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Have You Ever Had A Minor Off-Road Problem That Escalated?

Firing Order: Tell us how you applied your off-road problem-solving skills to handle the issue.

Have you ever been in an off-road situation that started out with a minor issue but then it ballooned into a much larger situation?

I think we've all been there. Sometimes these things happen quickly, and other times it worsens in slow motion. Maybe it was a stuck that appeared to only need an easy pull, but during the recovery your 4x4 changed position in a bad way and it became more complicated. Or maybe it was a seemingly minor mechanical issue that was just a precursor to a much larger problem.

Minor Things That Become Issues

I've been in situations where minor problems ballooned in size, including one time above the tree line on a shelf trail in Colorado when the small rockslide turned into a much bigger rockslide. Or that time in New England on a snow run when a rig broke and then another rig broke, and then another, resulting in some late night/early morning trail welding. Or that time in Alaska when the trail was blocked and backing down the really long, narrow trail was the only option.

That Time Colorado Rain Turned To Snow

Another situation that started out minor but worsened was the time I drove a stock S-10 Blazer over Imogene Pass in Colorado—in a snowstorm. It was like the ol' frog in hot water analogy where I didn't realize until too late that things had degraded to an uncomfortable level. It took place 20-plus years ago when the young me needed to get from Ouray to Telluride. The younger me didn't want to do the long paved highway route from town to town, so a hop over Imogene Pass seemed like the way to go. I had done the trail numerous times and was very comfortable with it.

This is the Chevy S-10 Blazer that made the trek over Imogene Pass 20-plus years ago. This photo was taken a couple days later on a different pass.

The drive started out quite nice with the sound of light rain falling on the Blazer and the tires splashing through puddles, while cool mountain air sneaked in through the Blazer's slightly open window. As altitude increased, so did the wind, and soon I had to close the window. Shortly after, the rain changed to snow. My keen meteorological mind of my younger days concluded that it appeared the storm wasn't one big storm but smaller cells, and the snow would soon stop. That conclusion was incorrect. But hey, no prob.

It wasn't that bad. Visibility was good, there were other 4x4s on the trail, and as a fulltime semi-truck driver I drove in snow, even whiteouts, at home in Illinois. Besides, I could see tire tracks in the snow, so there was a 4x4 ahead of me. But very slowly, things escalated. Soon the snow increased in intensity, the wind was screaming, and visibility was poor. The young me seriously contemplated reversing course, but safely turning around wasn't an option due to low visibility and the narrow trail. I slowly inched that stock Blazer over the pass with sweaty palms, knowing unseen steep drop-offs were everywhere.

Snow Back to Rain

This story has an anticlimactic ending. As I dropped in altitude near Telluride, the snow changed to rain, and all was good. I recall passing a couple modified 4x4s that were headed up toward the pass. During our quick chat they were surprised to learn the little stock Blazer had made it over the pass on the snowy trail.

That Time In Iceland

This story is also far different than when two Four Wheeler staffers were stranded in 4x4s for days during a blizzard in Iceland. The blizzard wouldn't stop, but most of the 4x4s engines did. That was a situation where things escalated in a big way, but that's another story for another time.

What Say You?

Have you ever had a minor off-road issue escalate into a bigger off-road problem? Maybe it was a suspicious drivetrain noise that ended up leading to a disabled rig. Or a trail that kept getting more challenging until it became clear it was over your rig's capability level. Or maybe it began with a simple stuck that deteriorated when your rig's sector shaft snapped (I know, this example is a bit specific, but I've seen that happen a few times). Please email your story to ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com, and include how you utilized your off-road problem-solving skills. If you have a photo, please send that, too.

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