Once upon a time on New Years Eve 2016.
Southern California received flash flood and winter storm warnings. I call my buddy Khoren and say, "the storm is here, let's go to Cleghorn Ridge Trail for a few hours before dinner". Sure enough, the smart guy that he is, he too thinks its a great idea.
We enter Cleghorn from the 138 headed east to west at 3pm and the trail is so slippery we have no traction or control. We slide through a few off camber obstacles with the jeeps roof inches away from the ground due to no traction but we made it through without fully flopping. It was great!
At 4:30pm we decide to call it a day and head home to the family for New Year Dinner. 11 miles of flat slippery ledge road to go.
On our way we run into a broken XJ being towed by a YJ and a CJ with two rear tires off the bead. By the request of the CJ Owner we tow the CJ to flat ground so he can change his tire as the YJ pulls the XJ in reverse. At this time it is pouring heavy showers and we are all soaked but we have change of clothes in the WJ. We offered our spare tire to the CJ owner but it was a different bolt pattern. He got his spare on the CJ and we rounded up our handshakes to say our goodbyes when we noticed in the group was also two kids, a grandma and a grandpa. We went our way and headed out.
As we ascend the trail we notice the storm grow stronger and the ground is now covered in snow. I look at Khoren and say...we have to go back and get him out. There's no way he can drive 10 miles with one flat on snow covered ground. Khoren agrees so we turn back.
As we approach them again, the CJs motor shuts off and won't turn over. We strap up and tow the CJ seven miles in low range on second gear.
As we reach 2 miles left to the highway the CJ flopped on a turn and rolls down the ledge road and off the mountain. I saw it happen in my rearview as the headlights of the CJ rolled. It is now pitch black and still raining. I stop the WJ, got out with flash lights and see the CJ hanging on by the tow strap to our WJ. The owner of the CJ suffered minor damage to his nose and was bleeding but over all OK.
We called the YJ Owner who is still about 5 miles behind us since he was towing the XJ in reverse. At this point, we can't do anything since the CJ is hanging on our WJ. If the strap breaks, the CJ will fall hundred of feet down the mountain. We tried using the CJs winch to stabilize it and anchor it but there are no trees and we were not able to dig ground to create an anchor due to the storm.
Finally the YJ arrives so we strap the CJs winch to the YJ so I can free myself to turn around and try to winch up the CJ. At this point I know our winch is not made to pull dead weight but we had to try.
And try we did...we winches the CJ vertically dead weight and sure enough, our winches cable release clutch lever broke and as the winches gears shredded the CJ went down the hill. We lost the Jeep.
We took the family out of the YJ to drive them to the McDonald's near the highway as the YJ turned back to get the broken down XJ.
When we reached home, we posted on the SoCal Offroad Recovery SOS page for assistance. They returned the day after with plenty of help and recovered the CJ.
I was not surprised at all that our winch broke and our bumper did not move a hair nor did it bend the WJs unibody. Khoren looked at me on our way home and said, "bro, I can't believe your bumper didn't even move!"
In the end, I thank God no one died that evening or was seriously hurt, it was truly a Happy New Year as no one was left behind on a trail in a storm. We were late to dinner but We were happy we were able to assist the family off the mountain since they had not been on that trail before. Since our wives had no idea we ventured off into the mountains during a heavy rainstorm, our story and video proof of the recovery made our excuse for being late, covered in mud, all better LOL.
No One Left Behind. Now, time to buy a new winch!