As we pulled up to the trailhead a few members from the Mile High Jeep Club let us pass. I don’t think they thought we were about to head up Red Cone. Webster Pass would have been the logical assumption. Shortly after starting the trail and getting on the smaller bumpy rocks right off the get go, we found a place to pull over and let them pass, as they were traveling much faster than we were in their purpose built rigs.
We almost caught up to them as we puttered up the trail to the first larger rock obstacle. Their last Jeep was just finishing going up as we approached. We got out to check out what was ahead and devise a game plan. We were going to stick close to the tree and try to ride the rock up. I was the first in line and as I pulled up to the obstacle the tree kindly folded my mirror in for me. I gave it a few slow attempts, then I gave it a bump, and up I went. Just as I was thinking the hard part was over, I got hung up on my shock and leaf spring mount. Due to the momentum I was carrying it stuck me good enough that we had to pull out the hi lift jack. Positioning the jack on my rear bumper we picked up the back of the Jeep and stacked a few rocks under the tires to give me the last bit of clearance needed to get over the rock. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Oh, I did suffer a little trail damage when the hi-lift lost its footing while we were lowering it and scratched and dented the tailgate a smidge, no big deal.
During our time stuck a nice older couple pulled in behind us in their side-by-side and came up to watch the events. The woman queried as to why I had such small tires, I simply told her that no one wanted to buy me bigger ones. She then (very nicely) told me that I needed a winch. Once again an astute observation and obviously something I have wanted for years, but never had the funding for. Despite all of these terrific solutions to my problem, the only thing I really needed was a hi-lift jack and some rocks, much cheaper than bigger tires and a winch.
Anthony and his Jeep made the rocks look small and walked right up it, as did the side-by-side. We once again pulled over to let the much faster side-by-side play through. Not much further up we encountered the second set of large rocks, I attempted the line I thought I needed to take and ended up bumping off the line and found my self in a hole with my axles twisted up, causing my driver front and passenger rear to spin helplessly, and once again I could not back up, due to my rear differential being laid up on a stone.
It was at this time that “Mr.40’s” showed up. He earned this name due to his brand new rig on 40" tires with every bell an whistle possible, one ton axles…. and his temp tags. This rig probably cost 50K.
Any way where were we, ah yes I was stuck and we had broken out the hi-lift jack again. We were trying to figure out placement for the jack and Mr.40’s came up to give us some advice. First thing he wanted to know was if I was in 4 Wheel drive, low, low… this would imply that I was running a twin stick transfer case that he had just read about in his owners’ manual. I told him yes I was in 4Low. Then he inquired as to whether my axles were locked in, realizing he was asking if I had my 2k dollar ARB air lockers engaged, ya know like he does. I told him I did not have lockers, I was running open diffs. He then took the liberty of looking inside my Jeep... I guess to just to make sure that I hadn’t recently installed them and forgotten. (What a jack wagon). It was at this point he informed me that I was going to have a tough time making it up this trail.
Mr.40’s if your reading this, as I doubt you are, only two people do, try to appreciate that not everyone can afford to spend 50k on a toy and having never lifted a finger except your credit card, have a rig ready to take on the gnarlyist trails the United States has to offer. Most of us are out here on a budget rig, wheeling what we got. Some of us like the "tough time" on the trail, its kinda the point!
Anthony pulled me backwards, brutally forcing my rear differential off of the stone it had become so fond of. With a quick readjustment and moving some rocks around I bounced rattled and rolled over the rocks and past the obstacle.
Anthony once again made it look easy following suit. We pulled over to let Mr.40’s and the four or five other rigs that had stacked up go by. From here we moseyed on up the trail, and opted for the by-pass on the largest obstacle.
Winding up the switchbacks through the trees is a blast, then you climb above tree line and the views open up. From here the trail becomes steep, narrow, and loose. Resulting in more of a mental battle then a mechanical challenge. The trail is awesome above tree line all the way to the top of 12,801ft Red Cone Peak.
Now for the most notorious section of Red Cone. The decent. The decent has three steps. The first is probably the steepest but has decent traction. The second is about the same length as the first, not as steep, but the traction is substantially looser. Third decent is the longest and as steep as the first one with the loosest rocks out of the three. There are little drops and bumps that can cause your suspension to flex and can cause you to lose a little traction. My Jeep in first gear almost died as the resistance from the engine on the tire was greater than the resistance between the tire and the loose rocks. On this section it is important to remember that getting sideways is the largest problem you can have. Point straight down and let the vehicle do the work. If you start to get sideways it is better to accelerate a little bit to straighten out rather than hitting the brake. Hitting the brake can cause the back end of the vehicle to come around more.(Note the trail is one-way traffic down from the top, do not attempt to climb back up, it will result in damage to the trail and could potentially cause the trail to be closed. Don't be that guy... or girl.)
After this non-exhilarating quick drive down the backside of Red Cone you will find yourself at the top of Webster pass. Lefts turn down the south side of Webster will bring you back out the way that you came, all the way out to 285. Right on the North side of Webster will bring you out to the town of Montezuma and ultimately out to Keystone Ski area. When we got to the top of Webster Pass all of the Jeeps that had passed us earlier were there taking a break, even Mr.40’s. I ended up getting props from the guys in the Jeep club and yes, even Mr.40’s seemed impressed I had made it up in my little Jeep. I actually really enjoyed being the smallest rig on the trail, and still being able to play with the big boys.
It just goes to show, you don’t need all of that fancy equipment and big rigs to get out there and enjoy these trails. All you need is the right equipment and the right attitude. Guess what - you will be a more skilled driver as a result. Take what you have and get out on the trail, stop waiting for that next upgrade!