Middle Alamita North Canyon Rock Crawling - Return To RoyPosted in Events on May 1, 2008
A few months back, we described our experiences on the new RDY2ROK Off-Road trails on a private ranch near Roy, New Mexico. At the end of the second day of great rockcrawling, we had to skip "the hardest trail on the ranch" to get back to camp before nightfall. Returning to camp instead of continuing onto the trail called Middle Alamita North Canyon bothered us then, and the missed opportunity continued to gnaw at us in the following weeks. We had done a quick reconnaissance on foot, and it had looked very challenging. Would it really deliver an extreme challenge, or were we just tired and ready for the cold ones back at camp? We had to know. it is unlike the Rat Pack to leave new rocks untested.
Sure enough, a few weeks later, the call came. "Are you free in August? We are going back!" We were and we did! We weren't able to join the group until the second day of the scheduled three-day rock binge. Arriving late Saturday evening, we heard tales of heat. The mercury had breached 100 degrees F the day before ... a very unusual heat wave in northeast New Mexico. Clint from RDY2ROK Off-Road had taken the group out on Saturday but saved the return to Middle Alamita North Canyon for Sunday, so we could join in the fun.
We didn't get a very early start on Sunday. Although the heat was building every hour, we waited for late arrivals ... and waited ... and waited. Finally, our group of adrenaline junkies could stand it no more. We jumped into the rock rigs and ran Chainsaw Draw again. We had run it before and knew what to expect. Knowing how to squeeze through its constrictions this time made it a little faster, but it certainly didn't make Chainsaw any wider! With the vehicles (and us) well warmed up by the action and rising temps, we returned to camp and waited some more.
Finally, the Bailey's Jeep Train arrived, and we were off at the crack of 11 a.m. This typically wouldn't be an issue given the extended hours of light during high summer, but we knew we had to run most of Middle Alamita just to get to the first obstacle on the headliner Middle Alamita North trail. Once again, experience helped. It only took us two hours to bang and scrape over Middle Alamita (it took us twice as long the first time through) and arrive back at the entry obstacle on Middle Alamita North Canyon. We hopped out and checked out the initial challenge at the entrance.
What were we thinking? Why were we so anxious to pit ourselves against this nasty piece of sheetmetal-brutalizing rock? The sight was definitely intimidating. A very steep climb led to an off-camber crack flanked by a high wall of vertical sandstone. The crack had to be straddled to be able to reach the exit "V" with the front wheels. Upward progress could only be made by keeping the sidewalls of the tires firmly pressed into the wall on the right. A slip anywhere along the climb would drop the passenger side of the vehicle into the crack and full length against the unyielding sandstone. Ouch!
We had the right person up front. Harold Off was leading the big-tire parade today. With a few hints from Clint and his colleague Kevin, Harold attacked the new challenge with relish. The tricky part was keeping the right rear tire pressed into the rock wall while carrying the front tire over a gap tall enough to stand in! A few patient tries (OK, there was more than a little throttle involved) and Harold bounced through the top notch unscathed!
"Wow! Did you see that?"Yeah, and now the rest of us had to replicate Harold's complicated vertical-rock ballet. It took awhile, but the group slowly got the hang of it as we worked the rest of us over the gap. A few even tried "alternate" lines to the consternation of their fenders, but to the amusement of their fellow pilots. An active hour later, we had everyone up and into Middle Alamita North Canyon. Yes, an hour just to get ourselves up and into the canyon.
It didn't get any easier from that point. Clint estimated that only about 10 vehicles had ever traversed the route before us. The canyon still had some nasty hair on it! Sure enough, a few minutes later, the call for help came down the line. Pat Gremillion's Great Pumpkin was lying on its side. The narrowed Bronco was quickly righted, but the mishap served as a reminder: Extreme peril lurks in this Upper Alamita North Canyon.
Harold and Walker Evans forged the way up the canyon, spotting for each other and working through the complicated mineral puzzle confronting them. By mid-afternoon, their Jeeps were sitting high on the rim with the canyon behind them. Below, the other six vehicles were still struggling with boulders and holes.
The details get a little fuzzy at this point. The heat, while not as blistering as the day before, was taking its toll on us as the trail was working over the Jeeps. It started with a shattered Dana 60 outer, followed a short time later by a yoke, a driveshaft, and a U-joint. The first of several pedestrian parts runs commenced. Although we were many driving hours from camp, it was a short but steep climb and 15-minute hike to everyone's replacement stockpile back at the RVs. The entire Alamita Canyon system circles the camping area, so we were never far from camp on foot.
Another U-joint gave its life for the cause. By now it was dark enough that the next parts run included a request for all of the flashlights in camp. Another trail fix and we focused our attention on just getting the next two vehicles up to the canyon edge. With the concentrated assistance of the whole crew, we finally succeeded in adding them to the vehicles collecting on the rim, but by now, the headlights were on.
As we walked back down, our discussion quickly turned to the deepening darkness, our depleted energy, and the difficulty of the remaining trail. Common sense being the better part of valor, we decided to leave the other four vehicles in the canyon overnight for an early-morning retrieval. Our little "Sunday drive" was going to stretch straight into Monday morning! It was not an easy decision. In 30 years of wheeling, we had never been forced to leave our vehicle unattended overnight. Some really late nights have occurred, and other vehicles had left behind for lack of parts availability.
Heck, we had even camped in the middle of the trail when night caught us out in the rocks, but we never came home without a mount under us before. This time, safety factors won out (the risks were just too high in the dark, especially given our shagged-out condition). Since the canyon is on private land, and we were the only ones out there, the vehicles would be as secure as if we were sleeping in them. Still, it felt kind of funny to walk back into camp in the dark and go to sleep with no Jeep parked beside the camper.
The retrieval started early the next morning. The faint unease we all felt (separation anxiety?) drove us out of bed and back into the canyon at first light. We fired the first vehicle up and started the arduous climb to the top of the trail. We hadn't gone far when the rocks of Alamita claimed yet another tribute - this one in the form of a broken control arm.
A quick weld job and the line continued forward. By 8 a.m., we had the four remaining vehicles parked on the rim. What would have probably taken the rest of the night if we had continued the evening before had been accomplished in an hour and a half in the fresh light of day.
We cruised back into camp, restocked our water and provisions, and asked Clint what was in store for the day. Since we had finally finished Sunday's trail, now we were ready for Monday! Clint always has the right answer and today was no exception. The destination was Upper Martinez Canyon and, while assuring us that it was no repeat of Middle Alamita North, Clint promised us it would be fun. When Clint says "fun," it means big rocks, tight confines, or a combination of the two.
Clint delivered once again as he took us to the southern reaches of Martinez Canyon and dropped us into a rock-filled slot that was, at least for 2007, also wet and slick. After negotiating the treacherous gap, our route took us on a pleasant rockcrawl up the canyon, departed the depths via a boulder-strewn hillside, and deposited us back near where we had dropped into the canyon.
Our return to Roy and RDY2ROK Off-Road had met all our high expectations. We had finished off the unforgettable Middle Alamita North Canyon and checked off a couple more of the great routes in this private playground. More importantly, we had enjoyed the abundance of fun well-known to a tight-knit group of friends out enjoying each other and what we love best.
ROCKS OF RAY RANCH
RDY2ROK (www.rdy2rokoffroad.com) has worked to open these great trails to small groups on a limited basis. If you are interested in riding the rocks of the Ray Ranch (www.therayranch.com), give Clint a call at (505) 379-6638 or drop him an e-mail at C5668@aol.com.