Step-by-step: A complex recovery operation to rescue a Jeep stuck deep in the sand dunes
Recovering a vehicle trapped in powdery sand at the bottom of a steep bowl in the middle of a sea of sand dunes presents a complicated real-world scenario that is not typically demonstrated in a training event. However, Nena Barlow, of Barlow Adventures, turned the recovery operation into a teaching opportunity during her advanced dune driving course at the Imperial Sand Dunes…
The white Jeep had gotten bogged down in a steep hole full of deceptively soft sand in a precarious location deep in the high dunes that swirl around one another in a tight configuration of sharp faces and steep bowls and the team had been trying to inch their way up and out using their Maxtrax. They had made some progress, but it was very slow going and getting later in the afternoon, so they radioed their GPS coordinates to Barlow, who brought in her Ram Power Wagon for the recovery…
STEP 1: ASSESSMENT.
The attempts at self-recovery highlight the key issue: deep soft sand combined with a very steep slope make it impossible for the Jeep to get enough momentum even after it has been lifted up by the Maxtrax — it just sinks back in. Barlow carefully positions the recovery vehicle higher up on the dune, where the sand is a little bit firmer so that it doesn’t get stuck too, making sure to leave a clear spot for the Jeep to exit the bowl.
STEP 2: BUILDING A BRIDGE.
The decision is made to use the heavy truck as an anchor, and let the Jeep winch itself up over a “bridge” of Maxtrax which should allow it to build up enough momentum to drive the rest of the way out. The team sets about laying the Maxtrax under all four tires with an extra set in front, slightly overlapping.
STEP 3: RIGGING.
With the bridge built, the winch line is spooled out to the last few wraps so that it will be working at it’s maximum pulling capability.
STEP 4: EXTENDING THE LINE.
However, even spooled out all the way, the Jeep’s winch line was just a little too short to reach the anchor truck. In a different kind of terrain, it would be easy enough to move the truck closer, but here moving the heavy Power Wagon further down into the soft sand risked getting the recovery vehicle stuck too. The safer solution was to extend the line with a strap.
STEP 5: WINCHING
Once all the elements are in place, Barlow directs the driver to winch up onto the Maxtrax, which do their job and lift the Jeep out of the sand…
STEP 6: AND DRIVING
…with the Jeep up on the traction mats, the driver builds some momentum while continuing to winch, and attempts to drive out, but as soon as the vehicle is off the mats it sinks down into the sand again…
STEP 7: UNCOVERING MAXTRAX
The attempt to power up buried one of the Maxtrax so completely that the team had to do some digging to find the “leash.” Amazingly, despite being vertically buried and driven over, the Maxtrax was undamaged and ready to be put back in place.
STEP 8: RESET
The Jeep had made some forward progress, and so the strap was removed form the rigging, maintaining the optimal pulling capacity of the winch, and the Maxtrax bridge was rebuilt for another attempt.
STEP 9: REPEAT
This time the Jeep was able to get enough traction to continue to move forward on its own power. Barlow gathered up the winch line to keep it from being driven over, and directed the Jeep to turn into the exit angle.
STEP 10: SUCCESS
Free at last. The Jeep was extricated. Mission accomplished. And a great real-world lesson learned.