Slaughterhouse Gulch has been a great trail for late fall runs or early spring runs, always with a good chance that there might be some snow. The trail is usually passable, though. This time we were trying the trail in mid-January looking for more of a challenge, and we found it. The weather cooperated nicely with several heavy snowstorms in the mountains in the weeks before our run, and there was a good chance that there would be significant amounts of snow on the trail. Reports were that the trail was blocked with deep drifts the weekend before.
We headed out to the trailhead with multiple Jeeps on tires ranging from 33 inches to 37 inches. Everyone had a winch and plenty of recovery gear. We aired down at the trailhead and started on the trail before 9AM. The early start would turn out to be a good idea.
The first part of the trail was plowed, so there was no challenge and we made good time. Very soon, though, the plow turned off up a private road and we were into the deeper snow. There were tracks ahead of us but none of them were fresh, as there had been a snow since the last group had gone through.
We went through the clearings, skipping the Poser Rock this time. Soon we came to the uphill section through the trees before the cattle guard and the meadow. There were no tracks up this section and we were breaking fresh trail. With Jeff's Jeep on 37s in the lead, we were still making good time although we needed to make several attempts to get through the deeper snow in some places. Just before the cattle guard before starting the long, downhill stretch, even the Jeep on 37s bogged down as the snow was deep enough to pile up in front of Jeff's axles and pack in under his skid plates. After several attempts to bash trough the last drift, we broke out the winch cables and tree straps. Everyone needed their winch to get through the last 40 feet of the drift.
After pausing at the top to regroup, we headed down the hill. Given that the trail drops about 1,000 feet and we would need to get back up out of that valley, we knew we could be headed into a situation where the winches would be necessary. We made it about a half-mile down the hill before we got to an off camber section with deep snow, and the drifts were over three feet deep. Jeff was breaking trail and he slid sideways to the right and stopped next to some trees. After trying to drive out of the situation and breaking his tail light in the process, it was time to start winching again.
This time, it would take two winches to get Jeff going forward again. Jeff hooked his winch up to a tree strap around a tree down the trail and we ran a second winch line through a snatch block and to Jeff's rear bumper to pull him back to the center of the trail and off the trees.
Once Jeff was clear, Aaron made a run at the same spot. Although he didn't slide off of the trail, he still needed to winch through the deep snow. After that, we all had to winch. There were many places where the Jeeps on 33-inch tires were riding on their frames and skid plates, but the Jeeps did quite well most of the time. Even Dane on his 35-inch tires had a lot of snow packed under him and in front of him quite often.
We found ourselves in a situation where we were winching our way downhill and deeper into the trail, and we began to realize the amount of work ahead of us. We had a brief conference about our options at that point. We could turn around or go forward. We had now been on the trail over six hours and we were about halfway through, with the steep uphill section still ahead of us. Knowing that we would need to winch a half-mile out if we turned around, we opted to continue on down the trail.
We hit a few more deep drifts in open areas on our way to the bottom, but we were all able to get through with minimal winching. We were soon at the clearing at the bottom of the large hill with the big whoopdeedoos. To our relief, there was less snow on the uphill section. Although it was slick, we were all able to climb the hill without winching. Now things were looking better! We were able to make good progress by maintaining momentum. Roger did slide off the trail in one spot, straddling a log that he had to winch off of to keep going. Mike slid into one corner and bounced hard off of a big log. Luckily, his bumper and tube fenders took the impact without damage.
Once at the top of the uphill section, we were again seeing the tracks of someone that had run that part of the trail before the last snow. The rest of the way out was uneventful and we were back at the trailhead and airing up before dark. We were all glad to be off the trail and heading to our warm homes.
Reports from Other Days: 14
Use the arrows or dots to flip through the previews of the other reports for Slaughterhouse Gulch. Click one of them to read more and see all of the photos from that day.