The Nexen 25 Hour Rock Crawling Invitational

4x4 Magazine 4WD how to article 730

9 Jeeps

10 Black Diamond trails

25 hours.

Story by Don Alexander, Photos by Participants

4x4 Magazine 4WD how to article 728“Who’s bright idea was it to start a 25-hour rock crawling event at 3:00 PM? And with no moonlight?”

Guilty! But hey! You guys signed up for it. It all started when I watched the latest Flex, Rocks, and Rollovers YouTube video on the “24 Hours to Hell and Back”. Why not do a 25 Hour rock crawling event? Having competed in 25-hour sports car endurance races, it made perfect sense. We have plenty of local rock crawling trails in Southern California. To be honest, I never dreamed anyone would go along with my crazy idea. I mentioned the concept to Bill Stephens, the best off-road trainer I have worked with at the Trails 411 Adventure Experience. Ten black diamond trails in Cougar Buttes, Johnson Valley, and in our backyard of Big Bear Lake, all in 25 hours. Bill jumped on the concept. So did his wife and extraordinary spotter and instructor, Wendy. OOPS! But no way anyone else would hop on the insane train! Wrong.

First, Paul Jho from Nexen Tire jumped on board. And he brought Nexen on to cover the food expense for the crazy adventure. Be careful what you wish for. So, we set a date based on an off-road show in SoCal (which was postponed) and a starting time (based on a participant’s schedule who, in the end, could not make it due to a broken transfer case). The best-laid plans. We decided to limit the participants to 10 rigs, all street legal, high quality with highly experienced rock crawlers.4x4 Magazine 4WD how to article 731

Bill and Wendy Stephens, from Trails 411, led the participants. The drivers were some of the most experienced and talented rock crawlers in the US. John Currie, Ray Currie, Casey Currie, Brandon Currie, Don Alexander, Paul Jho from Nexen Tire, Lorie Graves – the Jeep Girl, and Jr. Batanian from King Tire & Wheel.

The event started at Cougar Buttes in Johnson Valley, California, at 3:00 PM. We kicked off the run by climbing Chicken Rock. The group then moved to Bull Frog, Cake Walk, and Split Finger. After a dinner break, the group took a short highway jaunt to Boone Road, the entrance to Hammertown during the King of the Hammers race. Crossing part of Means Dry Lake led us to Turkey Claw as nightfall rapidly approached. Everyone navigated Turkey Claw, quickly ending the trail in the dark. Another short highway stint led the group to Rattlesnake Canyon, the route to Motino Wash. We entered the wash around 11:30 and made it to the end around 2:30 AM. The rock crawling was the easiest part of the darkness. The shadows created some interesting images that became illusions when combined with the lack of sleep.

4x4 Magazine 4WD how to article 708On to Heartbreak Ridge and Old Timer Canyon for more crawling in the pitch dark. After completing Heartbreak and fending off sleep, the Jeepers made their way to Big Bear for a welcome respite, refueling, and breakfast. Next came the long drive through Holcomb Valley on the way to Holcomb Creek, a Jeep Badge of Honor trail. Another successful trail run allowed the group to head for the John Bull trail, another Badge of Honor Trail. Both black diamond trails were handled with relative ease. The last Jeep in the group stopped at the end of John Bull at 4:05 PM Just over 25 hours from start to finish.

Only two minor issues slowed the adventure. A tire popped off the bead in a challenging section of Cougar Buttes. The tire was re-seated in just a few minutes, surprisingly quickly. In the middle of the night on Motino Wash, a transmission cooler line came loose. The repair was quick, and plenty of trans fluid was on hand.4x4 Magazine 4WD how to article 704

All participants drove Wrangler Unlimited Jeeps except for Casey Currie in a Gladiator and Lorie Graves in her TJ. Lorie was the only one on 35-inch tires, no top, and a manual transmission. She made the challenge look easy!

4x4 Magazine 4WD how to article 702Everyone was exhausted by 4:00 PM at the end of the John Bull trail. The planned group dinner in Big Bear was scrapped in favor of heading home and collapsing into bed. I spoke with Bill and Paul at the end. The consensus was that the event was fun but exhausting. All it took was a good night’s sleep for everyone to start asking when the next 25 Hour Challenge will take place?

“But can we start in the morning?”

I’m getting too old for this!

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