Sunday, May 26, 2013
Red Elephant Hill trail - Abandoned vehicle extration from public lands

Late last season a Toyota pickup rolled down the mountainside on the Red Elephant Hill trail. The owner put the truck up for sale via Craigslist "as-is" - rolled and sitting on the mountainside. Some folks offered help in removing it but it seemed communications ended with the owner choosing to leave it as trash in our National Forest. Winter snows quickly made a removal project a springtime event.

A few folks were interested in removing the truck to help clean the forest (trail groups frequently clean trash from our forests as a public service). This truck removal was just a tad different, larger and slower.

With snow melted from the trail, authorities informed (Sheriff & Forest Service), and the vehicle still sitting on wheels and tires (two still holding air) a plan was in place to move the vehicle. The truck would be relocated from the forest to the trailhead where the sheriff could easily process it as the abandoned vehicle it is.

A word to those working on the project:
In all, the group of folks, where many had not met before, ended up being a smooth, nice group of folks to work with. There were several spots in the project where progress could be taken via different routes. In each case where a decision was made it was made smoothly. Everyone worked together to get the job done, smoothly and efficiently - and that was the end result. It made for a nice day out in the forest.

Here are a few times from the day:
5:30am - Wake up
6:45am - Leave for Boulder to pickup a group member
8:00am - Leave for Dumont to meet the group
9:20am - Meet group at Dumont and drive to trailhead
9:45am - Start up the trail
10:07am - Arrive at extraction area (22 minutes to travel 1.5 miles [typical])
2:40pm - Start moving back to the trailhead (4-1/2 hours to pull it upslope and onto the trail)
4:35pm - Arrive at the trailhead (2 hours to travel 1.5 miles)
5:00pm - Leave trailhead - job done
Midnight - Arrive at home

One additional note to a friend:
Some time back a friend gave me a gift of a Mac Tools belt slung multi-tool with built-in light. That tool was used throughout the day. Most of the shackles were more than hand tight at removal and the pliers were at hand (without having to walk upslope to a tool kit) to loosen the bolt. Later in the day, when leaving another trail, the parking light fuse on the Jeep had blown (unknown cause) and the pliers, along with the flashlight function, worked GREAT to pull out the blown fuse from the dark fuse block. Thank You.

Abandoned Vehicle Extraction

US-287 Southbound towards Longmont CO

CO-66  ( Ute Highway ) westbound towards Lyons. Parachutists floating down to the Longmont airport.

On the trail near where work will be taking place. Walking up to scout the scene.

There's the Toyota pickup. Perhaps 50-90 feet downslope.

Looking southward over the pickup to the mountainside south of I-70.

The truck, under the driver's door, is sitting on a tree stump. No telling how much farther downslope it would have traveled if didn't get caught on the stump.

Someone was here before us. The A-Pillars have been cut.

A sturdy tree will be used for an anchor point. "Tree saver" straps are put around the tree as if chains are used against the bark they can cut into the bark and cause damage.

Chain added to the front section of the truck with straps extending upslope.

Nice scenery for this task in the forest! The weather was great.

Two vehicles on the uphill section of trail, each with wheels pushing into rocks to stay still.

This was the spot the abandoned truck went off-trail and started a downhill roll. There were many pieces of truck junk littering the hillside. We walked and picked up a large portion of it. Red-tail light lens in the bottom section of the photo.

Getting closer to being connected. For the distance the truck was down the slope we did not have enough straps to have two independent lines pulling the truck up the slope. That would have been nice, as a fail-safe, but the weight of the truck to the tools in use should not be an issue. Should something have broken (fortunately not) the truck would have rolled farther downslope than what we dealt with.

From the anchor point (up slope tree) there were tree saver straps and then chain. At the end of the chain we had two shackles (D-Rings) with two snatch blocks (pulleys). The pulleys allowed the on-trail jeeps with winches have their winch lines turn 90-deg to the downslope truck.

The blue lines are synthetic winch lines. The synthetic (vs. steel) lines are rather sensitive to abrasion (rocks and gravel). They typically come with an abrasion protection sleeve - a 6' long sleeve that slides over the line to be positioned near abrasive items. You can see the black sleeves where the lines touch the ground at the edge of the trail.

Slight tension on the rigging so there is time for a few close photos before the system gets stressed and we wish to stand back.

Winch motors are pulling. Rigging is tight.

Clearing items that would impede progress.

The front wheels are on the trail but winch pulling has to stop. The black abrasion protection sleeves are just about to roll through the pulleys. We stop and re-rig to be able to pull the truck fully onto the trail.

The down-trail jeep will unhook its winch line while the up-trail jeep holds the system. The down-trail jeep will move its snatch block / pulley higher towards the tree to be able to pull the truck further onto the trail.

Working at changing the rigging.

A lot of waiting and watching today.

With the truck pulled onto the trail, it was strapped to the anchor tree. We didn't want any chance of it rolling downhill as it was pivoted to the proper orientation on the trail.

Up-trail winch jeep with additional up-trail anchor via winchline.

The stump, which was cut to free the truck.

Across the valley - mine roads and mines.

Packed up and getting ready to start moving the 1.5 miles downhill to the trailhead.

The truck certainly wasn't going to move under its own power. While the left side tires were holding air, the right side tires would not - multiple punctures. The brakes didn't work either. One ahead vehicle was used to pull the truck while two behind vehicles were used as brakes.

Going around sharper corners was curious as the truck would be influenced / pulled into the corner. With the strap restraints, right side tires w/o air, and a dog tracking rear axle - steering was a suggestion.

Curious sounds - the whump-whump of the right side flat tires, the tick-tick-tick of the driveshaft that fell to the ground (and had to be strapped up to keep moving), the BrrBrrBrr of tire lugs against leaf springs.

Traveling quite slowly (1/2 walking speed) we stopped several times to pickup more trail trash (rusted can).

The rear axle on the right side had become dislodged from the centering pin of the leaf spring which caused the dog-tracking condition.

Good scenery to enjoy!

Getting close to the trailhead - first view of I-70 (looking east over Dumont or Idaho Springs)

U.S. Flag atop the rocks.

Job's done.
Now the sheriff can take over with impound procedures.

Pieces coming together...

The A-Pillars are cut, we have odd slits in the passenger door - and those thin slits match the slits in the sidewalls of the right side tires. Perhaps the person who had the saw to cut the A-pillars also punched through the passenger door and both right side tires. While the A-pillars and door weren't an issue, it would have been nice to have air in the right side tires.