Brothers need lift, and how
By Electa Draper
Denver Post Four Corners Bureau
Aug. 3, 2000 - SILVERTON - There is "stuck," and then there is
"damned stuck." And stranding a Dodge Ram truck and a Jeep
Wrangler on a vertigo-inspiring slope some 12,500 feet high on
Houghton Mountain is most definitely and superlatively the latter.
For two brothers from Dallas, a forbidden
off-road adventure in the high country
Monday has turned into a logistical
nightmare. Its proportions have impressed
even Silvertonians, who typically barely
bother to stifle a yawn at yet another
report of yet another tourist whose
four-by-four has been wedged,
high-centered or abandoned out of fear.
Some run into trouble on the San Juan
Mountains' infamously rugged Jeep trails
and old mining byways, but most
predicaments begin when some driver,
either inadvertently or willfully, drives
off-road, which is illegal everywhere on
the fragile alpine tundra blanketing slopes.
In the case of Texan Gary Hatcher and his brother and young
niece, the only passenger, the men apparently were lured to their
precarious perches above California Gulch by a sheep trail, said
Bureau of Land Management Alpine Ranger Lisa Richardson.
The trio scrambled down to safety and eventually into the waiting
arms of BLM officials bearing six citations. Getting the Hatcher
brothers' vehicles down the mountain is another story.
"This is absolutely the worst example of off-road travel I've ever
seen," BLM Ranger Lanny Wagner said. "There's plenty of spots
where they were in dire danger. You can't get a wrecker within a
half-mile of this spot. Nobody's going to take a full-sized wrecker
out to where they are." George Mason, a Silverton-based
tow-truck driver who has had years of experience with scary,
steep extrications of this nature just shook his head at this one.
"They ain't stuck, they're lost," Mason said. "They went into a
place, well, I've never seen anything quite like it. As much as I like
money, I don't like it that well." No run-of-the-mill mishap
Rangers and wreckers see plenty here and all along the
world-famous Alpine Loop - loops really, dirt roads connecting peak
after peak, mine after mine, ghost town after ghost town. A couple
of years ago, a four-wheel-drive vehicle invaded an alpine meadow
and sank up to its roof. Still, that was simple to deal with
compared to this.
"It would be extremely risky for them to "drive' back down,"
Richardson said of the Hatchers. "They should be dead now. I don't
know how those vehicles have stayed upright." The men were both
cited for allegedly creating a hazard and nuisance, willful
destruction of plant life and driving off-road in an area closed to
motorized travel. But the $600 in fines are likely to be the cheap
part of the misadventure.
Although highly critical of the men's poor judgment in creating this
situation, BLM and San Juan County officials said the two have
been "regretful and very cooperative."
The brothers are showing great grace under pressure and held onto
their senses of humor, by all accounts, as they spent Tuesday and
Wednesday looking for a way out of the mess.
"They're trying to do the best they can," Wagner said.
Dismantlement an option
The Hatchers were advised to hire a helicopter.
"There's nothing here that can lift that weight," said New Air He
licopter manager Thomas Edison. "They better get a wrench and
start taking their trucks apart." To hire an aircraft that can lift
whole trucks at that altitude would mean going to a few owners on
the West Coast who contract with the logging industry, Edison
said. A helicopter that size runs $3,000 to $5,000 per flight hour,
and first it would have to get here from the Pacific Northwest.
Those craft are all likely to be busy fighting forest fires, he added.
Airlift not cheap
New Air can haul only 600 to 800 pounds per trip. After the
vehicles are dismantled, New Air could transport the pieces at
$1,300 to $1,500 per flight hour. Gary Hatcher told The Denver
Post late Wednesday morning that, after speaking to New Air, he
would prefer to try something else first.
"It's just not a simple situation," Edison said. "Maybe they can take
the doors off and make homes for bears." However, leaving the
vehicles on the mountain is not an option from the BLM's
perspective, said Kent Hoffman, associate field office manager in
A tanklike Sno-Cat might be able to pull out the vehicles, officials
and other observers ventured, but it would be tricky and the
damage to the landscape probably severe. The BLM's position is
that an expert must handle the extrication, and the BLM will
monitor any attempt, Hoffman said. The Hatchers called a widely
acclaimed champion "rock crawler" - someone who scales
impossibly steep, rocky slopes in a vehicle - who lives and works in
Bayfield, some 75 miles south of Silverton. Steve Rumore of
Avalanche Engineering built his cliff-climbing "Sniper" from scratch,
and he competes with it across the country.
A winch in the works?
"It looks like something you'd see in space," Rumore said of his
creation. "In the summertime we do get requests for the Sniper" to
function like a super tow truck. But Rumore wouldn't give the
Hatchers a cost estimate until he had seen the location. The
Gary Hatcher told The Post that he and his brother, who declined
to be named, had decided to go buy a winch and try to pull out
their vehicles themselves.
This development did not sit well with one BLM official, who
repeated that the agency is insisting on expertise to safeguard
lives and landscape.
"Maybe the best thing for these guys to do is sign a check, hand it
to the BLM and go sit in a motel somewhere," Edison said.
After some contemplation, Rumore admitted that he was becoming
intrigued by the Hatchers' predicament. He would like to help out,
he said, adding: "Don't take this the wrong way, but it sounds like
an entertaining challenge. We might just go up there and take a
look for ourselves."
That's all I could find out so far. Be my guest to keep researching. One of the dude's name is in the article. Try looking up his phone # and giving him a call.Positive Vibes said:So how did they get the trucks out? Where is the rest of the story?
After struggling for a week to get their stranded vehicles off the side of Houghton Mountain, two brothers from Texas finally lower their vehicles down 12,500 feet with the help of a band of Durango-area men. Alan and Gary Hatcher created daily drama that drew increasingly bigger crowds to gawk at their high-wire act above California Gulch. For five harrowing days they were the most spectacular example of "stuck" in the land.
Alan and Gary Hatcher got stuck Monday after driving their Dodge Ram and
> Jeep Wrangler off road onto a steep slope of Houghton Mountain, where they
> could neither get back up nor get down.
> Their ordeal ended Saturday afternoon, said San Juan County Undersheriff
> Charlie Moore.
> "They were able to get a Hummer up there with a winch on it and were able to
> winch both vehicles uphill to a point where it was safe for someone to get
> in and drive them out the same route that they used going in," Moore said
> Sunday. "All vehicles are off the mountain. The only damage I'm aware of is
> the winch on the Hummer reportedly burned out from overwork."
> Two all-terrain vehicles pulled the trucks on unstable ground in what one
> man who helped remove the vehicles called an "extremely dangerous" five-hour
> "If one of them were to slip and fall off the side, it would pull the other
> off," said John Gilleland, who helped with his Hummer. "I can't imagine
> anyone surviving a roll that far down a slope."
> A Bureau of Land Management official supervised the rescue.
> Gilleland, who is from Durango, said dozens watched the salvage.
> All week, the brothers hatched plans to remove the vehicles. In Silverton,
> about an hour's drive away, they became the subject of remarks ranging from
> mild reproach to ridicule.
JPA1982 said:great story, thanks for the post from all telling and finding the end of it, just wish there were pics of the hummers pulling them out, sure GM would love to get ahold of it for ads, lol