2002 Chile Challenge
Feb. 20-24, 2002

Story and photos by Shawn Pagan

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2002 Chile ChallengeSouthwest Four Wheel Drive Association (SWFWDA) is one of the largest and fastest-growing four-wheel drive associations in the United States. They conduct their business meetings four times per year and combine business with pleasure by having their business meeting coincide with and be hosted by one of their member clubs during four-wheel drive events. For the folks involved in the business of SWFWDA this gives them time each quarter to mingle and have some fun doing what they love to do - four-wheel. In the case of the Winter Quarterly Meeting, we are talking EXTREME four-wheeling!

The Winter Quarterly Meeting has been held in conjunction with the Las Cruces four-wheel Drive Clubs (LCFWDC) annual "Chile Challenge" four-wheel Drive event for several years. It is based in the County Fairgrounds just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The event draws more and more people every year. The trails run from mild to wild and generally the club rates their trails on the low side, meaning even their moderate trails will give many wheelers a true test of their driving skill and equipment. Having said that, let me point out that there are many scenic runs for those with less appetite for the hard-core stuff.

It's a trip that is recommended by everyone that has ever gone. I for one attempt to make this trip each year; whether I'm just going to play in the Dona Ana Mountains (moderate trail, beautiful views) or I'm going to test out some new equipment on Habanero Falls.

2002 Chile ChallengeFor those that are looking for world-class trails and believe in the notion that "insanity has replaced reason in the design and construction of this vehicle" there are four trails at the Chile Challenge that your vehicle deserves a trip to. The people that drive and maintain these trails certainly subscribe to that philosophy as evidenced by the bumper sticker proudly displayed on the back of a Scout.

The four trails are Tabasco Twister, Rocotillo Rapids, Habanero Falls & Patzcuaro's Revenge. These trails help to define hard-core rockcrawling trails and they will make you sit up and pay attention no matter how "bad" you think your rigs is.

This photo gallery is concentrated on two trails: Tabasco Twister and Patzcuaro's Revenge. Two separate groups ran Patzcuaro's Revenge and were filmed in an effort to show the diversity of the vehicles that showed up to challenge this trail. Check out the these three pages of photographs and you will notice rigs of every size, shape and color (although yellow seems to be the most common color among 4x4's lately) from CJ-5's and 7's to Commandos and customs, but along side them you will see a number of Toyota pickups and 4-Runners, Internationals, early model Ford Broncos, Land Rovers,  Mercedes (Unimog), and even a Chevy Luv! These vehicles were powered by gas, propane and diesel with tires ranged from 35's to 42's and the suspensions ranged from tricked-out custom coilovers to basic leaf springs.

2002 Chile ChallengeThere are over 60 photos that were taken over a period of two days. These photos (like many taken on the trials) really don't do justice to the obstacles being filmed. The picture gallery is not an attempt to tell a "trail story" but to give others an idea of the type of obstacles they will find on these trails. These trails are not for those weak of equipment, training or skill.

It was impressive that on these trails this year there was very little breakage, and almost everyone either had the parts needed to fix their problems and keep going, or enough gumption to know when enough was enough and use the few bypasses that were available or go back the way they had come (no shame in knowing one's limits and when not to go past them).

From the LCFWDC's Annual Flyer: "Our trails are difficult. Our ratings are probably understated. As Trent Riddle (4-Wheel Drive & Sport Utility, July 1998) put it - 'The lure is more than just the size of the gathering; this is some of the roughest, toughest four-wheeling in the country' Of course, extreme means just that and LCFWDC cautions each participant to please choose your trails carefully."

2002 Chile ChallengeTabasco Twister is located in the Chile Canyons area just north of Picacho Peak. It begins at the south edge of the Chile Canyons and heads northwest up and around the canyons. Scenery includes a great view of the Mesilla Valley and various surrounding mountain ranges.

  • Major Obstacles: After a short drive to the actual entrance you will notice the boulders getting larger an larger. First, there will be boulder "mine fields" followed by the "Tank Trap". This gives two choices - neither is easy although they can vary tremendously from year to year. Next will come waterfalls, which also get larger and larger. Although two of the most difficult waterfalls have winch points, they will still get your attention by their size and angle. Many hours may be spent watching or repairing vehicles along the way. Plan a long day. Some vehicles have spent well over ten hours on this trail!

2002 Chile ChallengePatzcuaro's Revenge is a favorite of hard-core rockcrawlers. It was used for the finals of the 1998 BFG Rock Crawling Championships. The trail begins next to Rocotillo Rapids and winds up in a neighboring arroyo at the loop road around the canyons.

  • Major Obstacles: Although most participants fear (and break on one, I might add) the first two waterfalls, there are several more challenging ledges, boulders, and waterfalls upstream. The second waterfall - Nemesis Two - has a winch point if necessary. Please be careful on this trail and ask for a line if you need one. LCFWDC wants you to return next year!


And now, on to the picture galleries:
[ Tabasco Twister ]
[ Patzcuaro's Revenge - Group 1 ]
[ Patzcuaro's Revenge - Group 2 ]

Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association (SWFWDA)

Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club (LCFWDC)


Shawn Pagan

Shawn Pagan is a staff writer for as well as Our Land Use Editor. Shawn resides north of Houston, TX.

Contact Shawn at

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