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Climbing/Ascending Hills


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Survey it first
Hills off-road can become dangerous when the attempt to climb them fails. This is principally because you are then faced with a steep descent in reverse and gravity can accelerate you into a rollover situation, especially if the engine has stalled. So always stop at the bottom of a serious hill, get out and walk the route. You are looking for hidden potholes, ridges, rocks, sudden changes in gradient and whether the surface has reasonable traction or not. If there is no established track up the hill, then you are looking for a viable route up and it is worthwhile putting markers down if there are particular obstacles to be avoided. You may also find it useful to remove fallen timber or rocks that may be blocking an otherwise preferred route. You need to have all four wheels in contact with the ground at all times on a ascent. If the ground is smooth clay and it sticks to your boots then don't even think about attempting the hill even if you have mud tyres fitted.

What's on the other side?

Whilst at the top of the hill, assess whether there would be any danger presented by cresting the hill, as you do not wish to stop just before the summit to find out if there is or not - as the saying goes "Look Before You Leap". Also look down the hill you have walked up and assess what factors you would need to be taken into account if you failed the hill and had to reverse down it.

Is it worth it?
There is no shame in not attempting the ascent of a hill and certainly practise should be gained with hills of increasing incline before attempting one that has you sat back in the seat and wondering if you are going to make the top or not. It should also be noted that good engine compression aids hill ascent and descent so don't attempt a steep hill with a worn engine.


Take it slow
4x4 vehicles and engines vary a lot, some are manual, others automatic and some have sophisticated hill ascent control. It's important to know how your 4x4 is intended to be handled on steep hills - read the handbook! For less sophiscated transmissions, a good general approach is to select first gear and ascend the hill with as little throttle as necessary to maintain forward motion. It may even be beneficial to increase the idle speed a little if it is very low. The idea is to maintain forward motion without losing traction. Too much power is your enemy in situations like this and once traction is lost it can become difficult to regain it.

Learn from experience
If you fail in climbing the hill, then your achievement should be to learn the reason why and store the knowledge so gained. If the hill is critical to your journey, then attempt it again but with modifications gained from the first experience. Don't just rush at it a second time.

Getting off a failed hill safely

THESE TECHNIQUES SHOULD BE PRACTISED FIRST BEFORE ATTEMPTING A REAL ASCENT.

There are two possible situations you can find yourself in when you come to an unintended a stop on a steep hill. Either the engine will still be running or it will have stalled.


Stalled engine descent (PRACTISE THIS ON A TAME HILL FIRST).
As soon as the engine stalls, or is about to, press the brake pedal firmly to hold the vehicle - press the brake FIRST not the clutch.
Depress the clutch and select low reverse gear.
Release the clutch pedal.
Check your steering is straight and quickly view the route back down.
Slowly release the footbrake - the vehicle should remain stationary on the engine compression.
Start the engine whilst holding the steering wheel firmly with one hand - we don't normally start the engine in gear, but in this case, it is in the interest of maintaining traction and control. Be prepared for the vehicle to jolt as the engine starts and then allow the vehicle to descend without resort to touchng the accelerator. If the vehicle begins to slide or lose traction, just briefly and gently press the accelerator sufficiently to match the wheel and ground speed to regain control again.

Running engine
descent (PRACTISE THIS ON A TAME HILL FIRST).
Just before the vehicle completely loses traction press the brake and clutch pedals together and select low reverse gear.
Check your steering is straight and quickly view the route back down.
Hold the vehicle on the brake pedal and slowly release the clutch until almost engaged then release brake and clutch together gently.
Allow the vehicle to descend without resort to touchng the accelerator, unless the vehicle begins to slide or lose traction - in that event just briefly and gently press the accelerator sufficiently to match the wheel and ground speed to gain control again. You should resist the temptation to brake as this can cause the vehicle to slide sideways and you can then get very quickly into a rollover situation.

Land Rover ascending hill

Beware wet clay as it clogs tread. This Land Rover can go no futher, despite having mud terrain tyres.
It was easier to walk without shoes also.


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