Once again, I attended this event in Williamsburg Kentucky.
This year, the weather played a part by raining for the few days prior to the start of the event. I encountered rain pretty much all the way down from Streamwood IL as the weather system pretty much just sat over the midwest. The rain system moved on out about the time registration began leaving the area wet.
I headed over to the inspection and trail sign up. There I met up with participants I've met over the years and we exchanged brief updates and enjoyed the food - burgers, dogs and Blue Grass music.
Since it had been raining for the past several days, the trails would be muddy, slick and any water crossings would be deeper than typical.
For day one, I chose the Commando trail, normally rated 5/6, but a bit higher (solid 6) due to the soggy conditions, the weather was clear, breezy and a high in the 60's. This trail weaves back and forth between Kentucky and Tennessee. The conditions were not as bad as it was a few years back where it was raining during the event - the mountains do drain quickly. I ran this trail near the tail end of the line of Jeeps.
Here we are, scoping the first obstacle. The trail has some small challenges (wet conditions) in the very beginning, but this one is where it really starts. The climb is fairly steep with many ledges and the leaf cover with moist soil means traction will be a challenge for all but the very first to climb.
The trail guide made it up with little difficulty, as did several others. But as the trail became rutted and hole'd, it became ever more difficult - traction was hard to come by and it required copius throttle.
One Jeeper with 35's and a new locker was flogging it up the climb and making progress when he began to hop. He stayed in the gas until... well, you guessed it - SNAP! (Sorry, no pictures, but you've seen this before) We used his winch to lower his rig down the hill and on to some flat ground. We jacked up his rig, pushed in the axle, and lashed 4" tree to hold it all in - then called for recovery while we went on.
The conditions on this first real climb were such that from this point forward each Jeep climbed as far up as they could safely go on one or two attempts, then it was strap time. Often 2-3 straps and 2 Jeeps to reach and pull each rig over the crest. Just so you know, by this time the conditions were very slick, so even a more aggressively built rig had to be pulled up. This was easier than having to recover another broken rig.
We proceded to the narrow portion of the trail, basically a narrow two-track trail down amongst some trees with tight conditions, off camber obstacles and slick conditions. In the bottom of the valley there is a rock ledge to climb up and proceed up towards the lunch spot. Walking up to see it was a challenge as conditions were slick and places to walk few. I made the walk to see that one participant had tried to climb the ledge only to have slid off and down hill. Attempts to self recover the Jeep managed to work further and further down hill where it came to rest on mostly flat ground. The guides and fellow Jeepers began piling rocks and timber under the tires as the driver made several attempts to get it up the hill from there. (Again, sorry, no pics)
We lunched on the trail at the scenic overlook, I've posted those pictures in other event posts so I didn't take any more this time.
We proceded on after lunch, climbing the mountains on heavily rutted and slick trails. The sun was drying up the trail and it was a bit easier to navigate but you still needed to pay attention. I lapsed in this while navigating some ruts and fell off, only to end up turtled - one limitation of 30's. A quick tug and I was on my way.
We ended the day at the land owners barn, a locally renowned "business man", and several participants showed "interest".
Finally, the road back to base and dinner.