The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 1 – The Big Climb


In the last installment, we had safely arrived at our characterful hotel to finish off day one. The Aries clearly made some issues but it kept going (albeit rather slowly). The rain had dissipated but we had to climb the intimidating Salmo-Creston pass. How would “Special K” handle the biggest challenge of the rally?


Waking up in the morning we investigated the town of Ymir. For a very small town it had quite a few sights. The creek across the road was scenic with the fall colors and low lying clouds. The old mine-shaft was still a visible cut into the mountainside. Down the pass towards the skate park we spotted a black bear. It was just about the only wild life we had seen on the trip besides a dead skunk earlier.


Since its boom years were decades behind it Ymir consisted of many older homes. Many were fixed up and expanded in rather novel ways like this cabin that has sprouted a trailer home addition.


The next stop was the town of Salmo where we had a challenge to buy exactly 10L of fuel. On the way there, the transmission started slipping. Luckily we were just about at the gas station, where we checked the transmission fluid. The dip stick came up completely dry; we had found our issue. It instantly became clear that the Aries was not leaking oil but in fact transmission fluid. It was masked by the leak coming from around the cv axles rather than the transmission pan. With little time left to lose we bought some suitable transmission fluid and refilled it. I bought an extra liter for any further loses. In the excitement we attempted to fill up with $10 of fuel rather than 10L. It was not to be at any rate as we got $10.01.


During the transmission refill we did notice that the Dodge was equipped with the ‘Special Handling Package’. No wonder it felt okay-ish on the twisty roads before the ferry. Or maybe that was for paint handling …


The transmission is now full of fluid and the Aries seemed to be no worse for it as the slipping had gone. On the way out of town we came across a rather twisted old Rambler convertible. The accident appeared to have happened many years ago. The six-cylinder engine looked like a perfect parts motor for the Rambler team.


A giant penny was also in town.


The Salmo-Creston hill was built in the 1960s as a more direct route that did not rely on a ferry. It does however feature long, steep grades, from 8 to 11%. Given the Aries had overheated the previous much cooler evening, we approached with trepidation. The concern proved to be valid as the check engine light soon appeared. We stopped at enlarged roadside shoulder built for just this purpose.


While waiting we were overtaken by the Rambler …


and the Toyota van, neither of which seemed to have a problem with overheating or speed up the hill.


A worker stopped to check on us and it was suggested that Rod’s Civic could help pull the Dodge up the hill. Alas, the lack of any sort of solid hook mount on the front the Aries killed this hair-brained (and illegal I suspect) plan before it got started.


We did however cut off the A/C belt in hopes of gaining even a fraction of a horsepower.


After a suitable cool off period we set off again. The Aries was able to maintain a very leisurely 60km/h (37 mph) which allowed us to take in the scenery. As well as be passed by all manner of motor-homes and trailer-hauling trucks.


At the steepest point I managed just 40km/h (25 mph) with my throttle pedal foot firmly planted in the carpet. On the bright side, having the slowest full-throttle speed was a challenge item we had just won handily.


The check engine light re-appeared again as we crested the top of the hill. I sure wish the Aries was equipped with a proper analog temperature gauge. We assumed the usual hood up position to cool off. Several other challenge competitors joined us at the top. A few curious travels asked about the nature of our unlikely group; a couple from Lethbridge was among them as well. Here is a shot of ‘Special K’ ruining a otherwise nice shot of the beautiful lake at the top of the pass.


Here is a shot without the ugly car.


During the cool down period the sweeper truck appeared and granted us very thick transmission fluid, which is meant to help stop leaks and slipping. While we were not having any more slipping issues some leak protection would be helpful. Unfortunately, ‘Special K’ continued to mark all the places it stopped.


The Top Gear guys left in their usual cloud of smoke. We suspected they had rigged some sort of device to inject a little water or something into their intake on demand as they did not seem to smoke on the highway or having any running issues. Regardless, a little showmanship was commendable.


The downhill portion of the pass proved uneventful. As unbelievably as it seems, back in Creston we found ourselves behind someone who was driving even slower than us. Of course they had the option of going faster.


The Kia’s plodding pace through town did allow us to enjoy some of the sights like this vintage truck.


We had stopped in a place called Alice Siding for lunch, and the Aries was running slightly rougher. Although the engine light was not on, it just felt hot. While the worst of the hilly sections were over, we still had another 400kms ahead of us to get back. I made a note of a scrapyard that advertised free towing, just in case. Would team ‘Special K’ make the remainder of the journey under its own power, or would we resort to bumming a ride back?

The whole series:
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 1 – Vehicle Selection
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 2 – 1983 Dodge Aries Purchased
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 3 – Vehicle Preparation
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 1 – Off To A Slow Start
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 2 – Rain, Rain, and a Hotel with Character
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 1 – The Big Climb
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 2– Finale