Thursday in the snow

Thursday morning started with heavy snowfall around 8 AM. At noon radio stations reported stuck vehicles and closed roads everywhere. What a great opportunity to get some nice pics and having fun. So I throw various camera bags in my wife's Discovery, added a small come-along and some wellies just in case.

Once in my favorite corner I found the news true. Almost none of the small roads had been driven before and all were covered in a thick white coat of fresh snow. The amount of snow made the branches of the hedges hang quite deep bringing me a nice new setup of scratches. Nathalie will not be happy about that. She points out that, if anyone scratches her car it's she. Oh well, life's hard...

Once on the greenlanes I had a great time. The soil was so slippery you couldn't almost walk so constant attention was required. The snow hid many quite deep mudholes and at times I was glad having taken the Diesel instead of my 90 V-8.

So the afternoon went by, broken by many great photospots and night slowly fell. I stopped near the highway and watched the chaotic way most drivers do their business. So I decided to take an alternative route home via a long stretch of forest track I was quite familiar with. I had driven it last in... yes, must've been spring 2000.

The track started in a little village with an uphill so steep and icy it already required locked box. Than the track went along a large forest before plunging in it and following a small river.

Somehow my memory wasn't up-to-date as the quite good track I remembered was a quite rutted one with some 'interesting' mudholes. They conveniently laid in downhill sections so were easy to pass. Suudenly it dawned to me that, if I had to make my way back, it wouldn't be easy. Nor even possible.

The ground turned so slippery the poor Discovery which runs on Michelin snow tires had no choice than to follow the ruts. Then the unavoidable happended. After cresting a little butte the track dipped into a large, terribly rutted mudhole. I floored the right pedal but the engine didn't respond as fast as the V-8 I'm used to. With a soft "Smack" the Discovery found it's resting place, burried up to the door sills in gooey brown slime.

After some fiddling with high and low box I quickly realised that it was out of question to get out of this by engine power. The clock showed 6.55 PM and it was pitch dark outside. Just some minutes before heavy snowfall started again.

So on with the wellies and out of the back door as this was the safest escape route. After careful watching the car from every angle, stumbling in the mud and getting wet I came to the conclusion that it was well stuck. Great. I was proud of myself about this deduction.

So let's see for the recovery material. Come-along. Strap. Another strap. Shackles. Hat. Gloves. Steel rope. Handle...handle? Where was the actuating handle for the come-along? I remembered now having seen it somewhere dry and clean stored in a shelve at home. Doesn't get bend or dirty that way. Clever.

So I had to come to the conclusion that I'd need some helping hand. Or better a helping Rover. Thanks to modern electronics the phone was working. Strangely only inside the car but who asks.

So I phoned a friend, Dadu, who was so unlucky to pick up the phone. After some good herty laughs and some silly questions he jumped into his Range to come to the rescue.

While waiting for him to drive down the 50 kms or so I took some pictures. Glad I had the tripod. Must still wait some days to see what they look like. Those on the left are taken by an Nikon Coolpix which is, all in all, a good camera. But not ideal for using in the mud and subzero temperatures. And the snowfall thickened still as you can see on the pics.

After this came the really hard task. I had to phone my wife to buy an baguette on her way back home and, oh yes darling, I sunk your car...

Well, she wasn't as angry about me being stuck as I feared. But she was angry for not having taken her with me. I promise I'll take you next time I sink your car in a bottomless mudhole darling.

But back to the stuck Disco. About an hour later dadu was somewhere around and phoned me for directions. Not easy as I didn't expect to be stuck so I didn't remember the names of the villages I passed. It took us about 40 minutes of conversation until he found the right track.

Getting unstuck was quite easy. A few heavy tugs on the recovery strap and out came the beast, dripping brown stinky mud. But what now? The way back wasn't easily passable. It had an off camber and the ground was even icier then before. So we decided to continue as I remembered the following sections being way over the river bed. And possibly dryer.

An first attempt at the same mudhole wasn't successfull. Nor a second. But at the third try the poor Michelins found traction and pulled the Disco through. The following trail was still quite challenging with a good deal of off-camber parts, soapy ground and VERY nasty fallen trees. When we arrived at the main access track we found another fallen tree in an uphill section. We had to clear this first as on the downhill side was a 10 feet drop into a ditch. No way to take any chances there. After the fallen tree the track got so rutted I had to constantly keep momentum to get up. Stopping would have been fatal as the icy ground would have made any restart impossible. This is where the nice soft springs on the Disco came in handy. With only 3 or 4 times gently touching the bump stops the heavy car made its way up.

Back on tarmac we were about the only people still driving. Trafic on the nearby highway had completely broken down so we used small roads for our return home. Another shortcut which took 3 hours.