Avid angler, four-wheeler coordinated volunteer effort to remove two Jeeps from Crystal River
A longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident organized a volunteer effort that successfully removed two Jeeps from the headwaters of the Crystal River over the past two weekends.
Regan Bibby got a little help from his friends and the owners of the two Jeeps to haul the disabled vehicles out of a steep river ravine.
Bibby said he is an avid fisherman and frequent visitor to the Crystal and Lead King Basin area east and northeast of Marble. “The Crystal is my favorite place to fish,” he said.
He estimated he visits the area at least 20 times per summer. He and fellow four-wheelers are frequently the first ones to negotiate the tough road each spring or early summer.
“I did this all for our own wilderness,” said Bibby, a resident of New Castle.
Some members of a local four-wheeling club had considered chopping up the Jeeps to remove them from the North Fork of the Crystal River, but Bibby thought that would release too many contaminants into the pristine waters.
As an avid “rock crawler” in his modified off-highway vehicle, he’s used to getting his own rig or those of colleagues out of precarious positions. He figured by using his four-wheeler and the single-axle truck that he uses to haul it, he could haul the Jeeps out of the ravine. They anchored the truck, hooked the rock crawler to the truck and used 8,000-pound winches to pull the Jeeps up. Other vehicles were also involved in the recovery effort.
One Jeep was hauled up the weekend of Aug. 6 and 7. The other was retrieved last weekend.
There were six or seven folks that helped over the course of the two weekends, Bibby said. The crew included his partner in a construction business, Alejo Dominquez. Bibby said once he posted pictures of removing the first Jeep on Facebook, other people got excited about the effort and volunteered.
He also said the Jeep owners played a vital role in the effort, such as going down into the ravine and hooking cables to the Jeeps. The vehicle owners are two brothers from the Front Range. Authorities at the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office and U.S Forest Service never released their names because they didn’t commit any crime or federal infraction.
Bibby said after he learned of the Jeeps, he contacted the Forest Service and was able to get the owners’ names. The brothers were negotiating with a tow company in the valley at the time and were looking at a bill for a couple thousand dollars, Bibby said. When he contacted them, he volunteered his services. Once he met them, they got along well and Bibby said he is convinced they never intended to abandon the vehicles. They were seeking a way to get them removed when he came along.
“They were totally psyched,” Bibby said. “We made new friends.”
Bibby wasn’t looking for recognition for his good deed. His daughter Sydney brought it to the attention of The Aspen Times. She said she was proud of her dad.
“I think he and his friends did an amazing thing no one else wanted to step up to,” Sydney said in an email to a reporter.
The Jeeps ended up in the river Fourth of July weekend. While returning to a camp near Lead King Basin during a rain storm Saturday evening, the Jeeps encountered a disabled vehicle in the road roughly 1.5 miles north of Crystal, according to their statements to a Gunnison County deputy. One Jeep tried to squeeze by, but the embankment gave way and the left rear wheel was hanging over the edge. While trying to maneuver the first Jeep onto the road with a come-along tool, both ended up going over the embankment. There was one occupant in the two vehicles. He survived even though the vehicle rolled numerous times.
A person who saw the vehicles the next day estimated they tumbled 130 feet off the roadway into the streambed. Bibby estimated the distance closer to 200 feet based on the amount of cables used to extract them.
Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer said the incident is closed because the vehicles were hoisted out of the river and off the national forest lands.
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