Danger at the Pass Why My Winch Cable Was Out
Updated April 11, 2009
This photo is the picture used in the 2004 Hummer calendar. Many people have been writing me asking why the winch cable is laying in the snow. Here's the full story and the other pictures.
I drove out to Colorado a little early to do some wheeling before the Durango/ Moab Hummer Club event. Whenever I come out to Colorado I like to do a fun warm up pass like Mosquito to get into the swing of things. I had a couple of guys from Illinois following me who had never been out here so this was a good scenic beginning to the trip. That morning we started from North Platt Nebraska, drove through Denver down through Breckenridge to Alma where we picked up the road to Mosquito pass. It was Friday September 12, 2003; a nice day in the 70's. The plan was to cross the pass into Leadville and continue down to Buena Vista for the night.
We played around for awhile and took pictures at the London mine and mill site and continued up the rocky trail to the pass.
We drove to the peak of mosquito pass where summer turned to instant winter. It was probably 25 degrees and the wind was blowing like a banshee at the top. It was so nasty I put on my winter coat and gloves . We took some pictures and continued on.
I drove about 100 yd's up and came around a bend when I saw snow on the trail and a small truck stuck in a 4ft drift. I told the other Hummer to stay up at the top until we could check out the conditions. We got out of the truck and walked up about a half of mile to check out the truck and to see how bad the snow on the trail was.
Us flatlanders were really huffing and puffing since we were at 13,000 ft. a pretty high altitude. The West side was snowed in and way too dangerous to safely drive.
The guy in the stuck truck was up there with tennis shoes and shorts trying to dig himself out of the snow with his hands. The trail was really getting slippery because the sun was melting the snow into slippery slush. I didn't want to drive all the way down to the guy fearing getting stuck myself. I reeled out most of the 100' winch cable and hooked him to my 20' pull strap and tried pulling him off the drift. My tires were spinning and ice was forming under my truck. My truck was slipping sideways toward the edge of the trail and we weren't going anywhere. At this point I had to carefully pull up about 5' and accelerate in reverse. Each time I did this he came off the drift about 6" and I slid toward the edge a little more. It took me about 5 or 6 yanks with a strap and he was finally off. He then put his truck in reverse and tried to back it up the trail. He must have made it about 10' when he got stuck on the ice again. I had already backed up 100' to get away from the edge and onto some rock. I ended up winching him all the way back up the trail. The winch cable was still laying in the snow when I finally had a chance to pull out the camera and snap the pictures. Needless to say we turned around and took the highway to Buena Vista.
This was one of those situations where things start out perfectly safe with great weather and turn very dangerous very fast. You have to use conservative judgment while wheeling in the mountains. It's no joke. You can really go over the edge or freeze to death out there. I think the Boy Scout motto 'Be Prepared' is the mantra to use.