Driver Tries to Take Truck Up Colorado Fourteener, Gets Extremely Stuck

In July, Colorado’s popular Decalibron Loop, a 7.5-mile trail that crosses private property to tag multiple Fourteeners, reopened to hikers after a months-long closure over liability concerns. Last week, someone got their pickup truck stuck on it.

Photo: Elizabeth Bennett

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The Decalibron Loop is one of the more popular and fraught trails in Colorado, a Fourteener-tagging 7.5-mile path that’s been closed by its local landowner multiple times over the past several years over liability concerns and hikers behaving dangerously around old mining infrastructure. And last week, hikers tackling it encountered an unexpected sight: A full-size, white pickup truck stuck in the scree at nearly 14,000 feet.

“It was kind of unclear how he got where he got,” says Kimi McBryde, public information officer for Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery.

The group, a nonprofit organization with trained volunteers who assist in recovering stuck off-roaders around the state, first got the call about the stuck motorist on August 27 through their dispatch line. According to McBryde, the driver of the Arkansas-tagged vehicle, which The Drive identified as a GMC Canyon AT4, apparently “missed a sign” and drove up the increasingly precipitous hiking trail until his rear wheel slipped on the scree field and slid off the trail. While he managed to hike down into the nearby town of Alma, the truck remained trapped there, high on the slopes of Mt. Lincoln.

Truck trapped on mountain
The owner of the truck eventually resorted to calling a towing service to remove the vehicle. (Photo: Courtesy )

Driving a motor vehicle up any hiking trail is a questionable decision, but when he pointed his tires up the Decalibron Loop, the driver presumably didn’t realize he was on one of the most-contested stretches of trail in Colorado. The loop crosses the summits of Fourteeners Democrat, and Lincoln, tags the top of Cameron (over 14,000 feet, but not prominent enough for the title Fourteener), and passes the summit of Bross, making it a popular objective for both peakbaggers and locals, but much of the trail crosses private land that is dotted with potentially dangerous old mining shafts. 

On multiple occasions over the past 20 years, the landowner, John Reiber, has shut down the trail over liability concerns. As recently as this March, he closed the Decalibron Loop after the Colorado legislature rejected a bill that would have severely limited the ability of recreationists to sue landowners over injuries they suffer on private property. While the trails reopened in July with QR-code-emblazoned signs asking hikers to fill out an electronic waiver, both Reiber and local trail organizations told the Colorado Sun that month that it was a temporary solution, not a permanent fix. On a Fourteeners Facebook group, commenters pointed out that the driver likely would have had to cross Reiber’s property to end up where he did.

With no immediate threat to life or limb, the rescue group scheduled its recovery mission for two days later, on August 29. From the start, the responders ran into obstacles: Because of how the truck had come to rest, normal procedure would have been to use a technique called a “pendulum pull” that involves parking another vehicle beside it, which wasn’t a possibility due to the terrain. While the crew attempted to slip traction pads under the tires and sink anchors into the ground to move the truck, they couldn’t shift it. After 12 hours working at high altitude, the group made the decision to retreat and come up with another plan. 

The next day, however, the group received a call from the owner, who said that he had contracted a commercial towing service to move his car with a track loader. The effort was successful: Days after the truck became stranded, it was gone.

While Colorado 4×4 Rescue and Recovery regularly responds to drivers who have become stuck on rough four-wheel tracks or taken low-clearance vehicles up roads they weren’t suited for, McBryde says that this is one of just a few occasions she can think of where a driver has gotten stranded on a hiking trail. But while hikers may instinctively tear into the overconfident driver (plenty of commenters on the Fourteeners Facebook group already have), McBryde emphasizes that he made an error—and has hopefully learned from it.

“It’s a big bummer that it’s impacting the hiking community, the 4×4 community, everyone, but it was a mistake,” she says. “And I think it’s pretty safe to say he will not be making that mistake again.”

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