Jay Couch and Melba Izquerdo / 406 with front end loader
Randolf Denney and son Brad
Kelvin Kurkowski and son Zak / U1250 with front end loader and rear snow cutter
Ron DePugh / 404.1 VLF Fire Tender
Kent Drummond / 404.1 hardtop with Swiss bed
Dan Smith and Tadeo Luna / 404.0
Once again our annual effort to reach the summit of Mt. Evans was an enjoyable outing for all participants, not counting some mechanical mishaps to some of the Unimogs, but more about that later in the report.
I left Cheyenne on Friday night after work to head down to Echo Lab, which is located at the base of the Mt. Evans road. Not to say it was windy or anything, but there were two 18-wheelers on their left sides in the median of I-25 before I got to the Wyoming-Colorado border, and another on it's side in the median about five miles south of the Colorado border. For the most part it was a tail wind, which helped me immensely, so I was able to maintain a comfortable cruising speed of 55 mph most of the time.
Just south of Ft. Collins I got a call from Ron DePugh, so we made arrangements to meet in Boulder for dinner and then caravan the rest of the way up to Echo Lab. Dinner was leisurely, so we didn't get to Echo Lab until almost 11:00 p.m. Dan Smith and his friend, Tadeo Luna were already there, having arrived in Dan's 404.0 DOKA with the diesel conversion. Dr. Stencel had a fire going in the wood stove, so we sat around catching up on everyone's adventures from the previous year and finally turned in for the night.
Up at 7:00 a.m. for breakfast. About 7:30 Kelvin Kurkowski, son Zak, and friend Randy Denney and his son Brad (Ft. Collins), arrived in Kelvin's U-1250. The U-1250 was outfitted with a front end loader and rear mounted, PTO driven, twin prop snow blower. The two attachments nearly doubled the length of the Unimog. Arriving at the same time was Jay Couch and his girlfriend Melba Izquerdo, in Jay's 406 with huge Ag tires and front end loader.
Dr. Stencel had all the new arrivals sign the mandatory high altitude waivers and briefed everyone on the necessity to drink lots of water and watch one another for signs of high altitude sickness. Folks aren't aware of the effects of rapid changes in altitude, especially when there's physical exertion involved, such as shoveling snow. Echo Lab is at 10,600' elevation, and the summit of the mountain is 14,123', so the effects are pretty dramatic on people who aren't acclimatized to high altitudes.
Unfortunately, Dan Smith's diesel DOKA wouldn't start, so we abandoned it and loaded Dan and Tadeo into other vehicles, which had space. We got through the entry gate about 9:30 a.m., and started up the mountain. Customary pictures of all the mogs were taken at the entry gate before heading through the gate.
Jay's 406 with front end loader.
It was an absolutely glorious Colorado day, cloudless sky and no wind at all. There was a little snow on the road below timberline, but nothing like the depths we've encountered in previous years. My new Continental MPT80's seemed to provide plenty of traction.
As we rose above timberline we had a wonderful view of Echo Lake 1300’ below us. As we rounded the corner at mile marker 3.75, we entered a stretch of road, which is on the northwest side and pretty much in shadow all the time. This was our first stretch of drifted snow. I was in the lead and did fairly well until I got into crusted snow which the tires just couldn't chew through. With the Swiss cargo bed on my truck being empty, I just don't have enough weight over the rear axle to give me drive traction, so the front axle just bounces in the crusty snow.
Kelvin starts out clearing a place to turn around.
Kelvin gets serious about moving some snow.
The snowcutter makes a clear path.
Jay Couch went ahead with his big Ag tires and was able to make better progress, but he kind of floated over the crusty snow, so when I tried to follow, I still broke through. At this point, Kelvin turned the U-1250 around and proceeded to back into the snow. Although the snow was hard, there wasn't any ice in it at this point, so he was able to make good progress. After about ½ mile, we caught up to Jay, who was kind of floundering because the deep snow kept freezing his pressure relief valve open, causing him to lose his differential locks. Once Kelvin got past Jay, they matched front end loaders, so Jay was able to help push the blower into the hard snow. Essentially, providing 8WD traction for the blower.
Jay helps with the traction.
At mm 4.4, the road makes a transition over to a southern exposure, so it was clear for a while. In the process of Kelvin turning the U-1250 around, we heard a loud CRACK and knew there was something wrong. He had forgotten to disengage the diff locks and with all that weight on dry pavement, ended up breaking something in the front axle, which reduced him to three wheel drive.
For the next mile, the road was either clear or drifted but with about 18" dry pavement on the down side, so we were able to maintain traction with the driver's side wheels, while the passenger side was on the hard snow. The tilt angle didn't seem to be too bad, although I think Ron DePugh said his tilt-o-meter registered 30° at one point.
At mm 5.6, we encountered a huge drift across the hairpin turn that swings the road back around to the west.
Coming up on the next snowbank.
Kelvin starts with the snow cutter.
Jay helps push into the hard snow.
Kelvin cuts into the snowbank.
Kelvin attempted to clear it with the blower, but the snow was just too hard, so Jay worked on it for about ½ hour with the front end loader.
Jay breaks up the hard snow and moves it.
It was so hard that when he'd ram into it, the 406 would just stop cold, with no perceptive motion of the snow at all. He'd lift with the hydraulics and break out cubic yard sized chunks of snow. Unfortunately, one of the impacts jarred his passenger door open, so when he backed up the door caught in the snowdrift and was ripped right off the cab.
The door of the 406 after the roadside repair.
The door didn't appear to be damaged, but the hinge pins were gone, so Jay got out a ratchet strap and we lashed the door back into place.
Jay clears some more snow.
Jay continued to scoop with the bucket and eventually got enough cleared that the rest of us were able to get around the corner.
The highway was clear for a little way and Lincoln Lake looked very cold nearly 800' vertical directly below us. At mm 6.1, we came to our next long stretch where snow was drifted across the road. This is an area of total southern exposure and the snow had gone through many freeze-thaw cycles, so there was about 3" of clear ice at the road level. The blower couldn't even begin to back into the hardness of the snow, and the front end loader on Jay's 406 had equal difficulty. We thought we might be able to shovel off a clear edge where we might be able to get traction, so that was our effort for about an hour. The snow was too hard, even for the shovels, and the drift angle was too much to make it worth trying.
Jay attempts the last stretch. Check out the angle of that slope!
Jay gave it one attempt, but even his youth and daring-do lost out to the ol' pucker factor.
It was about 1:00 p.m. by then and the weather was cooling down a bit, so we decided to call it a good try and head back down to Echo Lab for lunch.
The large boulder.
Just before we departed, a boulder about 2.5' in diameter dislodged from the hillside above us and came crashing down, stopping about five feet from my right front wheel.
The wind took Kent's hat down the hill, and he had to retrieve it.
Most of the group; Jay, Kelvin, Ron, Dan, Kent, Randolf, Brad and Tadeo.
I'd like to say the trip out was uneventful, and it was for the most part with one exception. Jay hit one of the snowdrifts a little too hard and the bounce was sufficient to distort his cab, causing his windshield to suffer a series of vertical cracks from top to bottom on both sides of the curved surface. The weatherstrip on the bottom popped out and the windshield was free at the bottom. Other than that, we returned to Echo Lab with no problems.
There was a troop of Boy Scouts on an outing at Echo Lab when we returned, and they were all very interested in the Unimogs. Kelvin gave a great history of the Unimog and then provided rides for all the kids who wanted to go. While this was going on, Jay and Dan were working on Dan's diesel DOKA to try to get it to start, but to no avail. His batteries gave out, so both the 406 and U-1250 were hooked up to the 404.0 with jumper cables, but still nothing. We packed up our gear, said good-byes and departed with Dan being towed by Jay. I heard from Dan this morning and it seems his truck started in about ½ mile of towing and he was able to drive it on back to Denver with no trouble.
Even though we didn't make it to the summit this time, it was still a great outing. At the moment, we've scheduled Mt. Evans #13 for Halloween weekend 2005, so mark your calendars and plan on joining us. If it looks like we can make a successful trip to the summit, Dr. Stencel is willing to open up the telescope for some incredible viewing of the solar system, and we'll plan on an overnight on the summit for the hardy (foolhardy?) among us.
Map of Mt. Evans attempt #12. Click on the map for a large map.