overconfidence and Quattros? Backwards down the hill, on ice at night, yikes! (Long story)

Martin Pot paulnet at direcway.com
Sun Oct 27 18:24:56 EST 2002

Here is a personal overconfidence story from last winter. We have had an ice
storm in here in NW Arkansas, and most people are just iced in, except me
:>) I was doing the groceries for everyone, in the '86 5KCSTQ with then not
Hakka studded tires, which performed really well. One of the places I had to
deliver groceries was at my wife's cousin who is a heart patient, and he
really needed some things, especially after being stuck for a week. This was
going to be fun! He really lives way the hell in the boonies with several
very steep and narrow roads. We made arrangements with his neighbor to go
via their property, which took care of bypassing 1 of the hairpin curves
that is very steep and definitely a big risk factor.
My wife and youngest son came along, to go get groceries, and pick up one of
his prescriptions. Leaving my mountain and driving the 5 mile curve and
hilly road to the highway on ice, I have down to a routine. The highways are
usually kept clear and are pretty decent to drive on. Now we had to go to my
wife's cousin Ralph, which I have done before during adverse conditions and
didn't expect too much trouble. I sure was glad I didn't have to do the
hairpin curve, which is so dangerous because right before the curve
straightens out it, it starts dropping really steep for about 100 yards, and
if you don't play it right, the car will start heading down sideways, and it
will be hard to straighten it out, and will put you in a terrible fish
tailing situation that is difficult to control with a steep drop off on each
side, btdt.
Now we only had to deal with a few smaller hills and curves and one very
steep one, that is only slightly curved. When we got to the probably 150
yard hill at somewhere 30 degree angle, we had to go down, and once you
decide to go down there is no turning back. Started going down real slow and
on my way down slowly speeding up, I had no trouble controlling the car, it
is still scary though because it really was glare ice. Made it to his house
at the bottom of this hill, delivered the stuff and hung out for a while.
It started snowing a little and decided to go ahead and go home, I  told
Ralph, I call, as soon as I make it home. Now we had to make it up the steep
ice hill, and the way to do that is make a run at it. I even do that in the
summer time, because that hill is gravel and they act as ballbearing under
the tires.
Pitch black nighttime but with my euros no problem, its country here, there
are no streetlights, getting ready to go up. Got the car as far back on the
level part and said "here we go" to my wife and son. Made somewhat of a run
and started going up, going great! But half way up my tires started
spinning, and we started to slow down, but downshifted and made it almost to
the top. Then we slowed down to a stop, and thought ah well we will be stuck
now. Then to my horror we started slowly sliding backwards, into the pitch
black abyss!! Yikes!! We started picking up speed fast, and I was trying to
slow us down with my gears, brakes, but nothing made any difference. I
wanted an anchor!!!!! I can tell you, we were going in a total free fall,
and friction of my studded tires had become absolutely meaningless and kept
accellarating. At this point I feared for our lives, I have trees and a
steep drop-off an my left and a rock mountain wall on my right. At this
point my wife and I knew we had totaled the car, and were going to be lucky
to not get hurt when we impact something....... I knew this hill has a
slight turn to the right, but we were going straight down and we probably
would be launched of the mountain or we would hit a tree, or both. It seemed
if we were going to impact something, we needed to hit the mountain wall to
give us somewhat of a chance. I decided instead of working against of what
was happening, I put the car in reverse and gunned it, it worked ! I managed
to get a little control of the car, and made it turn slightly to the right.
Complication was that I couldn't see, my backup lights didn't work because
of trunk wires, I just had to guess. We were bracing for impact, but my RR
tire got into the ditch or gully and slowed the car down pretty abruptly but
cushiony and whipped  my front end around, and almost without really
stopping we were turned around 180' close to the bottom of 1 lane wide hill.
My wife, son and me were totally amazed that we didn't get hurt and had
absolutely no car damage. Went back to Ralph's house and took a bunch of his
heart medicine (kidding), to get our hearts to beat normally again. I ended
up climbing the hill with a big bucket of ash and sprinkled it on the top of
the hill where we had lost traction.
We then had to try again, but this time, I really took a very hard run at
it, without holding back, to make as much use of the momentum of the car.
This time we made it to the top without any trouble, but it sure put our
hearts to the test. This has been my most extreme experience I have ever
had, that was kind of caused by my overconfidence. Next day I ordered
Hakka's, because part of me blames the tires for this incident but I don't
think the Hakka's could have handled it much better, the major cause was not
having enough speed going up the hill. I thought I didn't need any more
because I had studded tires and they will grab anything, that was
overconfidence. Now I have Hakka's and they are much better, I really can go
anywhewere now, especially with good backup lights :>) Be careful!
  91' 2CTQW PRL   '86 5kTQ PRL  91' 2CTQ Maroon  All cars chipped

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