In the southwestern United States, not far from the Mexican border, are rock ledges just waiting for you. These ledges and boulders reside outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and are hidden in various canyons amongst prickly cactus under a dry desert sky. For the past 21 years the Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club has led both rookie and veteran four-wheelers through these trails during the annual Chile Challenge.
Called the Chile Challenge for the hot trails named after various spicy botanical fruits, such as Habanero, Jalapeño, and Cayenne, this event offers something for everyone. Whether you are looking for just a little flavor or enough fire and zing to leave you and your vehicle walking funny, the Las Cruces trails can feed your appetite. To find out more about next year’s event check out www.chilechallenge.org.
Harold Off of Off-Again 4x4 in Farmington, New Mexico, came down for the event along with all his cronies in the Rat Pack off-road posse. Ol’ Blue Eyes may get razzed a fair bit for driving a pink Jeep, but with 43-inch Swampers and an natural born talent for picking lines, Harold showed ’em how it’s done.
These local girls had their gentlemen out spotting while they shifted into low range and attacked the dry waterfalls. Toyota trucks are great for the Las Cruces ledges with their long wheelbase and dual-transfer-case low ranges. But you’re dumber than a trail full of rocks if you don’t bring strong Birfield joints, as these fiery trails will burn through wimpy parts quicker than chili through an Eskimo.
When you own an underhood welder company then you better be ready to show off your welding skills on the trail. Pat Gremillion was running these trails in his old orange Broncomobile when the call went out that a steering knuckle was busted. Gremillion quickly fired up his Premier Power welder and showed the busted Jeep’s owner that an onboard welder is a good investment. Talk about a sales call!
The Chile Challenge isn’t all rock buggies and vertical climbs that can leave you on your lid. This family of four-wheelers loaded up in their YJ and hit the trail. The kids had great fun both in and out of the Jeep. Plus, even though Dad had to fix a busted axle and sort out some loose wires on his winch, Mom was still smiling.
Editor Rick Péwé was on hand with his Ultimate Adventure CJ-17. If you’re interested in seeing this Jeep up close and personal, just get out there and go four-wheelin’. You never know where he’ll pop up.
These Jeepers came all the way from Missouri to run the Chile Challenge trails on a family vacation. The stretched wheelbase, Mercedes Unimog portal axles, and Pit Bull tires made short work of this tall ledge.
When his buddy asked him to just hop in his truck and pull it forward a few feet, there must have been some miscommunication.
John Currie is the epitome of cool and smooth. His new Campbell Enterprise buggy is outfitted with Currie Rock Jock 60 axles (go figure) and a healthy LQ4 GM V-8 engine under the hood that idles along all quietlike until the front end is up on a gnarly rockclimb. Then Currie blips the throttle and the 6.0L wakes up quick, sending the 39-inch BFGs up and over.
This Samurai rattled along with a tired V-6 that sounded like a diesel, a homebrew suspension that had more links and pivots than a logging chain, and a quiet little husband and wife driving team with a short-legged trail dog. On this obstacle, hubby had the front end really loose and tippy, but the missus just kept filming with her video camera with nary a concern. Either she trusts him or has a good life insurance policy lined up.
There comes a point in every Jeeper’s life when you just have to wonder what the rock gods are thinking. This big CJ on 1-ton axles had everything perfect: strong parts, flexy suspension, healthy power, and a driver willing to take it to the edge—where a light breath was all that kept it from going over. But it still couldn’t get up this cliff. Next time, rock gods, next time.
So if you like big rocks, steep climbs, and good times, don’t miss next year’s Chile Challenge. Great meals are served by the local club, and there’s camping at the nearby fairgrounds, plenty of other wheelers willing to lend a hand, and trails that just might scare you.