With winter on the West Coast and unusually cold weather starting to break, I felt it was time to get into the bush again and do some exploring in an area I haven’t visited for a few years. The wifey and kiddo’s would be staying home, but I convinced a buddy Andrew and my 12 year old brother-in-law Levi to come along for a winter camp. Although we easily could have fit all our gear in the Sequoia, I decided to tow the Kakadu trailer along to get a feel for it while off road in snowy conditions. It also makes for a comfortable camp area should the winds pick up, and considering we’d be hanging around with the temp dropping to -9.
Andrew is a relatively newcomer to the off road camping/overlanding thing although he has experience dirt biking and tent-touring on his motorcycle and has plans to get into a Toyota 4×4 this Spring. He is a bit of a wild-man and is always up for an adventure. Levi, despite his young age, is a cold-weather camping veteran thanks to all the fall hunting trips he’s attended from a young age. Levi can suffer without complaining and is always able to lend a hand.
We loaded up and quickly decided the first theme of this trip would be to see who would slip and fall the hardest. We were slipping and sliding all over the shop driveway while loading up and having a good laugh at each other.
With snow still on the ground in the Fraser Valley, we knew we’d be heading into full winter conditions once we hit gravel and started heading further inland. It quickly got dark and after picking up some last minute essentials, we were in 4WD and aired down to 25psi before we knew it.
Lucky for us, Harrison West FSR was plowed and there was a sign cautioning of active log hauling going on. We, however, hadn’t seen one vehicle since leaving pavement. In the summer this is a popular road with heavier traffic – on this winter evening it was a ghost town. The full moon came up across the lake and combined with the snow, it was bright enough to walk around without any light. We also caught glimpses of the lake down below, the moonlight reflecting off the surface. It was a classic winter scene.
The rough plan to was to explore the area, cut up some dead-fall and have a big warm fire after finding a place to camp. We tried exploring some spur roads to find a camp spot and that’s where things derailed. We drove up and over a snow bank to an area of deep snow and all was fine until a tire dropped in a hole. After airing down to 18psi, digging with the shovel and utilizing the TREDs (Ironman version of Maxtrax), we were able to back up enough to get close to the plowed road. We then detached the trailer and was able to reverse the rest of the way. The recovery took approximately one hour and it was pretty fun.
After making it out we went down to a lower elevation with less snow and drove over the snowbank yet again to access an untouched clearing to set up camp. The snowbank was extra thick with the rear portion being much older and made up of ice blocks. The ice caused the trailer to high-centre which effectively acted as an anchor, getting the truck stuck again. We dug out the ice chunks and used the hi-lift to raise the truck and slip the TREDs under the tires. After making slow progress we detached the trailer yet again and pulled out the winch for a pull. Winch points in the clearing were few and far between. The first attempt – a large log frozen in the snow, came loose fairly easily. The second attempt, a washing machine-sized boulder partially buried, also came loose and wasn’t of any help. The solution was to extend the winch line using my recovery strap, which allowed us to use a buried couch-sized boulder which was beyond the reach of the 100 ft cable. The boulder held firm and I was able to pull myself forward. We then filled in the holes/ruts I left behind and made a fluid ramp using the TRED’s to re-align the truck and make a final dash in reverse. With the 4.7L roaring and snow flying off all four of the duratrac treads, the Sequoia was finally back out on the plowed road! Unfortunately no pictures here as all three of us were working hard in the -9 degree air and were all focused on getting unstuck. It was good for Levi to be involved in the teamwork and decision making, and Andrew enjoyed the challenge of utilizing various tools to solve the recovery problem.
After a bit more exploration, we found some wood to buck up and pulled into a snowy open area with even less snow to set up camp. We had a 3am BBQ and set up the Kakadu tent, getting to bed at 0400. The tent is 12×8 so plenty room for three people. The morning brought multiple cups of coffee, toasted bagels and cinnamon buns. Everyone slept well and stayed warm in proper winter bags.
Levi made a fire on his own and we lazed about for the morning, just enjoying relaxing after the previous evening’s work. At about 0500 hrs empty logging trucks were blasting up the road.
After a few hours it was time to pack up and we stopped to snap some photos on the way out. We waited for a logging truck to head down and followed it out as the road was only one lane wide in places.
It was a great quick 24-hour getaway and was nice to knock the rust off the recovery techniques and to get some practice in. This was the first time I had to use the winch to recover my own truck, as it was only previously used on other stuck vehicles and projects. Sometimes, even with fancy gear like a winch, locking differential or traction aids, the tried and true shovel still proves its worth. Soon after returning home, we did pick up an extended recovery strap to make things easier next time. All three of us agreed – it was a BLAST and we were looking forward to the next trip. By the way… we brought two shovels and used them both, a LOT.