What do you get when you mix Breckenridge, Colorado, 11 great four-wheel drive vehicles, 15 writers and a beautiful fall day? Rocky Mountain Redline, a fleet service company out of Denver, Colorado, that produced this event, aptly named it the Colorado Climb!
And climb we did for an entire day out in the mountains surrounding Breckenridge. In mid-September the Aspens had all turned a brilliant yellow color in stark contrast to the large green pine trees, and with temperatures hovering in the low 80s I couldn’t have asked for a better day to be in the great outdoors, climbing mountains in 11 awesome vehicles.
The adventure actually began the day before for me as I flew out of Salt Lake City headed for Denver and a good two-hour drive to Breckenridge and the opening dinner for the Colorado Climb. Usually when I arrive at an event like this there is someone to meet me at the airport and transport me to the hotel to await dinner, and I wouldn’t have any time with a vehicle until the next day.
However, since the climb was the brainchild of Redline owner, Melissa Shuttle Smith, things were going to be different. It started right at the airport where the folks from Redline met me. They shuttled myself and two other writers to the park and ride where we were provided one of the event four-wheel drive vehicles and sent on our own adventure to Breckenridge.
I was lucky enough to drive the refreshed 2019 Honda Pilot — the manufactures award-winning family SUV — and since it was going to be over two hours of mostly Interstate 70 freeway driving, the Honda Sensing program definately came into play.
This Honda Sensing program is perfect for freeway rush hour driving. Once it was set, the Pilot would remain in the center of the lane and at my predetermined distance from the car in front. Since experiencing this system in an Acura a couple of years ago I have loved the technology, and leaving the airport around 3:30 p.m. I knew there would be some stop-and-go driving through the heart of Denver.
Of course, the Pilot performed perfectly. It made what would have been a frustrating drive through Denver and high up toward the mountains west into a very enjoyable afternoon ride to the beautiful base camp for Colorado Climb in Breckenridge.
After arriving in Breckenridge there was, of course, the opening dinner event to officially kick off the Climb. However, the folks at Redline took the night in a different direction by featuring a local charity as part of the Climb that would receive a portion of the proceeds generated from the event.
The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BEOC) was the chosen charity. The center provides outdoor life-changing experiences for people of all abilities giving them a sense of freedom in the outdoors because of a disability or special need.
They were able to show us video of helping those with disabilities to do things like ski and white water rafting — things that I would never have expected to be possible. What a great idea, and who better to help than an organization that helps others to realize their dreams.
Day two dawned bright, clear and gorgeous. What a time to be in the mountains of Colorado as we got our vehicle assignments for the short 25-minute drive to the Golden Horseshoe, a dog sled and cross country ski camp, that was to be the base came for the day.
Since all vehicles are not created equal, especially those that are meant for going off road and those that are meant for serious mountain goat-like climbing, the journalists were divided into two groups. One group took out the off roading vehicles and the other group went mountain goat climbing to the continental divide, and we switched groups after lunch.
I was in the off roading group first with five different vehicles in our caravan, including a Mazda CX-9 Grand Trouing, a Honda Pilot Elite, an Acura RDX A-Spec, a Kia Sorento SXL and a new Ram 1500 Longhorn. This would prove to be a great opportunity to get in and out of different vehicles in an off road environment and see how they performed.
The trail we took consisted of sand, rocks and loose dirt being about a 45-minute climb to the top where we would turn around and come back. We were able to do this trip twice, giving each driver time in every vehicle up and down the mountain.
I had to admit at the start I would never have dreamed of taking most of these vehicles on this type of a road if they were mine, except for the Ram truck. It shouldn’t have any problem with this type of trail, and it didn’t have any other than its longer length necessitating a couple of turns making some back up maneuvers.
After the dual circuits I was most impressed with the Mazda CX-9 and the Kia Sorento for their climbing abilities and making it through the different types of terrain. The Honda Pilot and Acura RDX also did exceptionally well, but I expected them to shine as they have more of an off road degree than the other two.
It was pointed out the night before at dinner that the Kia had actually climbed Hell’s Revenge in Moab and was part of their new marketing, according to Neil Dunlop, Kia Communications Manager. I guess that is should have been no surprise the Kia would do fine after that kind of a climb.
After a great lunch at base camp it was time to take what had been dubbed the harder trail that would lead to almost 12,000 feet in altitude and show all the capabilities of the reaming vehicles in the climb. Up for the afternoon were the Ram 1500 Rebel, a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, a Lexus LX570, a GMC Sierra AT4, a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
It was a great trail that included some very steep and rocky terrain along with some loose climbing dirt. The Wrangler of course held its own just like another day at the office for a vehicle that is designed to handle any off road adventure.
The two trucks ran the trail pretty much neck and neck with neither one having any trouble getting to the top. Even with the longer wheel basses presenting no problems, they each have an additional factory 2-inch lift, which proved helpful with the longer vehicles.
The Lexus has all the climbing DNA that is injected into the Toyota Land Cruiser, so making it up the trail was no problem, and of course it won the contest of having the most interior style and luxury points.
The Tacoma TRD version is also loaded with all kinds of climbing DNA and comes with a shorter wheel base than the full sized trucks. After some time in Moab in a Tacoma it was no surprise that it crawled right along with the Wrangler.
The biggest surprise of the day was the Cherokee Trailhawk that Deanne and I had driven just a few short weeks before the climb. This smaller SUV hung right in there with all the others until we got to the very top and it got stuck in some very loose gravel on a steep grade. To say the least, I was overly impressed with its off roading abilities and would put it up against any rival.
All in all, the Colorado Climb was a great opportunity to put some off roading vehicles head to head on the same trail and compare the abilities of each. I was also able to make some new friends and renew some old acquaintances. I can’t wait for next year to see who can climb the best!
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