Like the famous FDR speech once said: “A date which will live in infamy,” well this is one of these missions that will go down in infamy and be talked about for years to come. In the past we’ve had the Radical Hill rollover, the Iron Chest fatal, the Santa Fe Peak Expedition, plus a few more… but now we have the “Walden FJ” mission to add to this list!
Late August, Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery received a call about a FJ Cruiser that rolled off the end of a trail after the driver got out of the vehicle and didn’t set the parking brake. This was located near the CO/WY border along Forest Route 939.1. The exact circumstances as to why it was either not in park or brake set are not exactly known, but we did know it went end over end numerous times down an extremely steep embankment for hundreds of feet. The estimate was over 400 feet down the hillside. Missions like this take tons of logistics. Lots of coordination and planning.
We began building a team knowing that was going to be a multi-day operation with onsite camping required. September 6th the team began heading to the scene and setup camp right at the recovery staging area. They met with the Jackson County Sheriff on scene and were cleared to begin vehicle recovery operations the next morning.
September 7th 9 AM the team began making their way down and up the hill clearing a path for the vehicle as it needed to come up a nearly 40-degree slope in spots. By noon on the 7th, winch line was starting to be laid down the hill. Around 2 PM the initial rigging was in place and tensioned, and the lines were inspected to make sure there wouldn’t be any issues to start recovery winching. The first bit of winching was extremely difficult due to the trees and rocks the vehicle was hung up on. Progress was extremely slow. It was realized that even with numerous people on-scene, backup manpower would be needed so a page for additional responders was sent out around 5 PM. By dinner time the FJ had been recovered uphill about 60-70 feet, with over 300 more to go, and was tied off for the night.
After a restful night’s sleep, backup arrived on scene and operations began again September 8th. The bead of a rear tire was reset to help aid the FJ in rolling back up the hill, and winching resumed. The FJ made it back one of the substantial uphill obstacles right at 2 PM Thursday, which was a big morale boost as the mission got just a tiny bit easier given the 10/10 complexity of this deployment. After making great progress all day, the vehicle was tied off again and secured just after 7 PM so the team could grab dinner and rest up for another day.
Friday the 9th the team was up and at it bright and early! It was a cool foggy morning as the cold front had passed through. 7 AM the static line was removed from the FJ and mission resumed trying to make that final push up the hill. Obstacles galore, the FJ kept creeping up the hill slowly but surely. Just before 11:30 AM, the smashed-up FJ crested the top and officially resting on the flat ground where all the gear and tents were staged! It took a few hours to break down the rigging and pack everything up, and by 2:30 PM the team had begun dead towing the mangled-up FJ out of the forest.
After parking the FJ in a tow truck accessible location, all team members departed for home just before 4 PM! As this is being written, I do believe this is the longest mission the team has ever had. The 1st responder started heading to the scene around noon on Tuesday, and last responder arrived back at home base just after 7 PM Friday evening. With backup team members coming from as far away as Sterling (4+ hour drive each way), and some of the team coming from the Denver Metro area.
Walden FJ Recovery Complete!
This mission was sponsored by our title sponsor The Edge Automotive. Check them out for all your vehicle maintenance and modification needs at www.theedgeautomotive.com!
Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery
We Recover the Rockies!!