2011 Easter Jeep Safari
Story and Photos by Nolen Grogan
Coverage brought to you by 4Wheel Parts
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Wednesday - Pritchett Canyon - JK Owners Run
When Lance told me he was planning on a JK Owners run up Pritchett Canyon at Easter Jeep Safari with over 50 JK's I told him he was nuts. Capable or not, that is just not my idea of a good time. 50 of ANYTHING anywhere is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. That said, I rolled out of bed with the rest of the Pirate/JK Owners crew and headed out for the run. We staged at McDonalds in town. Our sponsors of the run were there to hand out swag for the participants. Currie, Falcon Tire, Polyperformance and Poison Spider were on hand to pass out koozies, tshirts, tool bags, flashlights and hats. After we divvied up the loot, we took off for our run up Pritchett.
Our run was led by veteran rock-crawler and owner of Poison Spider Customs, Larry McRea. Larry was driving a tricked out 4 door JK with 40" stickies. He took off at a great pace to keep this large group flowing all day. I did not give us a chance in hell of finishing the run with this many vehicles before dark, but the initial pace was impressive for sure.
Pritchett Canyon is one of the coolest trails in Moab. It works its way through a deep canyon with steep cliffs on each side. Unlike some slot canyon trails, Pritchett is a wide trail that is as often on the ridge beside the creek bed as it is in it. Elevation changes are a norm as the trail rises and falls from the start.
There are some small warm-up ledges that will get everyone used to their "Moab-bumps" before the trail begins to get nasty. The first hard section is an off-camber series of ledges that require the proper amount of commitment and wheel speed to get up. Of course, these types of obstacles favor longer wheelbase vehicles and the 4-door JKs really did well. We struggled a bit with the less experienced drivers and the short wheelbase rigs, but just as you would want to blame the shorter wheelbase for difficulties, one would walk right up with no problem. This section became our first major bottleneck, but after we found the line, we got all 50 rigs up and headed back into the canyon.
There are numerous play areas in Pritchett Canyon before you start the serious climb out. Some are ledges in the creek and some are perfectly smooth sandstone river beds with insane traction. We messed around in every area so we would not have to wait too long in the inevitable traffic at the infamous Rocker Knocker obstacle.
We rounded the corner after playing on the slickrock just to see a broken TJ backing off Rocker Knocker. It and the Hemi JK from 4 Wheel Parts were part of the walking wounded by lunch. Greg Adler, President of 4 Wheel Parts put on an awesome show attempting to drive straight up Rocker Knocker in a Hemi JK. It was getting it! We were able to watch 3 4-door JKs literally walk Rocker Knocker with excellent spotting by Lance and Larry. You should have SEEN the smiles on these guys faces. At about noon, the group called a halt to all the fun and the guys from T and T Customs jumped in and served everyone sandwiches for lunch. Polyperformance and Pirate4x4 kept up the fun at lunch with random prize drawings for the participants. Rebel Off Road rounded out the sponsors for the superb event.
Knowing we had the hardest 1/2 mile of trail left to run, we broke from lunch and started the first group up toward the exit. The trail rounds the corner from Rocker Knocker to reveal a series of ledges that finally dump you out on the top of the canyon rim. Larry showed us all the line and was followed closely by a Scrambler on coilovers from Rebel Off Road. Out first and only roll of the day happened just after lunch as the guy from Rebel slid off the ledge under power, snapped a rear axle shaft and rolled on his side. It was fast and violent but luckily he was unhurt and the Jeep was not too badly bent.
The Currie guys jumped in right after the Rebel roll and made the climb look easy. Lots of great rock crawling experience in this group and it shows as they smoothly negotiated the rocks in Pritchett. Once the guys saw the Currie Jeeps do so well, they did not hesitate to jump right in and take on the ledge.
It was not long before the ledges took a major toll on our progress as a group. Each rig was taking time to get up the ledges but the spotters and the drivers kept things flowing nicely to the end. The final bad climb on Pritchett is called Rock Pile. This is a near vertical ledge that only the most sorted out rigs can climb without a winch or a strap. Our trail leader and two other Jeeps were the only ones to make the climb unassisted. The bypass is also insanely hard as only a select few made it without a winch or strap. Both sections slowed us down but there was plenty of action to keep everyone entertained. The last rig in our group was the Falcon Tire 4-door JK. They nosed up on Rock Pile and I was totally impressed with the way the Falcon Tires hooked up on the sharp climb. They took a bit of a strap to keep their nose down and they crawled it.
We finally crested the canyon at 3:00. That was only 7 hours. I would have bet my paycheck that it would have taken twice as long to navigate all of these rigs through one of the hardest trails in Moab. We all posed for a picture at the mouth of Pritchett and then peeled out for home. JK Owners hosted a happy hour for all the participants at Woody's Tavern afterwards. It was a well deserved reward for a bunch of excellent drivers and JK Owners.