Hi-Lift Jack with bent I-Beam

Hi-Lift Jack with bent I-Beam

The beam on this jack was bent while being stored on the front bumper of a truck that was rock crawling in Moab, Utah. Might not have been the best spot to store a jack but hindsight is 20/20 as it were. In this photo the beam curves to the left while it should be in line with the red handle.

Obviously, the jack wouldn't work very well in this configuration and the beam needs to be replaced. Pretty much every part of the Hi-Lift can be replaced and all you need is the part number. This one was picked up from the Gear Shop but you should be able to have one brought in from your preferred 4x4 dealer. 

While replacing the beam, I thought I would go a little further and go over replacing a few of the other parts for preventive maintenance.

Hi-Lift makes something called the Fix-It Kit. This is a small package containing new climbing and cross pins for the Hi-Lift as well as a new shear pin. This is a great kit to have with you in your recovery gear as you never know when you're going to need it and the parts are extremely specialized.

The Hi-Lift Base Plate (Modified Pin)

The Hi-Lift Base Plate (Modified Pin)

To replace the i-beam you need to remove the base plate. This is super quick if you've already done the steps outlined in our Hacking the Hi-Lift article. Simply remove the pin, slide the base plate off the bottom of the jack and then ...

Reversing Latch

Reversing Latch

Using the palm of your hand, strike the reversing latch and the running gear will just slide off the end of the i-beam.

Hi-Lift Running Gear

Hi-Lift Running Gear

At this point we're going to replace some parts on the running gear as well. The springs and the climbing/cross pins are getting a little worn and oxidized. So now is as good a time as any to replace them. You certainly don't need to remove the beam before doing this maintenance but it does make it easier to manipulate the running gear as you perform the following steps.

Removing the Cross Pins

Removing the Cross Pins

You need to remove the cross pins from the climbing pins. This is best performed with a punch or drift and hammering them out. Provided the pins are not bent, you should be able to simply pull the pins out after getting to the halfway point. If they are bent, a set of pliers will be your friend.

Cross Pins Removed and Climbing Pins Free Moving

Cross Pins Removed and Climbing Pins Free Moving

With the cross pins removed, the climbing pins are simply floating inside the running gear and will be easily removed by hand.

Old Parts

Old Parts

The old pins have been heavily oxidized despite being zinc coated and has led to buildup and pitting on the pins.

The Hi-Lift Fix-It Kit

The Hi-Lift Fix-It Kit

With the Fix-It Kit, you get quite a few of the parts you need to get this job done. 

New vs Old

New vs Old

Here you can see what the pins are supposed to look like. Free of pitting and oxidization.

Dropping in the Climbing Pins

Dropping in the Climbing Pins

Putting the springs into place and dropping in the climbing pins. The orientation is important. Ensure that the beveled end of the climbing pin is facing in on the jack with the beveled side pointing towards the top of the running gear.

Cross Pins Under Springs

Cross Pins Under Springs

Next you need to install the cross pins into the climbing pins. Lift the springs out of the way as you drive the cross pins into the climbing pins. Once again, the best way is to use a punch/drift and a hammer for this. It is important that the springs sit on top of the cross pins for the climbing action to work properly.

Running Gear Installed on New I-Beam

Running Gear Installed on New I-Beam

At this point, if you didn't remove the i-beam, you'd be done. However, for us, we're going to put the running gear onto our new unbent i-beam. The best way that I've found to do this is to return the reversing latch into the up position. Slide the i-beam into the top of the running gear and operate the handle to move the climbing pins. Once the pins catch it will start climbing the new i-beam.

Fixing the Retention Spring

Fixing the Retention Spring

While we are at it, I like to check the retention spring. This is the spring that helps prevent the handle from repeatedly actioning back and forth while lowering the vehicle and losing your grip on the handle. In other words, the retention spring could save your life. You may need to tweak and twist this a few times but considering the consequences this is something you should be regularly checking on your hi-lift. When properly shaped, the spring should be forced to spread apart by the i-beam when the handle is raised close to the beam.

Shear Pin

Shear Pin

The one item from the Fix-It Kit I've never bothered to / been forced to replace is the shear pin. This is the pin that, in theory, will shear before lifting a vehicle or item that is much heavier than the Hi-Lift's weight rating. I've never seen one fail personally but I make sure to keep one with my recovery kit at all times. NEVER replace this pin with anything other than a Hi-Lift shear pin. Putting in a bolt with a higher shear strength may put you into a situation where another part of the jack fails with massive amounts of weight being held by the jack. 

Operating the jack after performing the PM (and the new i-beam) is a far easier task. Unfortunately this kind of maintenance/inspection is a necessary evil but it will allow you to keep you farm jack for years to come and to do so safely.

Scion to Release Live Axle Mini Truck Never

Scion to Release Live Axle Mini Truck Never

Awful Photoshop job.

Awful Photoshop job.

The plan was to release a very elaborately designed April Fools news post. It was going to involve a photoshopped image of the Scion xB van lifted, with a bed and a solid axle. It was gonna be good. Then I saw a funny John Oliver bit about April Fools and thought we could post that instead. Enjoy your April Fools.

Ariel's New Toy

Ariel's New Toy

Now for those of you perverts looking for some weird Little Mermaid fetish drawings ... I apologize. We're talking about Ariel the car company out of the UK that makes the famed Ariel Atom a somehow street legal (in the UK) vehicle that makes a mockery out of any track that you put it on. They've decided to look at the offroad world and have come up with the Nomad;

Ariel Nomad from http://www.arielmotor.co.uk/

Ariel Nomad from http://www.arielmotor.co.uk/

This thing looks amazing. Now, not exactly competition for Trophy Trucks or Ultra4 buggies, it'll be interesting to see where Ariel tries to exploit this little dune buggies strengths. It looks like it would've been a lot of fun last weekend at the Cochrane Winter Rally.

... plus ... in case you forgot all about the Ariel Atom, here is Jeremy Clarkson (formerly?) of Top Gear fame giving it a review.


Photography Section Added to the UO Forum

Photography Section Added to the UO Forum

Hipster Olympics in Berlin 2012 (not kidding)

Hipster Olympics in Berlin 2012 (not kidding)

Interest has been growing in the Photography thread in our off topic section of the forum. So much so that we've been getting some requests to expand the thread into it's own section. Well, sometimes, ask and you shall receive. As of today there is a new section for all of us photo nerds. Feel free to share your photos and ask any questions you may have. Hope to see you there.

Unitled Offroad Forum - Photography Section

King of the Hammers

King of the Hammers

The 9th Annual Nitto King of the Hammers will be the largest to date.The event will take place during the first week of February and the main event will be held on Friday, February 6th, 2015.

The week of festivities will include:
Sun. 2/1 – KLiM King of the Motos Presented by Trail – Tech
Mon. 2/2 – Pre-running day/ ULTRA4 vs. Rock Bouncer Shootout
Tue. 2/3 – 4 Wheel Parts Time Trials & Qualifying rounds – Including LCQ
Wed. 2/4 – 4 Wheel Parts Time Trials & Qualifying rounds continued
Wed. 2/4 – Polaris RZR KOH UTV Race Presented by HCR
Thur. 2/5 Smittybilt Every Man Challenge (Stocks, Mods, Specs and Legends)
Fri. 2/6 Nitto King of The Hammers*The Big Race*
Sat. 2/7 KOH The Experience Presented by GenRight

We've got some King of the Hammers here on the live feed. Enjoy!

Lussier Hot Springs

Lussier Hot Springs

I haven't been out exploring in a while, with a few days remaining on my Christmas holidays, I needed a mountain retreat. Myself (and fiance) and 4 other friends decided to make for the mountains and pull a solid day trip. We headed for Canal Flats BC to hit up the Lussier natural hotsprings. None of us had been there before and we knew the terrain there would provide us with ample opportunities to explore some other BC logging roads while we were at it. We met at 6:30 on the West side of Calgary near Canada Olympic Park ready to head for the hills.

Westward bound on Highway 1 towards Banff AB, amidst a frenzy of skier traffic headed for the lifts. The highway was like a marching line of vehicles headed for the mountains in the horizon - almost an extension of the line up at the lifts. Too early to battle traffic to make 5 minutes in the end, we basically just set the cruise control at 95km/hr and road the traffic wave. One of our party lives in Canmore, AB. He strategically planted himself in a pullout and jumped into our convoy as we rolled through town without the slightest reduction in speed. Now our group was whole and continued to the more desolate Highway 93, headed for Radium, BC. Immediately the traffic dropped off and the road conditions turned awful. Blowing snow and black ice taunted us as we headed for our destination. Keeping the Toyo MT's within the lines took more mental power than desired that early in the day, but we all held it together and wound our way through the passes without incident. Chatter on the radios was constant, providing some good humour for the morning. Cody (from Canmore) knows this area better than most, and suggested we hit some gravel early in the day and take Settlers Road to wind through and towards the back end of Lussier Hot Springs and Whiteswan Provincial Park. We obliged, only eager to get off the pavement. 

Shortly after, we pulled over for a break to let the dogs run around and catch some video.

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

We continued on the unknown road (to us) while Cody took the lead. It was desolate, we saw only a handful of vehicles on this backroad the entire day. Which was a good thing considering the 'hooning' that was going on. Drift after drift we egged each other on to get the truck to hang out sideways. The short wheelbase 4Runners had no problem, while the two 80 series had trouble with their constant AWD system. A great safety feature for regular driving, but unfortunate in a game of drifts, which I know only too well! The Tundra with a slightly longer wheelbase than the 4Runners could still play the game, especially with the V8. With the 35's and almost no lift, I polished the frame at opposite lock several times attempting to real in the sideways motion. Soon after, we came around a bend just as the turquoise Kootenay River merged with Settlers Rd. A sight to be seen as the sun battled to fight through the low slung clouds. A truly picturesque scene, we stopped for some photos and a couple video shots.

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

The roads seem to become slicker and slicker as the packed snow turned to polished ice. Several of the regular roads proved difficult to ascend, given the waterslide like texture to their surfaces. We rounded a corner to a gorgeous bridge crossing over the Kootenay River.

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

The view continued to inspire and often had us commenting on the radios about how no matter what happened next, this day was one of the best we've had in a while and furthering our interest in the area for future Untitled Offroad Official runs into this region. Several interesting off-shoots taunted us throughout the drive but we continued to remind ourselves of the end goal - Lussier Hot Springs. This spring is natural and actually signed and monitored by the BC Provincial government. The direct road is well maintained (for a backroad) and cars and minivans can drive there. However it still remains a gorgeous site and one that is still more off the beaten path than the resorty tourist traps such as Banff and Radium. Winding along a cliff face with a 500 foot drop to our right, we emerged onto the grounds of Lussier. The parking lots showed us how un-original our location was due to the 7-8 vehicles already situated. We decided to press on to Whiteswan and check out the lake and come back in the late afternoon. Whiteswan is a gorgeous site unto itself, especially with the tall pines covered in fresh snow. (Somehow I neglected to grab any photos of the area... duh) We found an interesting logging road that looked to gain elevation over the valley. We proceeded but were eventually denied by copious amount of snow and our highway-inflated tires. Despite the multiple redline attempts to overcome the snow, we just couldn't stay on top.

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

We decided it was either air down or turn around and head to the hot springs. Luckily deflating the tires was the outcome and we were instantly rewarded with forward progress once the tires were dropped to their snow-show-esque 10psi. We climbed with relative ease, only relying on the double locked, geared, and 37's of Ron Burgundy (HDJ81) to decimate the odd snow drift in our path. Soon, we came upon a relatively large clearing on the side of the mountain, which granted us an amazing view of the valley below. Photo dump:

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

We arrived at Lussier and headed down the trail to the springs. A gorgeous pool has been formed with boulders to capture the natural hot water flow in multiple levels and pools. I neglected to bring my camera down with me, so you'll have to let Google be your eye or wait for my video in a few weeks. There was a handful of people in the pool all with good spirits. We made quick and easy conversation with everyone while enjoying the health benefitting qualities of the pools. Despite our lack of "hotspring-beer" (just ONE would have been nice!) to quench our thirst, we had an excellent and relaxing time. We will definitely be returning with a larger group for a more "quiet" early morning or late-night dip with a larger crew. Relaxed and soothed, we switched on the compressors and brought the tires back up to operating pressure. We took the shortest route back to the highway as it was getting late. We rolled into Radium around 7pm with a 3 hour drive remaining back to Calgary. With empty stomachs we stopped for a pint and dinner at a local Pub and Eatery, discussing the success of the day. We walked outside to start heading home and were hit with a flurry of snow and cold temperatures.

Photo by Addison Rickaby

Photo by Addison Rickaby

The drive home was slow and edgy as the light and cold snow meant dust like trails of snow coming up off the rear of each vehicle. At some points the visibility was so poor that we had all lost track of the road. A good reminder how even the best drivers and well-kept highways can be dangerous in the winter. We all kept our cool and drove smart while chatting on the radio to keep one another attentive. A long but slow drive home and I puilled into my condo around 11:30pm. Tired but with a smile still on my face, our mission was successful.

We will return and keep an eye for some video edits coming soon!

Comments

Dakar 2015

Dakar 2015

The big story for the North American audience this year is Robby Gordon's push for top of the podium this year. To be honest the individual stories interest me very little but the overall story is very engrossing. As technology improves, we are getting more access to these races that are more remote and cover great distances. This year, there is a french TV station that will be streaming portions of the event live and there are daily recaps on some of the American sports channels (NBCSN for instance). 

So enjoy this year's version of the Dakar (nowhere near Dakar and in South America again this year). The action gets underway tomorrow, we'll have some updates here as they come in.

Here is the link to FranceTV Sports coverage of the Dakar; Dakar

And you can follow along with the stages and winners on the Dakar main page at Dakar.com

Comments

Want a Hummer?

Want a Hummer?

eewwww. Not that way perv.

Photo from IronPlanet

Photo from IronPlanet

Apparently the US government is unloading 4000 humvees right away for auction. These are actual military Humvees from AM General and the bidding is starting at $10,000. Not sure if we can or how we could get one of these across the border but even if we could, these are being sold as "Offroad Only" vehicles. It would be a great deal to snag one of these for a build vs. the latest offering of a shell of the Hummer H1 with no drivetrain for $60,000.

In case anyone was looking into it, you can find the info to bid on IronPlanet. As far as I can tell, this is technically only open to Americans but enterprising individuals might be able to find a way around it. The auction for 20 or so of them is taking place on Dec. 17th.

Comments

Winter Trail Run

Winter Trail Run

The winter trails opened up, so it was time to head out to the Ghost.

Our goal was simple. Head out and conquer the winter loops and be back in time for dinner. Since this was the first run under the new banner it was time to flex our muscles. It was a small and capable crew, consisting of Doc McCoy, Kapper, 1985bj60, Northernfly, fjtent and Cory (our lone Jeep of the day). 

Hitting "four corners" it was obvious that there were few tracks heading north, onto the winter trails. The decision was made to continue on to the Margaret Lake side and attack from that angle, doing the hill climbs first instead of trying to end our day with them. The trucks did well but the south facing slopes were very icy and required a full throttle attack. No one was interested in pushing their trucks much further, realizing that every subsequent hill climb would provide the same (and boring) challenge.

We turned around and took our time on the way out through "Lost Knife". With the added time it allowed us some play time on some of the more technical obstacles along the way. All in all, a fun day out in Waiparous but we'll be back soon for revenge against the winter loops.

Hacking the Hi-Lift

Hacking the Hi-Lift

Bought a new All-Cast Hi-Lift jack and took some photos as the jack was modded to be a little more convenient on the trail. By removing the cotter pins from the jack and replacing them with lock pins, the Hi-Lift is made even more trail friendly. Specifically, the base and handle may be removed very easily after this quick hack.

Complete list of needed materials;

  • Non-Extreme Hi-Lift Jack
  • 2 * 1/4" PTO Lock Pins - Cost is approx. $4 total
The running gear of the new hi-lift jack

The running gear of the new hi-lift jack

Done this exact hack to my original "survivor" jack and it has worked well for years. However, I am replacing my i-beam on it for the second time in sixth months and realized that I require a second hi-lift anyway. As a bonus, this allows me to do a quick write up on how to do this little hack, quickly, cheaply and with very few tools.

The cotter pin that needs to be removed; secures the base to the hi-lift i-beam.

Squeezing the one side of the cotter pin and pulling from the other side will free the base.

Working on the base first. There is a cotter pin that goes through the base that holds it to the hi-lifts i-beam. This needs to be removed. The hole for this cotter pin is 1/4" inside diameter. Test fit your new lock pin in the spot that the cotter pin occupied. Using a quarter inch lock pin for simplicity sake makes this the easier of the two mods. Just replace the base onto the i-beam and use the lock pin to secure everything. The base should still have it's full range of motion but now can be removed much quicker with far less tools.

Now that the cotter pin is gone, the base can be removed from the i-beam.

With the base back on the i-beam, slide the lock pin through the same hole. Hi-Lift Hack #1 complete

A second smaller cotter pin is located in the handle to keep the handle attached to the Hi-Lift running gear.

A second smaller cotter pin is located in the handle to keep the handle attached to the Hi-Lift running gear.

The next mod involves the handle. The handle is kept from flying out of the running gear on the hi-lift by a small cotter pin. This one should be a tighter squeeze as it was never really designed to be removed. After working the cotter pin out of the handle, you'll be able to remove it from the running gear. At this point you may notice that the hole for the cotter pin only exists on one side of the handle. In order to install a lock pin, we'll need to drill a secondary hole exactly opposite from the first on the the handle.

Twist and pry the cotter pin out of the handle

The lock pin needs to go through the handle, which requires drilling through the handle

With my other hi-lift, I just eye-balled this part. I drilled through the original hole with a quarter inch bit and then continued on to the other side of the handle. Missed the exact opposite side of the handle and it the lock pin sits at the slightest of angles. It still works this way but bothers me every time I go to use the Hi-Lift.

Marking out the holes to properly drill out handle

Carefully drill out both holes

This time, we're going to be slightly more precise. I measured the circumfrence of the handle, halved the measurement and marked it as such on the handle. This can be done with a measuring tape obviously but I did it by wrapping the handle with painters tape (as seen in the photos). I also took a measurement from the end of the handle to the cotter pin hole and replicated that measurement on the other side. 

With the two measurements marked on the handle I drilled the hole with a cordless drill and 1/4" bit. I'd recommend using a centre punch on the marks to make sure that your drill does not walk from the initial drill point on the curved handle surface. Being careful and using eye protection, I drilled through the original cotter pin hole (smaller cotter pin than the one holding the base) and then drilled from the other side through the marks I had made. To clean up the edges a little, I routed the edges of both holes with the edge of the 1/4" drill bit.

Test fitting the lock pin in the handle.

Result is a quickly removable handle.

Once complete, simply place the handle back into the running gear and run a 1/4" lock pin through the holes on the handle. This allows you to remove the handle and use it with your tools as a snipe to gain leverage while doing trail repairs. Always return the handle back to the jack when not in use. It would be terrible to have taken your Hi-Lift with you only to be unable to operate the jack because you've left the handle at home.

I'm sure that the above hacks would be frowned upon by Hi-Lift. I can only vouch that they have worked well for me over the years but only do these hacks at your own peril. Comment on the forum.