It’s rare to see two of the same car crashed into one another; to see four is especially uncommon. But that was the scene on an off-road trail near Colorado Springs, where slippery conditions sent a quadrumvirate of Toyota Tundras careening into one another, creating a mangled mess of metal and plastic.
I spotted this video, taken by mechanic and off-road enthusiast Jessica Elizabeth, on Facebook, and figured I’d share it with you, dear Jalopnik readers. The whole thing is a bit of a disaster:
I chatted with Elizabeth to learn a bit more about her video showing what appeared to be a Tundra off-road club having a bad time. The Jeep Wrangler “TJ” driver told me that she and some friends were airing down their vehicles, preparing to head out on some trails near Colorado Springs, when a man driving a stock-looking Ford F-150 Search and Rescue truck asked the crew if they planned to ascend a mountain just ahead. Elizabeth and her team answered affirmatively.
“We got reports that there’s a Toyota or two that are stuck somewhere...do you guys mind going looking for them?” Elizabeth recalls the man saying. “Last thing we heard, they’re up towards Mt. Baldy.”
“Okay that sucks, because that road really sucks,” Elizabeth told me were her first thoughts. She said that, though the Mt. Baldy trail is technically rated as “easy,” snow changes that rating dramatically, as the way features enormous drop-offs at the bases of steep slopes. “Because there was snow on it, it didn’t make [the trail] difficult,” Elizabeth told me, “it made it scary.”
Elizabeth, in her lightly lifted TJ Wrangler with a winch and big rubber, followed another modified TJ with lockers, a lift, and 37-inch tires. Behind Elizabeth drove a slightly modified modern Wrangler Rubicon. The trio gave Search and Rescue its CB radio frequency, and started up the mountain to find the stranded Toyotas.
After five or six miles up a road called Old Stage Road, Elizabeth reached the trails, and shortly thereafter, met up with a Toyota Tundra driver, who informed Elizabeth’s crew approximately where the stranded Tundras sat. Elizabeth and company ran into another member of Search and Rescue, who directed them closer to the missing vehicles.
Elizabeth told me that the Tundra and Search and Rescue vehicles simply weren’t capable enough to help the stranded Toyotas. Her crew of Jeeps, though, was better equipped.
A man in a Jeep Wrangler, who turned out to be the person who had initially radioed Search and Rescue, gave Elizabeth’s crew even more precise directions to the lost Tundras, and the team continued its quest up the snowy trail. “It’s super icy, super sketchy,” Elizabeth told me in our phone conversation. “There were lots of parts where I really had to get on it to get up a hill because of how icy it was.”
As they continued, the team of three spotted a small Tacoma. “This isn’t it, right?” Elizabeth, who has been off-roading for over a decade, wondered. “I have no idea how this guy got up the mountain. He had bald street tires, he had no lift. He had four-wheel drive — that’s pretty much the only thing he had going for him...He got it up that mountain somehow. No idea how.”
But that Tacoma wasn’t it.
The group continued further before reaching a steep decline. The leader in his 37-inch-tire-equipped Jeep Wrangler TJ began the descent, telling the rest of the team to wait behind. “Holy crap, this is super slippery. Don’t come down here,” he warned over the radio. “Do not come down here. We won’t be able to get back up.”
Elizabeth and the person in the Jeep behind her hopped out of their vehicles and walked down the trail past the TJ (which had carefully navigated the grade, using the embankment to maintain grip). “Even just walking down the hill, we were slipping and sliding all over the place,” she said. Eventually, the crew spotted the Toyotas.
“It was just one after another, boom boom boom boom—all crushed up together,” Elizabeth told me, describing the scene.
By the time she’d reached the wreckage, it was already around 9 p.m.; the Toyota drivers had been stuck on the trail since around 1 or 2 p.m., Elizabeth guessed. They were huddling around a campfire to stay warm.
Elizabeth’s crew knew that rescuing these trucks late at night wouldn’t be a smart call, so the TJ Jeep that had driven down the grade backed up the trail. “He almost couldn’t make it back up,” Elizabeth told me, saying he had to give it some serious throttle in reverse, and that the lack of chains or studded tires was doing him no favors.
With the TJ back up the grade, the three Jeeps gave the Tundra owners lifts to their homes for a good night’s sleep. The following day, they all returned to the scene of what has to be the biggest off-road Toyota Tundra crash in history. That’s when Elizabeth shot the video.
“From the top of that hill to where they crashed was probably 100 yards,” Elizabeth told me, describing what she thought had caused the wreck. “I’m pretty sure they slid at least 50-60 yards.”
“You don’t know you have not traction until you have no traction,” she told me of how this kind of thing can just sneak up on drivers.
A search and recovery team eventually got all the Tundras out; all of the vehicles were able to drive home despite dented bumpers, a bashed-in door, and damaged grilles. One vehicle shown in the video had a trailer hitch poking a faux beadlock wheel, though that wasn’t a major problem, and in fact, none of the vehicles seemed to have suffered significant mechanical damage.
So the story ends well if you don’t consider what will likely be expensive body repair bills for The Epic Toyota Tundra Pileup Of December 2020.
Update Jan 4, 2021 8:40 P.M. ET: I have been made aware that there’s a good writeup (with nice high-res photos and a video) on this situation at The Drive. So check out my former coworker Stef Schrader’s work over there.