A 2023 GMC Canyon AT4 has been stranded near the top of a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado's Rocky Mountains for days now—maybe even more than a week. The first attempt to recover the off-road pickup truck was reportedly unsuccessful, leaving authorities to resort to extreme measures that one imagines the driver will foot the bill for.
UPDATE 9/9/2023: The truck is now safely off the mountain with the help of volunteer teams and a very brave Bobcat driver. You can read more about the incredible effort here, and the original story continues below
The truck got stuck on the Decalibron Trail, a seven-mile hiking route that tours four mountain peaks above 14,000 feet (locals call them "fourteeners"). Its name is a portmanteau of those four peaks; Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. The disused mining roads around the area now reportedly see as many as 30,000 hikers annually.
However, the trail is partially situated on private property. Between a new risk of liability to the owner, as reported by the Colorado Sun, and poor condition of the trail indicated by 5280, the Decalibron has been effectively closed for most of the year, reopening only in late July. It only took a month for a 2023 GMC Canyon driver to remind the owner why they limited access in the first place.
A photograph of the immobilized truck was shared to the 14ers.com Facebook group, where the poster said it had been taken between Mount Cameron and Mount Bross en route to the latter. The GMC had clearly slid off the side of the trail onto a slope of loose rocks, the driver having evidently lost traction and dug into the loose surface. The exact location specified in the images below is suspected to be around 13,800 feet, or almost as high as you can get in Colorado's Rockies.
From piecing together anecdotes from comments under the photo, we gather that the truck has been there since at least Monday, Aug. 28. The driver is speculated to have accessed the trail via a road that approaches Bross, Cameron, and Lincoln from the east, but terminates in a trailhead or becomes a former mining road. One comment indicates the route isn't well-marked, and that it's not unheard of for drivers to get lost and try wheeling up the footpath.
But this driver apparently didn't realize how far they were off the beaten path until they got stuck. A witness said the truck had dug itself in up to its differential, posing the risk of rolling if the driver tried to power out. Another hiker who said they spoke to the truck's driver reported they had thought the trail was a road. Multiple commenters indicated the truck had an Arkansas license plate, suggesting the driver may be unfamiliar with mountain terrain.
As of Tuesday, Aug. 29, the truck had apparently been reached by volunteer organization Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery, which may have brought along recovery vehicles of its own. The driver was reportedly present, but it's unclear whether they spent the night on the mountain. The extraction seems to have been unsuccessful though, as a photo shared on Sunday, Sept. 3 showed the vehicle abandoned with traction boards still surrounding it. That means the truck may have been there for more than a week—and still be up there, as no recovery has yet been reported.
In an ironic twist, commenters observed that reaching this point via the southwest trailhead may have required driving the privately owned portion of the trail, which crosses land owned by one John Reiber according to the Colorado Sun. That matches the name of the vice president of automotive services at AAA Colorado—the folks you call when you're stuck on the side of the road. Reiber probably wouldn't have been glad to field this call, though.
The USDA Forest Service could not provide information on the vehicle's status at the time of publication, and our inquiry to Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery was not returned. AAA also did not respond to our request for comment from Reiber.
Unfortunately, this is far from the only recent incident wherein headstrong drivers have immobilized their vehicles on trails above their skill level. After a string of serious incidents on Colorado's famously tricky Black Bear Pass, the San Miguel Sheriff warned inexperienced four-wheelers away from the pass before closing it entirely. But that didn't stop the driver of a Toyota 4Runner from driving it anyway, only to get lambasted by the sheriff as a "complete ass clown" when they got stuck.
Whether or not there were any signs to deter this GMC's driver, there still should've come a point where they asked themselves if it was time to turn back. The trail is visibly wide enough only for hikers, and it doesn't have the parallel tracks of many high-country off-road trails. But when your confidence is inflated by a new truck, inexperience, and maybe O2 deprivation, you can make a costly mistake. And it won't just be you who has to clean it up.
Tread lightly out there, folks.
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