Near incident on Mt Cheam road.

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Out in the shop, building something cool!
Aug 29, 2007
Grand Forks, BC
We had near incident yesterday. I thought I'd share it since there might be something to be learned from what we had done right, and what we learned that might make a challenging situation go better.

I actually was thinking of Sass through parts of this, and am very grateful for how my situation turned out. It could have been disastrous.

We were on the road up the backside of Mt. Cheam, up the Chilliwack River Valley with some friends in a Suzuki Sidekick. Each truck had two adults and 3 kids in it. The conditions were not great, with about 2" of snow on top of ice. The truck was slipping a bit, so I aired down to 15psi. Several hundred meters after airing down I wasn't able to make it up the approach to a cross-ditch and slid backwards down the road 20 feet or more. We decided at that point to play it safe and turn around to head back down.

Not long after turning around to head down the truck started to slide. I was going down in low range, first gear, letting engine braking keep us slow, not using the brakes. The slide was taking us towards a very large embankment which was a very scary direction to be heading. Pumping the brakes was doing nothing to gain control. In hindsight a shot of throttle might have helped to regain control, but at the time that seemed like a sure way to go over the edge. The tires found a small bit of traction right at the edge of the road, with the passenger's front tire starting to drop over. With the truck finally stopped and my foot HARD on the brake pedal we had to sort out what to do next. I was pretty positive that any attempts to drive it out would put us over the edge.

A plan was quickly hatched, and my wife got out and got on the business end of the winch cable. I spooled it out as she took it across the road and climbed up an embankment on the opposite side and wrapped it around a tree that was perpendicular to the front of the truck. She has never helped with a recovery but kept her cool, and followed my instructions to a tee. I kept the brakes on hard as I spooled the winch in, pulling the front of the truck back onto the road. It was slippery enough that the truck slid sideways across the road until I was able to roll forwards and get it pointed towards the ditch on the safe side of the road. Once I had determined that I had some traction we pulled the cable off the tree and I drove the truck into the ditch, figuring that would be the safest way to get down the hill. I drove the ditch down until the road flattened out, and even then stayed close to the ditch for the rest of the way out.

Lessons learned:
-We had decided to head back once we realized how poor the conditions were. Yet it was on our retreat that things went bad.
-I was already aired down, and yet still had practically zero traction. Airing down helps, but only chains on all four would have really worked on this icy and snowy road.
-Everyone in the truck stayed (relatively) calm when we realized we were in trouble. It was a situation that required that we make a plan fast, and work quickly to get us back into a safe situation.
-I have my winch wired with in-cab controls. This was a massive help as we didn't have to open the back to get the controller which would have eaten up time. If I didn't have the in-cab controls I would take this as a reminder that even when doing some low-key wheeling it is good practice to have the controller hooked up and ready to go at the start of the trail.
-I have no idea how I would have gotten us out of this predicament if I didn't have a winch...
-Because I was more concerned with getting to safety than I was about the condition of the tree, I decided to wrap the cable directly around the tree. In the future I will consider keeping a tree saver strap and shackle in the cab for easy access.
-I was pleased to have another adult in the truck so I could stay in the drivers seat while the helper hooked up the cable (the other people we were with were ahead of us, and not aware of what was going on yet). Also if things had really gotten bad we were not alone. There was another truck to go get help.
-The Land Cruiser is a heavy truck, and once it starts to slide its very hard to get it back.

I posted this in the hopes that something here may help someone else stay out of trouble or get out of it more easily. If anyone has any suggestions or comments I'd be interested to hear them.
i know the feeling. nice to walk away. conditions are crazy out there. now you got a nice story to tell. gladd all is good.
Glad it worked out Jason. Very scary indeed. Did you evacuate your kids until you were pulled over or did they stay in their seats?
Chuck a five'er of sand in the back for winter, you'd be surprised how useful a handfull here and there can be . glad this wasn't a repeat recovery. I wont even push a car by hand anymore if its on or making ice, chuck a handlefull of gravel under and watch the show.
Thanks Sass. We both got a story now. I like mine better. Less exciting...

Rob, the kids stayed buckled in their seats. I'm still undecided with hindsight if I did the right thing or if we should have gotten them out. It was WAY faster to keep them in for the recovery. Once I had the truck stopped I was a little more confident that we'd stay on the road. Once the winch line was hooked up then I could start breathing again...

George, the sand idea is good. I may get a bag and stick it in there.
every situation is different. my passenger was out and that proved to save his life and very likely mine. at the end of the day, our outcome was very lucky.
Same thing happened to us on our New Years Day run. One fellow was in a BJ70 on the way out. After the sunny daytime heating, now going home with the roads refreezing, the road was glare ice. This fellow had not aired down through the day. I was told speed at the time was 40 kmh, quite respectable. The only slower speed would to have been stopped. He spun and slid slowly until he was precariously hanging his right rear over a very step drop. I hooked a winch line the front, and Rob hooked up to his front rear spring hangar. My concern was the back would slip over, causing a potential roll over. It was unlikely, but still a concern.
I see all of your concerns, but you were prepared and had your own stuff organized.
Bad can happen really fast. Glad you got out all okay. Winter wheeling is fun, but different
Someone posted this on my Facebook page where I have the same writeup of the story. Very helpful advice for anyone in a similar situation without a winch:

Without a winch another good option when traveling downhill would be to anchor yourself from the back tow hook with a strap (chain, tow rope ect.) angled to a tree on the safe side of the trail. Then turn your wheels the same way and accelerate forward. This will cause a pendulum effect bringing the vehichle away from danger
I hit an ice patch last month doing 80kmh in 2wd and as I slid across the oncoming lane towards the cement barrier, I thought "huh." When you have loved ones onboard a helluva lot more goes thru your mind. As I mentioned on facebook, when things were dicey in winter wheeling I'm down to 5 - 7 psi for maximum patch contact. 15psi vs 7psi is 42% greater contact patch per tire. Wondering what others air down to in extreme conditions like this? Super glad everyone's okay - big sigh of relief for you guys.
Very happy to hear you made it home safe. It's amazing how often winter driving, even on paved roads, can turn nasty, never mind on the trail. I keep seeing posts on crackbook of people getting stuck and having to call others for help, just proves how many people don't have even basic recovery gear. We have a dangerous road conditions due to the moisture so being overly prepared is not a bad thing. I hate that powerless feeling of being along for the ride and not being able to do anything about it. I've had a bit of that on the trails but the worst one was coming through Jasper at night, the entire road was black ice, by the time I noticed it I was going downhill doing 50km (since there was snow), the rear Detroit locker made things much worse and it took me about a kilometer to finally get the truck to stop without the back end passing me. I was lucky the road only curved slightly. The 3 SUVs and one Semi I encountered after were less lucky as they all ended up in either the ditch of the divider. I decided to stay in second gear for the rest of the night.
Thanks everyone for your suggestions and comments. I've learned some very useful stuff as a result of the discussions this post brought about.

Be safe everyone!
one think i like to point out is that airing down in ice is not always the right thing to do and all depends on the condtions. if there is snow on top, sure air down to float on top of the snow but once you hit ice, what is best is to put full pressure to either crush or dig into it. thats what chains do; they increase surface pressure to the point of digging into the ice.
There has always been an argument over airing down on hard packed snow and ice. I don't air down on hard pack snow and ice. It decreases the pressure on the surface and causes less traction. The only safe way to deal with hard packed snow and ice is studded tires or chains (V bar is best). You have all heard may say it before regarding winter tires and especially studded tires. Airing down is great for soft snow when you have a chance of staying on top, like the Arctic trucks in Iceland. Otherwise you want to maximize the lbs/square inch to keep traction.

We had a similar situation some years ago on a Cheam family run. I just happened to have on the stock JDM winter tires (well siped) that came with my truck. Personally, I will keep with the silly extra expense of studded tires. It is cheap insurance for our most precious cargo.

Glad no one got hurt.
John for off road use, the best type of chain is a sort of H pattern or for lack of better term, a set up that also has diagnal pattern. the typical v bar ladder chain we see here is realy just junk carbon steal. sadly we are retarded in north america and i dont know of any manufactures that make anything good ( just like everything else domestic realy). Rud is one of the leaders in chain technology but there are some realy awesome other manufacutres from Erope as well. particularly from finland and austria. i rock a set of pewags. too bad i didnt take them when s*** hit the fan.
I would say in the conditions I was in that air pressure made virtually no difference. I aired down from 45psi to 15psi and didn't feel that I had any more or less traction. I'm sure 7psi wouldn't have helped. The ice under the snow was also somewhat thick and hard. There was no breaking through it except with chains.

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