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I am new to Escapees & discussion forums but am seeking information about mountain pass elevations. I have not found elevations to be consistently documented on road atlases.

Specifically, I have a Ford Explorer (V6, 4.0 liter, transmission cooler, controls for electric trailer brakes). I tow a 21 foot Jayco Flight travel trailer. I am allowed 3500 pounds maximum gross weight and want to avoid high mountain elevations so that I don't tax the transmission and engine. Is there a source of information that will provide mountain pass elevations i.e. Canada, the Rockies, Sierra Nevada? Any input is appreciated. Andy Kiser, Member

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It isn't just the elevation of the pass, but what is the climb. For example, Snoqualimie Pass has a pass elevation of 3022 ft. But if coming from the east, it is only a 1500 ft climb from Ellensburg (elevation ~1500) to the summit, but from Seattle, at sea level, you climb the full 3022 ft.

 

Mountain Directories (mobile or paper) are your friends. And remember, they don't give a prize at the summit for those who race up - - you go at a pace up and down THAT YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE with and that your vehicle can handle.

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Welcome to the Forums, Andy. You will find the best, most objective information here. I have climbed all over the Rockies in our old 4 cyl Datsun pickup and Burro to our 32' fiver and diesel and never found a problem as long as I was willing to adjust my speed to my rig. It would be 20 mph with Datsun and 60 mph with the diesel. It will help to get the advice you are asking for so you know what is ahead but I wouldn't bypass a great trip for a high pass...just take you time and remember it's the trip...not the destination. Have fun!!

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If you are within your stated towing limit and just as importantly within your GCVW (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight) limit (that is the total weight of the vehicle loaded with people and stuff and added to the total weight of the trailer fully loaded) then I wouldn't be too concerned about driving the mountain passes.

 

You DO need to manually down shift to lower gears, keep your RPM's up into the 3500-4500 RPM range, and go slow on steep grades. Watch your temperature gauge, If it starts climbing, down shift and go slower. Also turn off your air conditioner. As long as you are within your weight limit and keep your RPM's up you should be fine.

 

Now going down, start off slow and a lower gear. Most passes have a sign with a grade percentage sign. If you have an upcoming 7% down grade coming, slow down to 35-40mph and 3rd gear before starting down. Steeper grade, slower and in 2nd gear. If you have to apply the brakes more than once every 30 seconds then you are going too fast and in too high a gear. You want to shoot for not using your brakes more than every 45 seconds to a minute. Preferably come down the whole grade w/o using your brakes unless you need to slow down for a sharp curve. When you do need to use your brakes, press hard enough to drop your speed 10mph in 5-8 seconds of braking. I have come down sections of steep roads with really sharp bends in 1st gear at 10-15mph. Not for miles and miles but for steep 1/2 mile sections with sharp curves.

 

What happens sometimes to people going up a grade, is the grade isn't too steep to start with, maybe 2-3%. They try to let the car/truck downshift by itself, but the computer tries for max gas mileage and won't downshift soon enough to keep from getting the coolant temperature to start rising. Then the grade gets steeper and the computer still doesn't downshift soon enough or finally shifts out of overdrive instead of dropping two gears, down to 4th or 3rd gear. Before you know it, the temperature is close to the red mark or in the red mark and now you have a problem. You still have a long way to go to the top, and you may not have an easy place to pull off and let everything cool down.

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It isn't just the elevation of the pass, but what is the climb. For example, Snoqualimie Pass has a pass elevation of 3022 ft. But if coming from the east, it is only a 1500 ft climb from Ellensburg (elevation ~1500) to the summit, but from Seattle, at sea level, you climb the full 3022 ft.

 

Mountain Directories (mobile or paper) are your friends. And remember, they don't give a prize at the summit for those who race up - - you go at a pace up and down THAT YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE with and that your vehicle can handle.

Thank you for the helpful information. It is appreciated. Andy Kiser

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Welcome to the Forums, Andy. You will find the best, most objective information here. I have climbed all over the Rockies in our old 4 cyl Datsun pickup and Burro to our 32' fiver and diesel and never found a problem as long as I was willing to adjust my speed to my rig. It would be 20 mph with Datsun and 60 mph with the diesel. It will help to get the advice you are asking for so you know what is ahead but I wouldn't bypass a great trip for a high pass...just take you time and remember it's the trip...not the destination. Have fun!!

Thank you for the helpful information. It was an encouraging post. Andy Kiser

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If you are within your stated towing limit and just as importantly within your GCVW (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight) limit (that is the total weight of the vehicle loaded with people and stuff and added to the total weight of the trailer fully loaded) then I wouldn't be too concerned about driving the mountain passes.

 

You DO need to manually down shift to lower gears, keep your RPM's up into the 3500-4500 RPM range, and go slow on steep grades. Watch your temperature gauge, If it starts climbing, down shift and go slower. Also turn off your air conditioner. As long as you are within your weight limit and keep your RPM's up you should be fine.

 

Now going down, start off slow and a lower gear. Most passes have a sign with a grade percentage sign. If you have an upcoming 7% down grade coming, slow down to 35-40mph and 3rd gear before starting down. Steeper grade, slower and in 2nd gear. If you have to apply the brakes more than once every 30 seconds then you are going too fast and in too high a gear. You want to shoot for not using your brakes more than every 45 seconds to a minute. Preferably come down the whole grade w/o using your brakes unless you need to slow down for a sharp curve. When you do need to use your brakes, press hard enough to drop your speed 10mph in 5-8 seconds of braking. I have come down sections of steep roads with really sharp bends in 1st gear at 10-15mph. Not for miles and miles but for steep 1/2 mile sections with sharp curves.

 

What happens sometimes to people going up a grade, is the grade isn't too steep to start with, maybe 2-3%. They try to let the car/truck downshift by itself, but the computer tries for max gas mileage and won't downshift soon enough to keep from getting the coolant temperature to start rising. Then the grade gets steeper and the computer still doesn't downshift soon enough or finally shifts out of overdrive instead of dropping two gears, down to 4th or 3rd gear. Before you know it, the temperature is close to the red mark or in the red mark and now you have a problem. You still have a long way to go to the top, and you may not have an easy place to pull off and let everything cool down.

Thank you for the information. I printed your post as it is really helpful. Andy Kiser

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