Well.. Today was interesting..
We got to the trailhead we had a new guy (John) pull up in a stock Grand Vitara, he found out about the run on Facebook, he’s not on the Zuks of Arizona forum, just saw it on Facebook and decided to show up, cool, I guess we’re getting some new members that want to wheel that way. I talked to him for a bit turns out he wheeled a bunch before, and had done the Crown King trail a number of times in his blazer, with coilovers, dana 60’s, basically the works, sounded like he knows how to build his own cars and knows how to drive them, at that point I wasn’t too concerned that he was over his head. Apparently he picked up the grand vitara for $300 bucks, did a timing chain and is going to lift it, do bumpers, bigger tires, and all that stuff. He said his friend in a Titan was going to be joining us, I thought well this ought to be interesting. Then we had Bobby pull up, then John’s friend in the Titan, turns out he did the trail a year ago, so I wasn’t too concerned with him being over his head, then Bobby’s friend friend Greg pulled up in a 4 door JK, along with Myron, Mike and Brad.
We went to the staging area to regroup with Mike who towed his samurai out from the east side of town. That’s where we had a couple of stragglers join us on a quad and broooo-ed out 4 door Jeep Wrangler. Along with another guy and his friend in a samurai, who apparently knows Myron, but I can’t remember his name.
We took off, the first part of the trail was fun. Myron was leading, and good god I forgot how fast Myron loves to drive. I could barely keep up, and said fuck it and stayed back.
The crazy part was that even before we got to the turn off for Crown King there were patches of snow on the ground, and the mountains were covered in snow. I’ve never seen snow that low. We got past the turn off, again stopped, where we usually stop to regroup, where it got to me that apparently the bro-ed out 4 door Jeep and his friend on a quad were now coming with us.
We regrouped, took a piss, took a few pictures, and took off. I was in my grand vitara, so I didn’t do any of the obstacles. But we continued on. We went through the typical obstacles, I don’t know their names. We then got to the stair steps. The trail was a muddier then hell most of the way up, but it looked like it was recently graded, probably by the people from the mining operation to get more equipment up there. In parts of the road that stay in the shade of the day, the snow was thick and beaten down on the ground, so you were slipping and sliding down hill.
When we got to the stair steps obstacle, I took off to the top and ran down to get pictures, just in time to “guide” Mike through. There were a few pucker moments, but he got through pretty quickly considering the conditions. If you thought the stair steps were bad when it was raining, frozen snow adds another level of complexity.
Mike got through the stair steps and we went back to the car up top to realize that there was something happening on the bottom. Turns out the new guy we met in the staging area was trying the harder line below the stair steps and ran out of talent. Huuuuuuge thanks to Bobby for winching him back on all 4. He needed a couple of quarts of oil and was on his way again, while gently smoking. Oh, he also threw the bead off his tire while performing the pirouette, and had to throw on a finely aged spare (more on that later).
The guy in the bro-ed out Wrangler, had another one of his friends joined in what looked like to be a stock early 2000’s-ish 1500 Silverado, something that definitely shouldn’t be on this trail in this weather. The new guy we met in the grand vitara, developed some sort of rod knock, so him and his friend in the Titan turned around and headed back down to Lake Pleasant.
We took off, after the stair steps there was an even coat of snow, basically for the rest of the day. On the way down to Fort Misery(our usual lunch area) the ground was frozen with a beaten down layer of snow and it was basically a slip and slide to the bottom. We ate lunch at fort misery, there was at least 3 inches of snows throughout and took off for the higher ground. The guy in the bro-ed out Jeep, his friend on the quad and another friend in that 1500 took off before us, guess they were tired of waiting around, or the guy in the Jeep had another point of recovery with the 1500 now being there.
We came up to a group of people heading back from Crown King who said that the river crossing at Oro Belle was impassable, it was too slippery, and they didn’t have lockers so they decided to turn back instead of thrashing their cars. I thought cool, less traffic for us. I showed them a way through Miniehaha to Crown King, they didn’t want to drive all the way back to Lake Pleasant.
So we take the windy roads all the way up to Oro Belle, again, it’s freezing outside, the ground has snow everywhere, and at this point it was beaten down and basically ice from all the traffic. I pull up to the river crossing below Oro Belle, or like half a mile away from Oro Belle. I come up on the rocks, try climbing them, and no dice. They’re frozen, the snow is beaten down on them and I’m not getting any traction. Ok, that’s fine, I back up, and try climbing them from the right side, again, no traction but this time I stay in the gas, not hard, maybe 2,000 RPM to try to find some traction and I hear a loud bang. AWESOME. That sound is all too familiar from seeing Jimmy wheel.
I know at this point my day is done.
So I throw in the reverse, and good god, there amount of traction lost is crazy, I ended up sliding back almost right into Myron. I turn around, Myron gives the climb a shot and no dice, he can’t get it either. Bobby comes up to it, after a few lines, and couple of pushes he gets up on top of the rocks. Cool, so we start thinking, what do we do, do we winch up me and other people that can’t make it over, or do we turn around? So Bobby and I drove up to scout the rest of the way through Oro Belle to see how bad it was, and literally 500 feet later we noticed a pretty big rock/boulder? in the road, I try guiding Bobby over it, but it’s literally a drop off to one side or a rock wall to the other side. I say fuck it, I am not doing this in the snow with no traction and 2 wheel drive with no idea how much shittier the trail will get up top, even if Bobby is going to tow me up it. So Bobby and I back up, at this point his friend Greg already climbed up that waterfall with ease, and the new guy that knows Myron, but I can’t remember his name is climbing up it. He made it up with Greg sitting on his hood, Bobby sitting on his tailgate and a gentle push from Myron.
At this point, we’ve got 3 people up the waterfall, it’s 4:00pm the sun is about to start going down. We decide instead of trying to pull me up and Myron and literally tow me the rest of the way up hill and through the snow up to Crown King that we’re going to turn around and head back down to Lake Pleasant.
Bobby, Greg, and the guy who’s name I don’t know went up towards Oro Belle to turn around, backing down the ice waterfall wasn’t an option, the other people who didn’t make it past it just turn around below and start heading back.
I’m the last of the second group, and boy can I vouch for 4 wheel drive, I unlocked the broken axle side, and left the GV in 4 low, and there was no traction to be found on inclines. Literally none, I just sat there like an idiot with my wheels spinning if I tried to climb it. I had to get a run up and sort of hills where there was snow. There was no traction to be found. At this point, I made it all the way back on my own from below Oro Belle to the cattle guard where that Jeep in 2013-12 didn’t make that sharp right turn late at night, and flew off the hill and ended up killing the driver and the passenger. At that cattle guard I waited for Bobby to pass me, and we headed back towards Lake Pleasant.
This is where my memory gets foggy, but Bobby had to tow up me at least half a dozen times up frozen hills, I would of not been able to make it on my own power. There was no traction to be found, and I just sat there like an idiot spinning my tires. I do have to say, the record still stands for Myron being the strongest man in the world. There was one or two times, where I couldn’t find traction and was sitting there spinning my tires up hill, Myron came up behind, and with a gentle push on the tire carrier I was on my way again.
On the way up, most of the hills were covered in snow/ice, if I couldn’t get a run up. I was relying on Bobby to tow me up. The hill that drops you down right before the stair steps was probably the worst. Bobby and I were spinning tires all the way up it, I was sitting at 6,000 RPM shooting rocks at myron 300 feet down and I couldn’t find any traction.
Once we got past all of that it was a breeze. At this point we were driving up at a descend rate, but a descend rate isn’t fast enough for me. It was dark, and I probably had the most light out of the group, so I wanted to go faster than 10-15 miles per hour than the guy in the samurai who we just met at the staging area was going. So I go for a pass, turn on all my lights and basically catch up from the Crown King turn off rock to the staging area to Mike and Brad. I sit at the staging area for a good 10-15 minutes and I’m not seeing the guys. So I turn around go to the staging area make sure they didn’t take a back way into it, and head back up towards Crown King. I see headlights so I assume it’s them so I turn around sit and wait, and a Jeep passes me that wasn’t in our group, the guys stops and asks if everything is okay, turns out he saw a samurai changing a flat back there. So I head back find them, and the guy who rolled got a flat, or rather the sun dried spare came apart, by the time I got there he was taking off Myron’s spare to get back home.
He changed the flat and we all headed back up to the air up area, and that was it.
Again, huuuuuuuuge thank you to Bobby for heading back with me, if it wasn’t for him I would have had a hell of time trying to make it back up all the hills that lacked any sort of traction. Thanks to Myron for giving me a push and shove when needed, sorry for spraying you with my lack of traction.
Sorry to all the guys we weren’t able to make it to Crown King, but it was one hell of an adventure.
Here’s the timelapse from the day:
All the pictures can be found here: https://www.turndriver.com/Off-Roading/Backroad-to-Crown-King-in-Snow-112019/Edited-Pictures