Words & Images Andrew Middleton
We’d driven the new Hilux before, but, as is sometimes the case, we didn’t have the chance to fully connect with it: to live with it every day and to get to know the finer aspects as well as the foibles. Also, as snow begins to fall in the Western Cape highlands, any excuse to catch a cold and act like a child is gratefully accepted – and besides, what better test bed could be found for the manual Hilux that had landed on SA4x4’s doorstep?
Having heard that massive traffic jams are the order of the day when snow falls on the Matroosberg mountains, we were up far before sunlight to beat the masses.
Contrary to what we’d been told, though, the mountain was almost clear of traffic − with the exception of a short wheelbase Defender, which kept sliding backwards towards us when there was any hint of ice. On snow and slushy ice, you need to give anyone in front a wide berth before steeper sections.
We found that the trick to staying in control was to avoid stopping and to keep the wheels turning slowly; as soon as they begin to spin or slip on the ice, all traction is lost, along with any steering.
Once gravity takes hold, which it did more than a few times, the only thing to do is to chuck the bakkie into reverse to get the wheels turning in your direction of travel, release the brake, and hope for the best. This way, with the wheels turning, at least you can steer.
Once you are sliding backwards, though, forget about trying to stop unless you’re prepared to slew sideways off a steep cliff or into the 4×4 behind you.
Also, in these conditions, a good set of mud terrain tyres helps, along with dropping pressures as you would in sand.
Near the top of the trail where everyone parks, a much rougher trail heads to the top of the mountain. This was extremely icy and no matter what I did in the Hilux, the ice brought me back down again.
One lone Rubicon with 33-inch Cooper Mud Terrains made it to the top of the 2245m ascent, but nobody else even attempted it. I was a bit disappointed about that, as I was hoping for a bit of entertainment.