Our 2001 ColdButt Campout was again a fun trip. We had at least 22 vehicles show up at the starting point. Vehicles filled the small park where we met, south of Palmer Lake. Several locals came over to enjoy looking at the vehicles.
Vehicles included 6 Unimogs (a U-1200, a rare 404 DOKA, and 4 404's). The Pinzgauer club had a great turnout with 10 or 12 710M's. Also part of the start of the trip: a Suzuki, Toyota PU, Jeep Wrangler, and a Jeep Cherokee.
The snow was not nearly as deep as expected. Apparently most of the snow received by Denver in the past week somehow bypassed Palmer Lake and the lower trail. The drive up Mt. Herman Road (MHR) gave us no trouble.
With reasonable snow depths this year, the decision was made to take some more difficult trails. Road 322A offers some steeper trails, a stream crossing (frozen over) and nice scenery. The trail had been driven by one vehicle earlier that day so we were even following tracks when we turned off MHR onto FR 322A.
After a few stops to chat and snack, we came to the turn toward the upper (Palmer Lake?) Reservoir. Snow was deeper at this elevation, and the road trends down the mountain, rather steeply in places, so several stops were made to check the road ahead. We had not yet committed to chaining up and didn't want to drop off a hill on which we could not control our descent or that we could not climb on return. Snow depth was probably 8 inches average, with drifts to well over a foot.
Not willing to turn back, we kept driving, and the road continued to get steeper, going downhill. Even driving downhill was becoming tricky, and two vehicles drifted off the trail at particularly slick spots. Use of full locks for traction has the serious side effect of causing sideslip. We now knew we'd need chains for the return trip uphill.
There was one switchback which required several forward/back cycles for the larger Unimog vehicles. That was followed by a steeper hill with slick bottomed drainages which sucked vehicles toward the low side of the road. One Unimog found out how poorly the H pattern MIL tires are in ice, and with locked diffs. It slid down hill into a drainage instead of making forward progress. Another 404 got a little sideways and off the road, but recovered on his own.
The head of the convoy had reached the bottom when we heard of the stucks. Bernard chained up his U-1200 and headed back up the road, and I followed in the 404 radio truck with chains on all four. One of the stuck vehicles had been able to extract itself earlier, and another required a tug from Bernard's U-1200 with it's Werner winch. That big truck made the extraction of a 404 Unimog back up a steep bank look so easy!
After we all returned to the parking area at the reservoir, this looked like a nice camping spot. The group split up and the campers stayed behind while the remainder of the offroaders chained up and headed back up the trail to go home. Three Unimog 404 radio trucks and 9 or 10 Pinzgauers stayed to camp.
The temperature was dropping as the sun went down. A nice fire was started so we could warm up one side at a time.
The low temp for the night was around 20 deg F. That was 20 degrees warmer than last year. The group was well prepared and we enjoyed the evening around the fire.
Next morning we lazed around camp until well after 0900, then headed back up the hill. With chains on every vehicle, the climb out of the valley went well. Only a few stops later, we arrived at Rampart Range Road. Several people needed to head for home, so the group split up again. Several of us decided to drive south to Woodland Park, then back north on Hwy 67 and across the foothills to Sedalia.