To the casual observer, the high desert to the west of Montrose, Colorado, is flat. However, the area is filled with deep canyons that snake in every possible direction. These canyons hide huge boulders and tall waterfalls that many folks would consider too brutal to traverse on foot. Imagine tackling this wicked terrain in a 4x4. This is where the 2000 Warn National Rock Crawling Championships was held, and it was a battle of man against rock for three straight days.
Part of the lure of rockcrawling is the thrill of attempting to conquer an obstacle so unbelievably difficult that it seems virtually impossible. The other enticement is building a vehicle that can hold up to the unending pounding. When these two aspects converge, as they did in Montrose, it's bound to be entertaining and exciting. And it was.
The Warn National Rock Crawling Championships is sponsored by Detroit Locker, Superlift Suspension, BFGoodrich Tires, Advance Adapters, Muddy Tires.com, and McPherson Off-Road. The logistics of the event are handled by Bob Hazel and his crew at Sports In the Rough, and they receive help from the trail-savvy Western Slope four-wheelers.
The event kicked off on Thursday evening with a drivers meeting and an explanation of the rules. Bright and early Friday morning, approximately 60 competitors were split into two groups; one would battle the Cactus Course, and the other would attack the Calamity Course. As they proceeded one at a time through the various stages on the trail, it didn't take long for the rocks to begin destroying truck components, and the whine of winches permeated the cool Colorado air. By the end of day one, about eight trucks were out of the running due to mechanical damage. Day two required the groups to switch trails and compete on a totally new stretch of obstacles. Here, there was even more damage, but there was also some mind-boggling demonstrations of top-drawer driving, when competitors coerced their vehicles up and down some totally sick obstacles. At the end of day two, driver Steve Rumore and his spotter Drew Barber had eased their Sniper into First Place, holding a score of 352, with the the team of Jason Paule and Jerry Blanks in their Jeep CJ-7 trailing by 15 points, and Joel Randall and Mike Vokoun following in Third Place, only 2 points down, in their Jeep CJ-5.
On day three, the 12 vehicles with the most points were led out to the infamous Die-Trying trail, where the "Dirty Dozen" would spend the day doing battle on arguably the toughest trail in the nation. Here, even some of the best would only go a few yards before the rocks tore up their equipment, but many competitors fought, scratched, and clawed their way through each stage to complete the entire course. As throngs of spectators peered over the canyon walls and judges clasped clipboards and pencils, the team of Rumore and Barber held onto their lead to win the 2000 Warn Rock Crawling Championships, while the rocks moved the team of Randall and Vokoun to Second Place, and the team of Paule and Blanks finished in Third Place.
The 2001 Warn Rock Crawling Championships will be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, in November, so it's not too early to get signed up for this hard-core event. For more information, contact: Sports In the Rough, Dept. OR, 284 14th Ave. NE, Hickory, NC 28601, (800) 556-2801, www.sports-in-the-rough.com.
Rock Crawling Voyeurs
It's obvious that rockcrawling has achieved star status by the amount of spectators at the 2000 Warn Rock Crawling Championships. The high desert west of Montrose, Colorado, was dotted with men, women, and children, all gathered to watch the exciting competition. For many, it was a family day out with folks toting coolers and picnic baskets, but there were also many 'wheelers who came for a chance to see good action and get tech ideas. If you plan on going to the 2001 event, remember to stay in a safe area as directed by event officials behind the safety tape, throw out your trash, and Tread Lightly!
Many of the vehicles competing in the 2000 Rock Crawling Championships were as you could imagine: heavily modified or completely hand-built, purpose-specific machines. There was J.B. Conrad's Unimog with rear steer and reverse planetaries, Troy Meyer's 350ci V-8-powered Sniper, Pat Gremillion's 3.9L Cummins diesel-powered Scorpion, and Shannon Campbell's beautiful and deadly - to the rocks that is - gold-colored, Jeep-bodied, custom machine. There was also loads of bulletproof tech, such as Mike Papola's custom URJB60 rear axle (inset photo), which featured U-jointed axle shafts, a Detroit Locker, a coil suspension, and 4.88 gears, and all was tucked in an exceptionally super-stout housing.
Wanna See The Video?
If you're thinking of competing in the Warn National Rock Crawling Championships, or if you just want to see a fine cinematic achievement based on off-roading, then you need the official video. At press time, they were still editing miles of film (or whatever they do), but for more information, contact: Sports In the Rough at (800) 556-2801.
Scoring: How It Works
Each team was given a set number of minutes to travel through a stage. If they "timed out" (ran out of time), then they were awarded the number of points they had accumulated during that run. They began each stage with 20 points, and from there, points were either added for completing a gate (plus 2 points) or deducted for stopping more than five seconds (minus 1 point), using a tool (minus 14 points), backing up (minus 2 points), running over a gate (minus 6 points), and so on. Going out of bounds resulted in disqualification. There are different point values for each infraction or completion, so sometimes common sense has to prevail, and you have to learn how to work the system so as not to lose more points than you absolutely have to. Both Calamity and Cactus included seven stages that were several hundred feet in length.
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