The '07 Chile Challenge
Every year you see events like Easter Jeep Safari, All-4-Fun, and the Chile Challenge in Jp and other magazines. Ever wonder why? Because they offer the best wheeling you can find, amazing Jeeps, hard trails, and expert coordination. The Las Cruces 4WD Club has been hosting the Chile Challenge in conjunction with the winter quarterly meeting for the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association for more than 15 years now. More than 400 participants from all over the country came this year to try their luck in the Robledo Mountains OHV trail system. These trails were developed by the Las Cruces 4WD Club and the BLM and feature rock-filled canyons and dry waterfalls to test the mettle of even the most seasoned Jeep owner.
Those who are less interested in breaking parts and denting sheetmetal can still partake in one of the more scenic runs and enjoy the mild Southwest winter. The proximity of trails also makes it easy to watch the more modified Jeeps attempt obstacles on the harder routes and get ideas for what works and what doesn't on the trails around Las Cruces, New Mexico. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, be sure to sign up for next year's Chile Challenge. Registration generally starts in December and is available on the Las Cruces 4WD Club Web site (www.lascrucesfourwheeldriveclub.com). Funds generated by the Chile Challenge also help keep these trails open for future use.
How To Build For Las Cruces
The trails of Las Cruces require a certain type of vehicle to conquer the huge dry falls this area is famous for. We noticed the following trends at the '07 Chile Challenge:
Wheelbase: Nearly every Jeep we saw was stretched, sometimes resulting in the rear axle completely behind the tub. This aids in scaling the huge climbs found in Las Cruces.
Width: Although we saw plenty of Jeeps with full-width axles, these were often a hindrance on tight obstacles. Narrower vehicles had better line selection and could turn tighter.
Tire size: Bigger tires make for smaller rocks, and most vehicles running the extreme trails at the Chile Challenge had 42-inch or larger bias-ply tires with heavy sidewalls. The rocks are sharp.
Gearing: Technical sections of the trails required low gearing to keep from slipping off the proper line, particularly when the vehicle was equipped with a manual transmission.
Motor: Even 100:1 gearing won't get you up a dry fall that's taller than your Jeep. In these situations, a little momentum is needed to crest the obstacle, so the quicker you can generate wheelspeed, the better.
Sheetmetal: If you value straight sheetmetal, then Las Cruces is probably not for you. The only vehicles we saw unscathed had liberal body armor from front to back. Most owners just cut off anything deemed unnecessary.