Jenolan State Forest – The Second Coming!
Tuff Trip Report.
29th June 2003
Kevin Aitken V8 Discovery Series 1.
Simon Lun and Shayne Churchland TD5 Discovery.
Max Pegler (Trip Leader) 200tdi Discovery.
Corey Tuhaka and Cherie TD5 Defender
OK, the big Flinders trip I had been planning was now put back a day and the LROC “Tuff Trip” was on! We arrived at Blaxland Macca’s with a least one-minute to spare and we were feeling good about the day. It was crisp and early, and I even won the “report writing prize” for my punctuality! It was great to see Kevin was back to conquer his hill with “that rut” from 2 months ago and settle some old scores, Max to lead us into a plethora of gnarlies and Corey to show us how easily it could be done. Looking on the map, we were heading into an absolute labyrinth of tracks designed by the forestry commission, and there was to be some interesting challenges ahead. All set to Channel 13 and we were on the road heading west to Jenolan State Forest not long after 9am.
On arriving at the state forest we all keenly looked out for the track turn off and shortly after finding it, we shared a moment of icy “air-down”. Air down this morning was one of those moments that are fantastic for the tyres, fantastic for traction, but not so fantastic for the bladders. Never the less we were all strong, resilient and then got back into the 4WD’s before heading into the Jenolan state “Labyrinth”. We had faith in Max, and I tend to think that he did a sterling job navigating what would no doubt be a dynamic path to mud! Glorious Mud! These tracks certainly did turn from nice firm tracks, to mud! Passing through a campsite we spotted a group of campers who had also ventured west to test out their trail bikes in the mud.
What’s the difference between mud and clay? I tend to think that mud sticks, and clay slips. Well, we got clay, and clay sticks too! Just out of the trail bike riders campsite we receive the ominous call over the radio, “I’m going to low range”. Smirks full steam ahead and tyres into the ruts, we were going down. Well sometimes Cooper are not my favourite tyre, though right now the STT’s were hanging on well and convincing me that my darkened thoughts of the brand were nothing but that. Following the massive Defender of Corey it gave some great information about how slippery the track was going to get. I figured if Corey’s 35” Simex Centipedes were going to slide, then I’d start cranking out the “Hail Mary’s” or something to that effect. All was good, and safely everybody made the decent. There was a little vehicular movement within the rut, though nothing to write home about. When we got to the bottom it was then time to U-turn it and show the hill that it was really a mere pussycat.
Max is the first to make the clay ascent, and up he goes, sitting high on the ruts and completes the run looking quite flash. Next it’s Corey, myself and then Kevin. After a bit of fun we were all at the top of the hill again, and ready for one dose of hot caffeine.
From morning tea we once again wondered through the Jenolan Labyrinth, mud holes were numerous as were the trail bikes. Eventually we arrive at the next destination and one Disco gets parked. Do you know the feeling when something is about to happen, and everybody knows what it is except you, and the only inkling you have is that it will be bad (good!). I follow in good faith and will accept the inevitable if anything outrageous arises.
Off we head, and the explanation is rocky steps first then clay. We arrive at the rock steps, and again I had the benefit of watching Corey extort any remnant of a rugged persona from the obstacle. Unfortunately I saw straight through this and following his line descended and meandered quite safely and easily. I hoped the ascent would be as fun and straight forward, though somehow there was some lingering doubt. I hoped ETC would push me through on our return, though at this stage we were still heading down the hill. Shortly a steep rutted descent became apparent which was made from the glorious clay that Jenolan was apparently abundant with.
Our muddies were full of clay and the ruts were hungry! Low 1st gear and get off the brakes. These ruts were too deep to guide us down without dragging diffs, and so one at a time we stay high and make the descent. About half way down Max finds the track slippery and his muddies full. With a quick winch things were straightened out and we could review the attack plan. I could hear the quiet murmuring of desires for Simex, and this was something that I could sympathise with fully, though MT’s would have to do the trick today. We continue down through the ruts to the river, attempt a steep pinch climb out the other side, all make it and U turn back down.
The perilous climb back up the clay hill ruts is amazingly drama free. It wasn’t until we had all reached the top of the clay ruts that I heard this ascent had a reputation for detonating Maxi-drives! Continuing, we were back to the rock step that we had previously descended. On the left of the step where we had previously travelled, Max has taken side angle to the limits, though not beyond! Hmmm, while standing on the side of Max’s Disco I admire his Camo seat covers that appear to be the 100% water proof and resistant to mud and grit units advertised in last months LROC news. A careful retreat under the watchful eyes of many, selection of a new line on the right side of the track this time and Max was straight up. Corey was straight up also and doing it easy, though on the left hand side of the track again. I tried left, right and left side of the track again. Nearly made it when I start sliding backwards, both feet on the brake, grab for the handbrake, repent for my sins and wish I had Max’s water and mud proof seat covers! It’s amazing how many thoughts you can have in what would have amounted to 1 second. After some encouragement with the snatch strap, a bow shackle piercing and Corey’s Defender, the Disco made this mere step look way too easy!
It was time for lunch, and we retreated to a pleasant turning circle with magnificent views over the adjacent valley.
After lunch we hit a broad rutty hill. Before I had sighted it, Max had called over the radio that there are a stack of ruts so don’t follow me. No worries I’ll follow Corey instead! Corey finds the biggest semi-meandering rut that runs down the hill and plants the Defender straight in it! Spectacularly he demonstrates the massive flex he’s designed into this beast and with no cocked wheels he descends in total control. It was about now that I had to find my own path down. Further down Corey slides into an enormous rut that could have swallowed a large Suzuki. Heart in the mouth stuff for any spectators, and the Defender salutes with a rear tyre as if nothing happened. No panels connect with terra firma and it lands shiny side up! A quick track inspection break at the bottom and we head back up the track to retame those ruts. All goes well and on we continue.
On the way out there were some decisions to be made. Turn left and we are back out onto the road, turn right and it should take another 45mins. Famous last words hey! We head to the track that Kevin made famous and clay was the order of the day again, only slushy clay. Kevin made several attempts, though the A/T’s were just not gripping. I’ve got to say, Kevin really did have a good crack at that hill, but after many attempts and various tricks the clay had turned these tyres into slicks and with diffs dragging in the ruts made extra sure that it’s conquer would not be easy. Even Corey’s diffs were dragging, though the massive 35” Centipedes had the traction to overcome this! This is where life really became interesting and timetables were thrown out the window.
With Kevin making every effort to climb his clay hill, and becoming stuck in the process, Corey takes the Chicken run to come around and pull him free. This looked a bit of fun also. Based on advice and also falling light I also take the chicken run, and this becomes the next hurdle in itself. About 5-10 meters onto the chicken run and with all 4 muddies spinning on what looked to be a fairly tame incline the Disco comes to a grinding halt. Back up and try again on a different surface, with 4 wheels spinning and sideways progress only I parked it and waited for Max + winch to come through! Max hits the same spot with the same consequences, all 4 wheels spinning to no avail. Out with the winch and up the hill Max goes. Slingshot winch back down and up I go also, especially with the experience and great advice from Corey to make things work well. Another slingshot and the now free Kevin also clears the Chicken route.
I tell you, for a chicken route, there were a lot of stuck vehicles, winching pushing shoving and sticking of logs behind sliding 4WD’s. This is all on a Chicken run hill that you wouldn’t think twice about. Our “45min” detour to Kevin’s hill turned into a lot of fun in dimming light. We just made it out before total darkness, with Kevin’s hill now winning 2-0. Well, if you first don’t succeed then try and try again, and no doubt we’ll be back one day to even the score.
It was a great day out, and everybody came away with smiles on their faces. All had fun, and there was no damage. If anybody is interested in using their Landies in a rugged environment and seeing what they can do, then the Tuff Trips I can highly recommend.
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