Unfortunately, the camera tends to flatten obstacles when taken at an even perspective. This hill is considerably steeper than the previous one. Going up is easy with lockers and ground clearance on this obstacle. Coming down, you’re basically standing on the firewall.
Climbing out grants you some spectacular views showing off the rugged terrain we had traversed. The large hill in the background of the photo on the left is Phone Booth Hill.
On the way out, most of the steeper hills were downhill. On the way back, however, was a different story. This hill gave the unlocked vehicles in the group fits.
Jeff found one of his first items to address: no locking differentials. The wonderful invention that allows cars to turn without fighting geometry is a hindrance in off-road situations like this. With opposing tires in low-spots, Project 4-Runner was sending 100% of it’s iForce V8’s torque to unloaded tires and all forward progress came to a rock-grinding halt. Luckily, a buddy’s Wrangler was locked front and rear and was able to pull him out, but not without a casualty.
The tow rope we used to pull the 4-Runner out was a little too long for the narrow trail at the top of this hill. This forced the Jeep to turn to the left and forced Jeff’s front left tire into a ledge while it was spinning, popping the bead and injecting some rocks to keep it from holding air. Luckily, offroaders are a resourceful group and we were able to get the tire changed quickly.
Usually, if you keep enough air in the tires, popping a bead isn’t a concern. Prior to setting out, we set the 4-Runner’s tires to 20psi to prevent exactly this. However, Jeff’s Volkswagen compressor had a gauge that was as optimistic 20-year-old at a track event talking about how much horsepower his car makes. While his compressor said 20psi, my Viair’s gauge told a different story. Whoops!
With the sun low in the sky and Project 4-Runner on an uneven set of tires, we headed back to camp to eat good food, drink beer, and play with fire until the wee hours. Overall, Jeff did very well for someone who had never really been off-road. Hopefully next time; Project 4-Runner will be rid of its unlimited slip differentials, small tires and complete lack of body and critical component protection so we can tackle more difficult trails. Hell, maybe it’ll make an appearance on our trip to the iconic Rubicon Trail later this year…