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Old 30th May 2016, 07:56   #1
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Default Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Never underestimate the elements…the mountains do not show mercy!


Introduction


Idea:Want Gangsta to be the 1st Pajero on Sandakphu!

Q: Are you sure a Paj hasn't done Sandakphu before?
A: Searched the net, and tbhp, none so far!

Q: Are you crazy?
A: Yes. That I am!

Q: LWB in SWB territory? Isn't Gangsta too long?
A: So what?

Q: You need 3-pointers to tackle the turns!
A: Will see.

Q: What are you trying to prove?
A: Well, nothing. Just curious!

The list goes on, but driving to Sandakphu was on the mind since going through some of the travelogues, and some horror stories.

The simple target was to make Gangsta the First Pajero of the forum to scale Sandakphu!

To prove that a LWB vehicle with the proportions of a Pajero can do it, an important reason why the turns were attempted without 3-pointers!


There have been experienced bhpians who have scaled Sandakphu with their Scorpios, Thars, Boleros and Dusters. Thanks to all of them and their vivid travelogues for helping me mentally prep what I could expect, without which it would never have been achieved.

My first travelogue. Probably the apt place to write about. Will try to make it as pictorial as possible.

A few pics to align the reader with the conditions!
The 3 raiders at Mirik.

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The start of ascent. Was totally unprepared for the first 3 turns, and had to back up downhill. It was a risky manoeuvre considering the fact that the vehicle was fully loaded with passengers and luggage. It was a true test for the mighty vehicle.
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Odometer reading of Gangsta at Sher-e-Punjab, Kolaghat.
Had switched to the AWD due to the rains enroute.
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Visibility before the final 3 1/2 kms to Sandakphu. The horror story started after this point. In fact, after reaching the top, I had a sleepless night wondering how I would make it down on the return journey! LOL!
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Waiting for the convoy to catch up after the first few hairpins. It was the diminutive pair of Motorola MR 350 handhelds we carried that managed to save the day. Communication despite non-existent mobile network was made possible due to those life savers.
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Sandakphu 3 1/2 km: The mile marking is barely visible! Notice the faint marking just above the intercooler scoop.
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Sandakphu 3 1/2 km: Fog made matters treacherous. A slightly clearer shot.
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The Trip Begins

Bhubaneswar - Mirik

In a momentary and split second decision prompted by wanderlust, and a friend’s proposal to take a Duster AWD and a Thar, I decided to see for myself how my Gangsta (a Full Tone Black 2003 Mitsubishi Pajero GLX with over 2.16 lac kms) would fare. May please refer to my garage for the features and mods on it.

The previous months already spent in reading travelogues by bhpians BlackPearl, 1100D & Himadri Mondal and then the confidence gained from previous off-roading experiences with Gangsta helped decide to go on even at short notice. Thanks to BlackPearl for sharing his valuable tips whenever we could get a network and had a clarification to make.

So off we were - Gangsta, a 2015 AWD Duster and a 2016 Mahindra Thar. Tying up all the last minute schedules, we managed to leave at about 1500 hrs on a Friday. After pushing on all night and the next day, we managed to reach Mirik and halted for the night.

The Ascent

Mirik – Sandakphu

After an uneventful drive to Mirik and an overnight halt, the schedule on Day 3 was to leave Mirik early so we could reach Sandakphu during day. But that was not to be. We could start our climb to Sandakphu from Mane Bhanjang after lunch only at about 1200 hrs on Sunday!

The moment I drove in to Mane Bhanjang, there were 2 curious guys who started eyeing the Pajero. As I parked near a police sentry post to ask if a Duster had come this way (as they had left on a different route from Sukhia), one comes up to me and asks if it’s a 4x4. I say YES..and he starts peeping under the body. I showed him the 4x4 lever with the 2H, 4H, 4HLc & 4LLc options and he seemed satisfied, saying it will do! After waiting for the Duster and Thar, we head ahead into the village for lunch. A couple of guys near the post at the beginning of the climb say it is too long and huge to turn. A guy saunters in and says private vehicles are not allowed! Gave me the impression the association guys didn’t want us to take private vehicles, and gathered around them. But they were swiftly despatched away by my friends after telling them that the Pajero has got an official permit and the other two vehicles were carrying my guests! 

Incidentally came across a two SSB Jawans who wanted a lift till Kalipokhri. There was no way I was saying NO to the men in uniform and my brothers-in-arms. So off we went with their heavy luggage in tow...with Gangsta heavily laden like a truck, more than 2.5 tons confidently grunting upward the steep inclined turns!

However, I was totally unprepared for the initial 3 hairpin inclines! Had to do a reverse on the slope to negotiate the first 2 turns, and then negotiate slowly on the next. To top it all, I had to adjust which of the 4x4 option to choose. Started off with the 4H, then to 4HLc and then to 4LLc. Initially, the tyres were screaming on the tarmac, as the only way to turn the mammoth vehicle in tight turns was to let it oversteer by using the the turn braking of centre locked differentials! It was a risky move in unknown territory, but then the unpredictability of it all is what turns you on. Finally hit a sweet-spot in 4H, and realized it was all that was needed! and then there was no looking back. Turns were a breeze and the inclines were easy as ever! Once the road conditions turned from tarmac to rock, it was the favorite 4LLc rock crawl in 1st and 2nd gear so that we could enjoy the view till the light lasted!

Dashcam Video: Ascent from Mane Bhanjang


A keen look at the way the turns were dealt with in the video above reveals the advantage of accelerating the vehicle that much slightly, so as to slingshot it with oversteer by using the outer front wheel as a fulcrum.

Dashcam video: Mane Bhanjang to Lamaydhura


Once the blacktop was through, Gangsta was in familiar No-Roads-Territory! 4H was sufficient to get along comfortably, and we recieved a comment of appreciation from the men in uniform, that had it been an LR they would have already jostled up a few bones by now! And a gentle question if I have had experience in driving the hills. I replied in the affirmative, that it went back nearly 18+ years after having learnt to drive in the hills. Guess they felt glad to be in safe hands rather than that of a novice. Hehe. On the other hand, it was supremely reassuring to have two men in uniform along, and the confidence that nothing can go wrong when you are in such company!

There were doubts regarding that rock jutting out on to the trail with the steep cliff, where a Duster had a gashed fender. Surprisingly, Gangsta cleared it by a wide margin. (while coming back, it never felt that it was the same spot).

Had tea at Lamaydhura as we waited for the Duster & Thar to catch up; and ended up on a longish break before we pressed on. We again halted at the Singalila National Park entrance to let the Duster and Thar catch up! Some of my friends were driving in the hills for the first time, and hats off to them for doing this in the first go! None of them resorted impulsive moves and remained patient and composed throughout. It was a 1st time hill climb for bhpian sonubbsr, and though at one point of time he had second thoughts about continuing, they were swiftly banished from his mind when he was reminded about not backing out due to apprehension! Hats off!

Gairibash, Tumling and Kalipokhri were done in a breeze with little stops to allow for the convoy formation, and finally we halted at Kalipokhri to let the vehicles again catch up before we embark on the final onslaught.

Waiting for the Duster and Thar.
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Pitstop for tea and wait for the vehicles at Lamaydhura. We did have some curious onlookers at Lamaydhura and enroute. Trekkers were waving at this beast trundling up the trail effortlessly. I wonder if anyone had seen a vehicle drive so confidently up a mountain with screeching tyres, and guess thats what took them by surprise.
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At Lamaydhura.
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Chockey Tea Stall. A LR trundles past.
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Curious onlookers from the LR.
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People peep out curiously to look at the strange black beast that we call Gangsta.
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Another stop at Singalila NP gate.
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Singalila NP Gate.
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Somewhere on the trail. The bad visibility didn't allow us the view of the mighty peaks.
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The view from the mirror and then the view down below.
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Approaching Tumling. The poor visibility denied us the opportunity to view the mighty mountains.
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Obsessed with the vehicle and its performance, all the photography was aimed at it. No wonder we are treated as insane by people who dont know what wanderlust and love for cars means.
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During a stop at the Singalila NP
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Shikhar Lodge, Tumling.
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The Duster needed momentum to negotiate the inclines, and we had to ensure that there was a considerable gap between them and my Pajero leading the raid pack. The Duster was more engrossed in dealing with the task at hand; and they couldn’t have the luxury of waiting for the Thar be seen in their ORVMs. . As a result, the convoy had to be staggered; and this led to variation of timings in reaching certain waypoints and substantial delays adding to the already delayed start that we had from Mane Bhanjang. By the time we reached Kalipokhri, visibility as well as weather had begun to fail earlier than expected, worsening drastically.

Duster during the Ascent


We wondered if we should press on or stay put in Kalipokhri, but since there was no accommodation available at that point, and considering our stay was booked in Sandakhphu, we finally took the call to head to Sandakhphu despite the visibility, weather and delay; a decision that would prove to be tricky and a hair raising one. But yet, as an afterthought, it was the best decision that helped us explore our capabilities in terms our own skills, abilities of our machines and the sync that we shared with the rides.

Dashcam Video: Lamaydhura - Tumling - Kalipokhri



The Final 3 1/2 kms to Sandakphu

The drive from Kalipokhri to Sandakphu was a true horror tale, which cannot be put in words! Even the pictures and dashcam videos can be called an understatement. The last 3 kms to Sandakphu ensued in near zero visibility, with fog and wind blowing all over. The inclined turns coupled by the boulders were literally a battlefield with fire coming from all over!

Gangsta had to be maneuvered in such a way to jump over the steps like trail. At one point, instead of following the turn, due to zero-visibility, I nearly drove the vehicle left toward the (luckily) gentle slope. Had to back up realizing something was amiss when I heard my spotter outside the vehicle shriek with alarm! Subsequently, I realized I was 90degs away from the turn! It had to be 4LLc all the way; to enable the enormous vehicle use its sheer power and transmission prowess to negotiate the route.

As an afterthought, it was the sheer ability of the machine available at the driver’s disposal which made it possible. No wonder the Pajero is second to none in tacking terrain with luxury and comfort. It’s this no-nonsense quality of Gangsta that makes me fall in love with it every day over and over again; proving itself in new ways every moment; giving the inspiration to throw something tougher at it…saying “BRING IT ON”.

Dashcam Video: Kalipokhri - Sandakphu
(Quality of Video reduced to cater for compensating space)
1.

2.

3. In total darkness:

Final raid attempt before the last 3km, had to wait more than 45mins for the others to reach. The Duster and Thar had severe visibility issues, and we ended up sending some reinforcements for the Duster after reaching Sandakphu.
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Worsening visibility.
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Culmination of the Ascent
The final point after reaching Sandakphu in the dark. Had trouble making out the trail from amongst the rocks. No wonder there weren't any pictures taken during that section (wouldn't have been visible though) except for the dashcam video!
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The view in the morning. Inclement weather had made matters worse. Knowing the weather would only deteriorate, the only option was to get back to Mane Bhanjang as soon as possible. We had some trouble with the Duster heating up, but realised it was in fact driver induced. Except for a few underbody hits, and some scary instances when the vehicle had to be stopped by placing stones behind the wheels to prevent it from rolling down the valley / over the cliff, the Dusted did manage to get there. But in my personal opinion, the lack of Low Ratio gear severely hampers the ability of a vehicle to negotiate such terrain safely.
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Coordinates and Altitude from the Duster's GPS.
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5 degrees? Sometime in between, it was 1 deg. Guess I missed the pic.
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After all the ordeal, when we finally reached the parking spot atop Sandakphu, it was an intensely satisfying experience that makes me look back admiringly at the uncomplaining enormous black beast which took everything thrown at it in its gentle stride as if it was cakewalk…on most occasions making me feel that Sandakphu is easy after all! No underbody hits, no scrapes; more importantly the Pajero stood out as a vehicle that can amaze you with its no-nonsense performance each & every time.


(Return Trip Contd...)

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Old 31st May 2016, 19:17   #2
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Default Zero Visibility Raid On Sandakphu With A Pajero, Duster And A Thar!

The Return Journey: Sandakphu - Mane Bhanjang

The thought of how we would negotiate the descent certainly gave a sleepless night. Checked out with the SSB men stationed there and the LR drivers. They advised we should take the Bikkeybhanjang route upto Kalipokhri, and off we went along the trail. What we saw was totally different from the previous experience of the ascent.
The trail wasn't rocky, but was truly slippery! A slight last night drizzle had made it tricky. None the less, it was a simpler descent compared to the rocky ascent! That was relieving!


Took the Bikkeybhanjang route for the descent. Its not rocky, but can be quite a handful if it rains!
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Came across this small structure. A Prayer Wheel. We were in Nepal.
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Pitstop
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Joining the rocky route back again!
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The visibility was bad!
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Some of the best views, despite everything
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The Prayer Wheel
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Marvellous view of the mountains
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This time, we had an opportunity to gaze at the locale owing to better visibility during the day despite foggy conditions.

A shot from the vehicles following Gangsta
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Ethereal
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Look ma, no boulders!
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The trail was worth it.
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Serpentine trail.
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Does the track take us into the clouds?
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Yes, into the clouds
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Fuzzy.
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Duster making its way
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Gangsta!
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The Thar makes an entry!
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Up and over the slope
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Duster playing it cool
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That was a constricted path
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Once we hit the rocky trail again from Kalipokhri, Gangsta was back in familiar territory. It was just about engaging the 4LLc and let it crawl down the steep trail, all the time enjoying the beautiful view around. We had no regrets about missing the Kanchenjunga view. The drive was worth it! As is said, the journey is more important than the destination!

Had a tea stop at Lamaydhura, I decided that 4H was enough to deal with the descent. We noticed a couple of LRs heading down to Mane Bhanjang ahead of us and decided to test Gangsta if it could match up to them!

The video below busts all myths about what people said about a LWB vehicle.
The audio has been muted to prevent disclosure of the lovely discussion that took place as we tackled the descent, much to the dismay of everyone ahead of us. There was a point when it felt the turns were too easy, and one of my co-passengers even remarked if it was really the same route which we had taken up the previous day!

Video: Lamaydhura - Mane Bhanjang Descent


We managed to reach Mane Bhanjang much ahead of the remaining vehicles. When we parked Gangsta for refreshments, the very people who had inspected the vehicle were back to check it we did it to Sandakphu...and there were appreciative congratulatory remarks!

Before we re-embarked on the further uneventful trip back to Bhubaneswar, it struck us finally that we truly achieved what we had set out to accomplish... to make Gangsta the 1st Pajero to scale Sandakphu! That was truly satisfying.
Attached Thumbnails
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Old 1st June 2016, 11:25   #3
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 1st June 2016, 12:10   #4
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Wow, you guys have some serious guts. That dusters video is kinda, scary. Just a few question to all:

1. In the hills, is it recommended to drive without wearing seat beats? In a worst case scenario folks can jump out of the vehicle faster, true?

2. At times in the video i see people getting out of the car for an upcoming steep climb, it makes the car light, but then it also loses traction due to reduced weight? I personally have no such experience, thus this question might sound stupid, but i am curious.

In your write-up you mention a beautiful line by saying that you feel confident and positive when you have "Men in Uniforms" around you, so true and wonderfully captured emotion by you.

Thank you for the write-up !
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Old 1st June 2016, 12:10   #5
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Let me be the first to congratulate you on this wonderful travelogue! When I had heard about your trip from Anupam da I was confident that the Pajero would make it but was a bit skeptical about its length. But you did it like a professional! The photos are sensational!
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Old 1st June 2016, 12:10   #6
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Congrats on being the first Pajero owner to scale Sandakphu! After reading the stories about Sandakphu on team-bhp, it has become one of my favorite destinations where I would want to drive.

Though you have 18+ years of experience in the hills, you have made the TL sound like driving was easy because of the Gangsta. Coming to think of it, apart from a very able vehicle, you should have the guts to go somewhere like Sandakphu. Even if I have a 4x4, I would still think a lot before undertaking a journey to this place.

You are truly inspirational for taking such a large vehicle on such narrow roads. Hats Off!
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Old 1st June 2016, 12:19   #7
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dieselritzer View Post
Wow, you guys have some serious guts. That dusters video is kinda, scary. Just a few question to all:

1. In the hills, is it recommended to drive without wearing seat beats? In a worst case scenario folks can jump out of the vehicle faster, true?

2. At times in the video i see people getting out of the car for an upcoming steep climb, it makes the car light, but then it also loses traction due to reduced weight? I personally have no such experience, thus this question might sound stupid, but i am curious.

In your write-up you mention a beautiful line by saying that you feel confident and positive when you have "Men in Uniforms" around you, so true and wonderfully captured emotion by you.

Thank you for the write-up !
@Dieselritzer. Thanks.

1. A seat belt is also designed to keep you securely in your seat. I believe jumping out may not really help. Further, the moving weights due to not wearing seatbelts may cause further damage. Its simply a matter of pure physics, like coins rattling inside a tin box! Moreover, if you really need to abandon ship, unfastening the seatbelt hardly takes time. There are only certain medical exceptions that exempt you from wearing seatbelts (please refer to traffic safety regulations). So, always keep your seatbelts fastened, the moment you enter the vehicle, even though its static.

2. With the load, the ascent becomes difficult when you have a vehicle without low end torque. There was nearly 2.5+ tonnes of Gangsta, but it was effortless. So with the Thar, as both the vehicles had a low range box.

Yes, the presence of "Men in Uniform" definitely makes you feel secure. The confidence I got from my brethren was immense!

Thanks again.
Unavowed_X9

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Old 1st June 2016, 12:27   #8
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Duster comes with Hill Hold Assist, why not use it or hand brake instead of placing a stone behind rear tyres and risking safety at every turn.
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Old 1st June 2016, 12:35   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IndiaSierra View Post
Let me be the first to congratulate you on this wonderful travelogue! When I had heard about your trip from Anupam da I was confident that the Pajero would make it but was a bit skeptical about its length. But you did it like a professional! The photos are sensational!
@IndiaSierra.
Thanks a ton.
True that the Pajero is long. Guess we did discover a trick over the last few months to tweak the dynamics by a certain driving technique I was mentioning in the post in order to deal with such turns and inclines. Inclines were never a problem, but the combination of sharp turns with steep inclines is certainly scary. As an afterthought, it was an extremely satisfying experience to realise the technique paid off! Thanks to all the people who accompanied me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by .anshuman View Post
Duster comes with Hill Hold Assist, why not use it or hand brake instead of placing a stone behind rear tyres and risking safety at every turn.
@.anshuman. Yes. Guess they did. But the 30+ degree inclines were a bit too much to handle, and did require placing stones! An indication of how the trail was. Gaining momentum from static was the problem.

Warm regards
Unavowed_X9

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Old 1st June 2016, 14:51   #10
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

OH My. The Duster's struggle video gave me goosebumps.
Hats off to you sir, for being able to conquer that difficult terrain with utmost ease and calmness. Yes, 18+ years of experience do come handy but the might of the Pajero, aka, Gangsta can't be underestimated.

You Have my respect
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Old 1st June 2016, 16:44   #11
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

You pajero seems to emit blue smoke. Engine oil mixing. Have you gotten the gasket seals checked?
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Old 1st June 2016, 16:46   #12
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Brilliant travelogue.

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Originally Posted by Dieselritzer View Post

1. In the hills, is it recommended to drive without wearing seat beats? In a worst case scenario folks can jump out of the vehicle faster, true?

2. At times in the video i see people getting out of the car for an upcoming steep climb, it makes the car light, but then it also loses traction due to reduced weight? I personally have no such experience, thus this question might sound stupid, but i am curious.
Well regarding the first question, this is a popular bar argument in my country where all the roads are hilly. Some drivers claim (and even argue with traffic personnel) that not wearing seat belt allows them do jump off in case of an accident. IMO, whenever any vehicle rolls downhill in an accident, the structural rigidity of the ABC pillars of the car will be(should be) strong enough to withstand the weight of the car in rolling. Seat belts will keep you in one place safe. In case of free fall off a cliff and landing on its ceiling, the ceiling might come in crashing but in that case even jumping off the vehicle might not help. So I think seat belts should be used at all times and in all terrains. I would like to request members of this forum to please give your opinion on this. Thank you.

Regarding the second one, in cars like Hilux, when there is no load at the back, there is very less traction so it slips too much. At times i have had to requested locals to get in the loading bay to increase traction.
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Old 1st June 2016, 16:52   #13
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
You pajero seems to emit blue smoke. Engine oil mixing. Have you gotten the gasket seals checked?
@tsk1979. All 3 vehicles were emitting whitish smoke courtesy the temperature, precipitation & altitude level. The moment we got lower, there was no issues with smoke. I was initially worried about the cold start issues that the older Pajeros were known for, but it was not a problem after some cranking.
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Last edited by Unavowed_X9 : 1st June 2016 at 17:03.
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Old 1st June 2016, 17:01   #14
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unavowed_X9 View Post
@tsk1979. All 3 vehicles were emitting whitish smoke courtesy the temperature, precipitation & altitude level. The moment we got lower, there was no issues. I was initially worried about the cold start issues that the older Pajeros were known for, but it was not a problem after some cranking.
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White/black is okay. The blue smoke is a problem. It means engine oil is mixing with diesel.
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Old 1st June 2016, 17:12   #15
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Default Re: Pajero, Duster & Thar: Zero visibility raid on Sandakphu!

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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
White/black is okay. The blue smoke is a problem. It means engine oil is mixing with diesel.
@tsk1979.
Yes. Promptly asked my service person to check that. As per my observation, it was white smoke while we were at that altitude, and it disappeared once we came down. Then the smoke was normal. Further, there had been no drop in engine oil level too. So I hope I am safe!
Thanks for the observation, and of course, addressing the issue by checking right away!
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Last edited by Unavowed_X9 : 1st June 2016 at 17:16.
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