General Discussion > Got Gear?

Stranded for two days in the desert - after action report

(1/3) > >>

It's about gear, the lack of gear, the inappropriate use of gear.  Lots of lessons learned, and I'm sharing them here.

The first rule of off-roading: Never go alone.

The second rule of off-roading: If you break rule #1, let someone know where you are.

Ok, so I broke rule #1.  But followed rule #2.  Went to have lunch at Ruby Wash ('51.1%22N+112%C2%B028'59.1%22W/@34.01419,-112.4847833,757m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d34.01419!4d-112.483073) - it was great.  Since this photo was taken, the road had been graded to for a run-off, which is where I had lunch and a nap (and dinner, and spent the night, and but I'm getting ahead of myself). 

It's 4pm, and instead of calmly driving out and making a u-turn to head East, I assholed it over a small ridge (small, like 2 ft), and high-centered the Xterra on a rock.  The wheels quickly dug holes and I went nowhere.  Well, I have a winch, so I'll get out the gear - ARB vest/snapback arrestor, tree saver, shackle - good to go.  Started winching and remembered I was supposed to run the engine - silence.  Winchy no worky.  Expletives.  Tried to start the engine - dashboard lights came on, but no starter motor.  More expletives.

At this point, the situation is I have a winch across the road with tension.  Engine won't start.  Battery appears to be drained.  I suspected I drew too much current and reversed a cell and killed the battery.  So I deployed the solar panel (GEAR!) to try to charge the battery - and commenced to digging the dirt out from under the Xterra with my POS Army shovel (GEAR!).  About 5:30, I'm hungry so I dig out the 72 hour survival pack (GEAR!) and choose "Cheddar Potato Soup."  Number one ingredient is creamer.  It tastes like cheese-its soaked in coffee-mate.  Fills a gut and makes a turd which enabled me to use my portapotty (GEAR!) because I'm an old fart and don't feel like squatting over a hole, in the sand, that keeps filling up.  After dinner, I'm back at the digging, then set up my brand new tent (GEAR!) and go to inflate the air mattress (because I'm an old fart and like my creature comforts) and try to inflate it with the aft power invertor (GEAR!), which fails to operate.  I plug in my backup invertor (GEAR!) and inflate the mattress (GEAR!).  Back at digging until 8pm, then I go to sleep.

Woke up at 9:30 to the sound of a truck and lights about 300 yards away.  I stumble out with socks in hand, barefoot in the sand, and try to get their attention and failed.  Tried to use my lights (GEAR!) which failed to light up.  Tried the horn - no avail - they left.  Back to bed.

Woke up at 4:45 and repositioned the solar panel to catch the morning rays.  Then I noticed the power switch between the panel and the charge controller (GEAR!) was in the OFF position.  More expletives.  Used my multimeter (GEAR!) to verify charging was taking place.  Made breakfast - boiled egg left over from the day before and another bowl of cheddar goo.  At least it's hot, made possible by my butane stove (GEAR!).  With the sun on the other side of the Xterra, I commenced digging out the other side.  Finally found the rock and dug it out. 

Meanwhile, I have a cable stretched across the road ready to kill a passerby.  Got the great idea to dig out the dirt in front of the Xterra's wheels to get it to roll down hill and release the tension on the winch.  I tried to use the winch clutch, but under tension, that was a no-go.  After more digging, I step on the winch cable, and move the Xterra forward a foot or so, which makes the winch line slack, and I retrieve it.

Took my orange kinetic recovery strap (GEAR!) and made an X in the road for an areal aid.  Did the same with my tow straps (GEAR!).  Took a nap from 8:15-9:00 in my camping chair (GEAR!) and feet up on the camping table (GEAR!).  Tried the CB radio (GEAR!) and found it dead.  DING!!!  Everything I've added to the Xterra is dead - I must have blown a common fuse!  Looked in the interior fuse panel - checked a couple - not it.  Went under the hood.  Found that where I attached the winch POS lead was at the downstream side of an 80A fuse, and I verified it was blown with my meter.  Great!  Now I'm getting somewhere.  I have wire (GEAR!) - I spooled off about 6 feet of it (22 GA with painted insulation), folded it in half a few times, formed loops at the end, and used my Gerber (GEAR!) to take off the insulation.  With jumper complete, I installed the jumper using my wrench set (GEAR!), tried the ignition, and IT'S ALIVE!!!  I ran the winch (now connected to the positive terminal upstream of the fuse) to retrieve the winch line, and hastily put all my stuff back in the Xterra and left.

Lessons Learned.
1.  Even if you leave your location (and I was 100 yards from the map coordinates above, which I sent my wife, who was in Vegas) with someone, their disbelief that anything could happen will keep them from calling the Sheriff's Office for at least a day.  My son and mother-in-law convinced themselves that I decided to camp overnight, ignoring that it was Sunday night and I had work Monday morning.  I was gone 24 hours before they told my wife and got my coordinates.
2.  I used 5 liters of water and came back dehydrated and 5 lbs lighter.  Even thought I drank water coming back and after I got home, I still had dehydration headache.  Drink more.
3.  That small terminal post may be convenient, but it's the wrong place to attach lights and winches.
4.  Carbo-food is ok, but I sorely missed protein.  I saw the biggest rabbit ever - I think it was the famed Arizona Jackalope.  If I had a rifle, I'd be eating rabbit for lunch.  Need to bring protein on excursions or the means to procure it.  My pistolmanship is nowhere as good as my riflemanship, but if I were out there another day, I would be trying :)  Just bought a SUB-2000 - nice and compact.
5.  Long-sleeved shirts (GEAR!) and sun-block (GEAR!) are good things to carry.  I had both and used both.
6.  I did not have duct tape nor electrical tape. :(  Remediation complete.
7.  Did not have electrolytes.  Fortunately, the temperature was only 92F the first day and 89F the second, so I didn't sweat too much.
8.  Don't go straight over small steep hills.
9.  Test winches under real load before counting on them.  I performed the initial wind with no problems, but under load, real load, the fuse popped.
10. it doesn't hurt to have something to read.  I found boredom recovering from working in the sun to be the most irritating part of the experience.
 Should have brought a book.
11.  I could have tried finesse and lift the front of the Xterra with my floor jack (GEAR!) and build up the dirt under the wheels.  I could have just dug it out like I had to anyway.  Had I done this, I would not have discovered my wiring error with the winch.
I'm sure there's more, but this is enough.

I got back to cell phone range, called my wife, who called her mom, who called the Yavapai Sheriff's Department who intercepted the Deputy before he made the 90 minute trip for nothing.

pinchel (Rob):
I was going to add to your Facebook post...not going out alone. :) Glad you survived the adventure.

Great write-up and catalog of events. I felt like laughing and calling emergency services all at once.. Sounds as though you were mostly prepared, only advice I can offer and you already know is, angle across those berms. Never take a wall head on..
Glad to hear you're alright, and thanks again for the (hilarious) post.

Thatsgr8 (Scott):
After reading this, I added to my list of survival supplies. Good to hear you made it out ok.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Yep - lots of lessons learned and that's why I shared.  Still chewing on that humble pie  ; ;D

New fusible link block is $28 at Midway Nissan.  I told the parts guy I saw it online for $24.  He said "We can do that."  Midway now has a new fan.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version