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Crawling up a Sheer Cliff - Strange But True

Posted in How To on June 1, 2001
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Photographers: The 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff
This is where the fighting started. Too many people had a really hard time accepting the fact that Anthony Montoya actually scaled this ledge. It took a few tries, lots of throttle, and probably one pair of underwear, but he finally made it to the top with lots of front-tire lifting. This is where the fighting started. Too many people had a really hard time accepting the fact that Anthony Montoya actually scaled this ledge. It took a few tries, lots of throttle, and probably one pair of underwear, but he finally made it to the top with lots of front-tire lifting.
The entrance to upper Helldorado in Moab, Utah, only hints at what’s to come. Still, the first series of big boulders acts as a filter, letting only the prepared through. There’s more ways to get hopelessly stuck here than you can dream up. The boulders are big, tightly spaced, and almost round. It’s like trying to drive on monstrous bowling balls. The entrance to upper Helldorado in Moab, Utah, only hints at what’s to come. Still, the first series of big boulders acts as a filter, letting only the prepared through. There’s more ways to get hopelessly stuck here than you can dream up. The boulders are big, tightly spaced, and almost round. It’s like trying to drive on monstrous bowling balls.
We once took friends who don’t wheel to the entrance of Jackhammer in Johnson Valley. They asked where the real trail was. Some just can’t comprehend that vehicles can traverse big huge boulders and ravines. Here, Jon Bundrant squeezed Project Rock Truggy into a place it doesn’t quite fit on the newly opened Big Johnson trail. He dinged the paint a bit, but drove it through. We once took friends who don’t wheel to the entrance of Jackhammer in Johnson Valley. They asked where the real trail was. Some just can’t comprehend that vehicles can traverse big huge boulders and ravines. Here, Jon Bundrant squeezed Project Rock Truggy into a place it doesn’t quite fit on the newly opened Big Johnson trail. He dinged the paint a bit, but drove it through.
Lots of times we’ll come across vehicles on top of things we’d swear you needed a helicopter to get to. Pushing the laws of physics to their limits is becoming commonplace. With vehicle suspension, gearing, and tire design evolving so rapidly, we’re almost scared to think of what’s next. Consider that this photo was snapped less than two years ago and Rod Pepper’s Jeep is almost considered “old school” by today’s standards. Scary, but oh so cool. Lots of times we’ll come across vehicles on top of things we’d swear you needed a helicopter to get to. Pushing the laws of physics to their limits is becoming commonplace. With vehicle suspension, gearing, and tire design evolving so rapidly, we’re almost scared to think of what’s next. Consider that this photo was snapped less than two years ago and Rod Pepper’s Jeep is almost considered “old school” by today’s standards. Scary, but oh so cool.
OK, this one is a pretty hard climb on foot. It’s a tight vertical squeeze that requires near-perfect tire placement. Although it doesn’t show in this photo, there’s a good-sized hole underneath the passenger-side rear tire. Let the front tires slip off on either side and it’s tumble-city. OK, this one is a pretty hard climb on foot. It’s a tight vertical squeeze that requires near-perfect tire placement. Although it doesn’t show in this photo, there’s a good-sized hole underneath the passenger-side rear tire. Let the front tires slip off on either side and it’s tumble-city.
Vehicles line up at the bottom of Potato Salad Hill in Moab and spectators at the top make odds like Vegas bookies as to whether or not they’ll make it. It’s a series of off-camber vertical ledges that pivot and toss vehicles from side-to-side. Not to mention the fact that it’s all covered in a fine layer of dirt. We’ve seen more than one person take a digger on foot and quite a lot of rollovers, but a good number of people climb it no problemo. Vehicles line up at the bottom of Potato Salad Hill in Moab and spectators at the top make odds like Vegas bookies as to whether or not they’ll make it. It’s a series of off-camber vertical ledges that pivot and toss vehicles from side-to-side. Not to mention the fact that it’s all covered in a fine layer of dirt. We’ve seen more than one person take a digger on foot and quite a lot of rollovers, but a good number of people climb it no problemo.
Las Cruces, New Mexico, is home to some really cool waterfalls. A few years ago, these were considered extreme. Now guys are running them in fullsizes with mild lifts. Regardless of that, they’re still gnarly and pretty spooky the first time you drive one. Think trying to drive up a raised drawbridge and you begin to get the idea. Las Cruces, New Mexico, is home to some really cool waterfalls. A few years ago, these were considered extreme. Now guys are running them in fullsizes with mild lifts. Regardless of that, they’re still gnarly and pretty spooky the first time you drive one. Think trying to drive up a raised drawbridge and you begin to get the idea.
OK, you got us. We’re pretty sure nobody has driven the last waterfall of Upper Helldorado in Moab without pulling the winch cable. It’s just plain vertical. Upper Helldorado is one of the most punishing trails we’ve found. If anyone out there can drive it without assistance, let us know. We’d like to see that one for ourselves. OK, you got us. We’re pretty sure nobody has driven the last waterfall of Upper Helldorado in Moab without pulling the winch cable. It’s just plain vertical. Upper Helldorado is one of the most punishing trails we’ve found. If anyone out there can drive it without assistance, let us know. We’d like to see that one for ourselves.
Super-hard stuff isn’t only ascents. In fact, it’s often harder and scarier to descend obstacles. You can go down the hard stuff, but it’s never a really good feeling, especially in near vertical, super-soft, and crumbly terrain such as this. Super-hard stuff isn’t only ascents. In fact, it’s often harder and scarier to descend obstacles. You can go down the hard stuff, but it’s never a really good feeling, especially in near vertical, super-soft, and crumbly terrain such as this.

It all started with the cover image of the Jan. 2000 issue of 4-Wheel & Off-Road. In case you don’t remember, that was the maroon YJ you’ll find at right scaling what seems to be a sheer cliff. Everyone we spoke to said, “There’s no way that Jeep made it up that.” Well, guess what. It did make it up there and more than once. But just the sheer fact that so many thought we were full of it for saying so was enough to get the wheels turning.

Since we’re often immersed in the gnarlier side of the four-wheeling lifestyle, we sometimes forget that a portion of our readers has never had the opportunity to check out some of the really bad obstacles around the country in person. So, we’re giving you a vignette of some of the nastiest stuff out there. And it’s actually driveable. Honest. People make it up this stuff. We’ve seen it. Now you can too.

Art Director’s Note In case you thought we were trying to pull a fast one, no photo trickery or retouching was performed on any of the subjects in this story. We noted whenever the camera had been turned by the photographer to provide a more extreme angle and corrected each of these instances to provide a natural, level horizon.

While it’s true we sometimes rotate shots to add impact on the cover, every vehicle you see here is reproduced at the same angle experienced by its driver and allowed by Earth’s gravity. —Alan Huber

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