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Old 01-29-2021, 11:47 PM   #1
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Bishop Winter Trip

Tried to head up to Tom's Place to enjoy the big storm but 395 was closed! Instead I wound up camping a couple of nights north of Bishop. Turns out LA DWP has lots of power stations above Bishop and they spend a lot of time plowing a lot of backroads so you can actually find some nice camp spots in winter. I spent the first night at one of these then drove up to 6,800', found a parking spot, and went for a backcountry ski. Next night I drove up Chidago Canyon - a road I've driven in the summer and which is a nice way up or down the mountain if you don't like 395. It was snow covered dirt but others had driven up it. My 350 EB had good traction climbing the fresh snow. I camped up past the petroglyphs you can find along the road there. I had some time before dark so I decided to put my tire chains on since I had only done that in the driveway years ago when I first got the van. I only had one set so I chained up the front...I had great traction and breaking but my rear end fishtailed when the trail went off-camber. (My back end weighs 5,500# vs. 4,500# front). I've never chained up in 4wd before so it is a rare event. I think my lesson is that if it's serious enough driving to be putting chains on, I'd put chains on all four wheels. Beautiful scenery that I usually only see in summer. Van stayed comfy warm! Never made it to Tom's place but had a great time.
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Old 01-30-2021, 04:16 AM   #2
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Great short trip. Things are so different with snow covering them. Thanks for posting.
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Old 01-30-2021, 09:13 AM   #3
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So jealous! As an Easterner my options for getting that far in winter are limited. I would so love to just be able to take off a couple of days and get that deep in the backcountry....and snow.
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Old 01-30-2021, 09:28 AM   #4
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So nice that you were able to get out and enjoy the new snow. For what it's worth, when you only have one set of chains they should almost always be installed on the rear axle. The only common exception would be when you're breaking a new trail and the extra pulling power can help if the chains are on the front. Otherwise the back end will try to pass the front end as you experienced. A couple of my most white knuckle experiences have come when driving on snowy back roads (without chains) after they melted and refroze replicating what can be described as luge runs. You definitely made the right choice installing the chains when you did.

My recommended chain installation is only meant for standard selectable 4x4 vehicles. For AWD please follow the owners manual...
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Old 02-07-2021, 05:41 PM   #5
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Well my experience supports your rule! It's quite the feeling when your miles up a snow covered dirt road with no support vehicle and your rear end swings off the trail. Our vans are so big and heavy you really need to watch that stuff. I have lots of recovery gear (and a satellite communicator) but spending a few hours by myself getting un-stuck in a snowstorm is not my idea of fun! I will say ABS brakes are a wonder in the snow! The very first time I hit the brakes in snow in Colorado - back in the '70's - I went right off the road! My van's ABS brakes are great in the snow...which is not to say that you stop in short order on snowy ice!
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Old 02-11-2021, 01:35 PM   #6
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Chains are also for stopping

I have had a lifetime of driving in snowy mountainous conditions. I totally agree with good advice from others here. Iíll just add what Iíve always told people; 4x4 improves your ability to go uphill in snow, but when trying to brake going down hill you are no better off that a standard car. On packed snow and ice Iíve always said Iíd rather be in my Honda Civic with chains on all four wheels than in a 4x4 without chains.
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Old 02-11-2021, 04:30 PM   #7
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Thanks for posting you story & pictures.
I agree with others that chains on all four is your best bet. My 4x4 has proven the adage of "4x4 only means you can get stuck farther off road than a 2 wheel drive." We all are still learning better ways or about newer equipment.

Rather than chains, has anyone out there tried some of newer strap-on "cleats" or meshes that they would recommend?
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Old 02-12-2021, 10:28 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Steve C View Post
So nice that you were able to get out and enjoy the new snow. For what it's worth, when you only have one set of chains they should almost always be installed on the rear axle. The only common exception would be when you're breaking a new trail and the extra pulling power can help if the chains are on the front. Otherwise the back end will try to pass the front end as you experienced. A couple of my most white knuckle experiences have come when driving on snowy back roads (without chains) after they melted and refroze replicating what can be described as luge runs. You definitely made the right choice installing the chains when you did.

My recommended chain installation is only meant for standard selectable 4x4 vehicles. For AWD please follow the owners manual...
I disagree in my experience plowing snow and living 2 years in Colorado. I feel chains should go on front as all three subjects of control are done with the front axle. The steering acceleration and braking is controlled better by front axle. If the highway is that off camber that you are fish tailing you need to steer high. Your fishtailing may be due to your gear set being slightly miss matched for example early some Broncos had 4.09 front while having 4.10 gears which is ok on low traction roads but straight roads over a long distance will cause an OCCASIONAL traction slip as the rear is turning faster than the front. This is why gear driven transfer cases warned not to engage on hard surfaces. Any back road driving with sufficient amount os snow where you are fishtailing is not fun therefore you should be chained on all four if it is deep enough and you are alone. I was on an uphill off camber in a Jeep once and chained up in front I had to get out and chain the back as well but it was 2 feet and still coming. Any way it's my opinion based on tremendous amount of back road snow driving and plowing highway corridors.
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Old 02-12-2021, 10:36 AM   #9
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Vanimal: All very good points. Your notes fit into the second part of the response I made in that it's enough of a challenge to get chains on front wheels where, as you point out, most of the control is done, but what about the back end?

I've been looking for simple "other devices" to add to the rear wheels. The quick strap on cleats appear to be one of the possible answers. I'm wondering if others have used them.
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Old 02-12-2021, 10:42 AM   #10
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In my opinion the fronts are MUCH easier to chain up as you can turn the wheels making the inside latching so much easier and tighter. The rears are more of a challenge and at times require laying in the snow even when using a block, you still have to lean in to latch the inside where as a front you just turn the wheel. Then you need to readjust after a short distance and at times tighten (re-latch) the inside tighter.
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