John and I headed to the Calico hills east of Barstow to tackle a challenging road that we saw on our last trip there. It's called Phillips Drive in the maps. Some 4wd trail books call it Phillips Loop. This book rates it at moderate difficulty. Here's a Google map centered on the beginning of the difficult section which is a short way beyond the turn for Kramer Arch. The hard section isn't very long; maybe about 50 yards. It's a series of bedrock steps with some small boulders for fun.
Before we started, we watched a train of about 15 modified off-roaders drive up the road.
I am happy to say that my rover went up it without hitting bottom even once, thanks in part to John's spotting. Needless to say, John's Jeep had no troubles. We were a bit rushed near the end as we saw a couple Jeeps headed up behind us. Here are a few pics I took after we crossed the hardest part.
We also drove up and down the steep hill east of Kramer Arch that's centered in this map. John wanted to try it in 2WD. I just wanted to try going up. At John's suggestion, I did it without using any fancy-schmancy Land Rover terrain modes and it drove up just fine.
I forgot to use my GoPro camera, which is too bad because it would have captured some thrilling video. I almost rolled my truck on a moderate hill. It didn't seem that big a deal to me at the time, and I'm sure it was less than 45 deg in pitch. But it sure got the attention of John and the 3 people in the 2 Jeeps behind us. The hill was uneven and when the rear tires drove into a small depression, the front of the truck raised up ... kinda high. I was trying to take the challenging line and wasn't getting the traction I needed (the tires kept sliding). The truck even started to slide sideways because the hill was off-camber. So I backed down in order to take the easier (and soft dirt filled) line. Of course, as I backed down I had to go back through that depression, making the nose raise up again. I heard whooping from the guys in the Jeep behind me.
A negative aspect of the Land Rover's "smarts" is that at some point the computer thought I needed more clearance and it raised the suspension to the highest setting ("extended mode"). This further raised the truck's center of mass which made it more unstable and much more dangerous on that hill. Here's a photo of that hill, showing a caravan of trucks headed down it. My thrill-ride occured on the bedrock section you see just in front of the lead (white) Jeep.
We also drove a fun hilly road to the adjacent canyon. It was like driving on a narrow roller coaster track, with a series of short steep hills followed by equally steep descents down the other side. Unfortunately, the weekend crowds were there and we were often driving amongst modified trucks, ATVs, and dirt bikes. That actually made it a little more uncomfortable since I'd not driven that road and wasn't certain of the terrain beyond each of the many blind hilltops. Here's an earlier photo I took of the start of that road.
The white arrow marks that section of a 50k foot race that took place a few weeks before I took that photo (the Calico Trail Run). I can't believe people voluntarily run that far, and the uneven hills make it even more arduous.