Last week, the driver of a shiny new 2023 GMC Canyon AT4 drove their off-road pickup truck up a hiking trail and got stuck near the summit of a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado. It was such a remote and difficult location that the first attempt to retrieve it had to be aborted, leaving it on the crumbling mountaintop for days. But the debacle is over—the truck has been recovered from its precarious position. Here's how it all went down, from start to finish.
The GMC's driver, who is the son of the truck's owner, drove onto Decalibron Trail on the afternoon of Sunday, August 27. He's believed to have driven up Mount Bross from the east on County Road 787, which terminates at a former mining road. It's not meant to connect to the Decalibron trail system according to Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery spokesperson Kimi McBryde, who said the path could nevertheless resemble an off-road trail to an "untrained eye." As the truck was registered in Arkansas, the driver is believed to fit that description.
The driver made his way onto Decalibron Trail and across the saddle between Mt. Bross and Mt. Cameron before the trail narrowed as it skirted Cameron's summit. At that point, the truck's back right wheel slipped, causing it to slide off the trail and bury the rear end up to the differential in the scree. It was at this point in the early evening that the driver called for help from Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery before hiking eight miles down to the nearest town of Alma.
We do want to note one common comment on the first story, which was that the truck didn't look all that stuck. Keep in mind that steep slopes can appear deceptively shallow in photographs, and you can see in the photo above that there's absolutely nothing to stop a catastrophic rollover should the truck start sliding further if someone tried to drive it out. Hiker Elizabeth Bennett, who came upon the truck a few days later and took one of the photos used in our original story, said the trail is difficult to even walk because it's so loose and rocky. "The main thing we heard from the crew was that the slope was so unstable," said another hiker named Jim Davies, who passed by the operation.
With the approval of local law enforcement and the Forest Service, the all-volunteer Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery team reached the GMC on Wednesday, August 30 with the driver in tow. They spent 12 hours digging scree from under the truck, and using pole pounders to place winching anchors—but to no avail. By 7:00 pm, they had to call it quits. The day of high-altitude manual labor on a fragile trail had been taxing, and the team had to descend before dark to avoid unnecessary risk.
Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery planned to return to the site for another attempt, but the truck's owner called in a professional extraction from Mountain Recovery. The company reached the vehicle on Friday and used a tracked Bobcat skid steer which the GMC's driver photographed in action. Mountain Recovery told us it would provide more details on the truck's recovery.
"It was a mistake," McBryde told us. "He thought he was driving on a road, and—very quickly as it got narrower, and narrower, and narrower—realized that he messed up."
"To the uneducated eye, it looks like one trail system. Is that an excuse? No," McBryde continued. "If you're gonna go play in the back country, we really recommend you take the time to know where you're going and what's happening."
"We would like to remind people that choose to venture out to National Forests to be familiar with all posted signs, road closures, to know which trails are accessible, and above all, to not drive up a hiking trail," added a spokesperson for the Forest Service.
Ironically, this GMC driver isn't the first to make this mistake, as a photo on 14ers.com shows a Toyota Tundra doing the same almost exactly 14 years ago. He may also not be the last, as many Coloradans complain of eroding trail etiquette and increasingly reckless use of motor vehicles like side-by-sides. There are places motor vehicles simply don't belong, no matter how much we want to drive them there. Leave no trace, the outdoorsy often say. And as the Forest Service told us, "we understand it's a bit more physical, but in the long run, it will be better for you and everyone else on the trail."
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