A Tale Of Two Hills

Narrow. Steep.

Plow after 2″. Plow after 4″.

Deeper ditches?  Missing culverts?

Numbers. Standards. Too many arguments.

Just tell me what it means for me!

The table below tells some of the real-life story of Gryffin Bluffs roads in the winter of 2017/2018.

This table is about times when things went wrong. It is perfectly true that dozens of vehicles have made hundreds of other trips in and out of Gryffin Bluffs without anything going wrong. But when an airplane crashes, no one wants to know about the thousands of flights that landed perfectly safely. You want to know what goes wrong, how often, and whether it is relevant to you and your family.

Most winter issues are related to the two big hills, known as Hill One and Hill Two.

  • Hill One is at the entrance, near Gryffin Bluffs Road, and every vehicle going in or out of Gryffin Bluffs has to get up or down it. If it’s blocked, that’s everyone stranded.
  • Hill Two is further in, just past Stonecairn Trail. It is deceptive because it looks shorter, but it has several sections that make it hard to get to the top without running of steam. It’s also hard to take a good run at it, because there’s a curve right at the bottom. Any blockage of Hill Two also isolates many properties – there is no other way in or out.

Both hills have blind spots, so people coming down the hill sometimes can’t see people coming up, until both are close enough for a nasty surprise, especially if neither can stop on the ice.  And some owners have been very disturbed by the amount of ice – it’s not just from freezing rain, but seems to occur almost any time. On both hills, what some owners consider a lack of ditches and culverts means ground water runs out onto the hill, even when it’s pretty cold. And when it’s melting, snowbanks without ditches mean there is often nowhere for water to go, so it flows down the the hills and freezes.  And of course there is sometimes freezing rain, and when that falls on roads where snow has been allowed to accumulate, it’s like trying to drive on a frozen Slushy.

All of these conditions make stopping very difficult. When combined with the unusually steep grades and limited maintenance, magical thinking is no match for the laws of physics: Vehicles will slide down hills. Forwards. Backwards. Even sideways. And of course can’t get up the hills at all.  So the story of winter in Gryffin Bluffs is pretty much the story of these two hills.

Impact of Reduced Maintenance

Despite problems arising from insufficient maintenance in the previous year, the developers made the decision to have maintenance reduced for 2017/2018.

  • Where previously the developers had maintained only a snowblower could effectively clear the road while reducing icing problems, to save money they decided that the road would be plowed instead. Only banks were occasionally blown back, leading to much more snow melting immediately adjacent to the driving lane.
  • The developers also decided that less money could be spent on maintenance by setting aside the engineer-recommended level of 2″ accumulation for snow removal, and instead allowing at least 4″, resulting in excessive snow and ice packed onto driving lanes.
  • Where previously the developers had led some purchasers and residents to believe that a regular front-wheel-drive vehicle with snowtires would be perfectly adequate for Gryffin Bluffs maintenance, the developers effectively imposed a requirement that only off-road four-wheel-drive vehicles could be used, allowing maintenance to be further pared back.

These two steps, combined with inadequate drainage, excessive grades and other factors, led to a winter driving season that at least two-thirds of the residents considered disastrous and dangerous.

There were more than 30 incidents of vehicles stuck, tow trucks that could not get up hills, cars, pickups and even large trucks sliding down hills (backwards), walking 2km from a stuck vehicle in the dark.  Even a couple of narrowly avoided head-on collisions.

Several times, some or all of the development was cut off for up to ten hours at a time. And there was one stretch of ten days where a 2WD vehicle could not get up Hill Two – and Muskoka ambulances are all 2WD, so these incidents bring with them the potential for tragedy.

These incidents occurred when there were only two homes occupied full-time. There will eventually be up to 20 times the traffic that there was in this winter. The impact is difficult to predict, as additional traffic can improve conditions. On the other hand, when hills are single-track, more traffic would also be expected to result in more vehicle encounters on hills. If those encounters occur in conditions when even one vehicle is not in complete control, probabilities of head-on collisions increase.

Click on the sign below for more information and pictures

11/17/17afternoonHill One near Ruby LaneIceVehicles sliding down hillGryffin Bluffs Lane near the top of the first hill at the junction with Ruby Lane covered in ice.  Coming down the hill this morning on snow tires at less than 20km/hr, vehicle could slide more than 20 feet.  Danger to pedestrians/dogs coming up the hill. Tried walking through that area, and much of the road was too icy to safely walk on.
Sometimes regardless of other weather conditions, and even when snow has been cleared from hills, water running out onto hills produces a slick surface unsafe for vehicles and sometimes also pedestrians.
11/17/17afternoonEntrance near Gryffin Lodge RoadIceVehicle coming down Hill One unable to stop, slid out onto Gryffin Lodge RoadContractor had slid down Hill One in four-wheel-drive truck, and to try keep it on the road he had to let it pick up some speed, but then the entry at Gryffin Lodge Road was so slick he couldn't get any braking at all. The truck slid out onto Gryffin Lodge Road. He was worried he was going to go into the ditch on the far side of Gryffin Lodge Road, but was able to turn and stop (though he was in the up-hill driving lane facing the wrong direction). He's lived up here for many years and is well used to the weather and off-beat roads, but found it an alarming experience.
The contrast between municipal maintenance and Gryffin Bluffs maintenance is stark: Town roads appear plowed many times more often, and it appears they use more than ten times the sand. Conditions often deteriorate dramatically when entering the bluffs.
11/18/17lunchHill One near Ruby LaneIceVehicle unable to ascend Hill One, park by mailboxes and walk 2kmAround 2pm driver in a truck equipped with heavy-duty snow tires and a good amount of weight in the back attempted to climb the hill near Ruby Lane.  Not only was he unable to get up the hill, he was sliding sideways on all four wheels on the ice.  He had to park his vehicle by the mailboxes, and walk the 2km to our house. Maintenance contractor was asked for hill to be scraped and sanded, agreeing that it would be at unit owner's expense as he has been told to refuse any requests other than from an authorized person.  He was not available for about 1 1/2 hours. During the wait, driver returned in another vehicle, also equipped with full snow tires (not all season or M+S tires).  Condition had changed enough that driver was able to ascend the hill to Ruby Lane. However, there were four pedestrians on the hill at the entrance to Ruby Lane, and the vehicle was sliding all over the place on the ice.  Fortunately the pedestrians were able to walk onto Ruby Lane before the vehicle reached them (it could have stopped before getting too close, but then would have slid back down the hill).
Even during freeze-up before any real storms, hills can become treacherous from flowing groundwater, as at the intersection of Ruby Lane and Gryffin Bluffs Lane. This will be the busiest intersection in the whole development, but has proved to be one of the most dangerous spots for ice.
11/20/17afternoonFlat area near Lot 20Ice4WD was stopped, but so icy slid sideways off the roadNow it is a four-wheel-drive vehicle that is stuck.  Driver was heading out to pick up kids from school, but had to get past the mega pot hole that had been growing for months near Lot 20, and was now over five feet wide, making much of the road unusable unless in a vehicle with enough ground clearance to ford the icy pond. The driver did just get past it without going in to the deepest part, but when concerned about going further and stopped, the stopped car then slid straight sideways into the ditch.  Because it went in sideways (with no forward speed at all) it the banks are against both the front and the back of the car, preventing rocking or any normal ways to get the car back on the road. The chassis turned out to be grounded, so other regular vehicles could not get enough traction on the ice to move it either. A tow truck had to be called, and he was only able to get the car out by chaining the tow truck to a tree so it didn't slide on the ice.
Pothole is over 5 feet in largest dimension, and filled with icy water up to 8 inches deep.
11/20/17afternoonGeneralIceESA inspector describes condo roads as "pretty bad"ESA inspector was going to try do an electrical safety inspection at a lot. Inspector spends his life driving around Muskoka down all the little lanes, and his comment having made it up Hill One, but needing to go up Hill Two. Inspector commented our roads were 'pretty bad', and asked if he was safe to go on up the Hill Two. It's not even winter yet, and storms have not been a factor in any one of the three times in the past three days that we've had vehicles stuck or off the road.
11/21/17afternoonHill One near Ruby LaneIceFedEx refuses to deliver due to poor conditionsThe FedEx-contracted driver apparently has reported again today that he was not able to use Gryffin Bluffs roads. We have now been told that FedEx has listed our address for the time being as "inaccessible". We do not know exactly how many times they have tried, other than it is more than once, and the last time was today, but by the delivery schedule it looks probable that they tried three times over three days before giving up. The weather today was probably better than it's been on many days since last week, so it is not because of any storm or anything, just the cumulative effects of a lack of maintenance that has left the road with a base of ice.
The Pony Express may have delivered through rain and snow and dead of night, but FedEx declares condo roads unusable for their vehicles.
11/21/17all dayFlat area near Lot 20Five foot pothole4WD bottoming out on ice in giant potholeThe area around the big pothole is still very icy and treacherous this evening. Not heard anything back about when or if [developer's selected contractor, months overdue] is actually going to re-grade the road. As the pothole has been growing many months and is now big enough and deep enough to make it a danger to the only four-wheel-drive vehicle our family has, starting this evening I'm beginning to fill it with gravel as much as my van and the weather conditions allow. (Trying to use my trailer when our roads and hills are this icy is unfortunately impossible.) Don't know what type of gravel is on the road, as it would be best to put the right kind down, but realistically the only gravel I have easy access to in small quantities over several days is just Home Depot.
With no maintenance, unit owner was left to fix this large pothole themselves. It took half a ton of stone to fill it in.
11/28/17morningHill TwoIce4WD sliding down hillHill two near Stonecairn is dangerous this morning,
with four-wheel slides down the hill. Conditions will presumably get better later in the day, but maintenance is not keeping up.

It appears by consistently delaying maintenance until conditions are already dangerous, we end up having to spend the money anyway, but it's done so late that it's actually costing more while being less useful. The best times have actually been when the plowing/scraping is done early, and sand is down - that seems to cost less and the bonus is it leaves the roads in much better
condition most of the time.
11/30/17afternoonHill OneIcePickup slides backwards down hillAround 4pm this evening the 2wd truck with heavy duty snow tires and a full weighted box attempted to ascend Hill One. The stretch from Gryffin Lodge Road to the start of the hill was extremely icy and it was hard to pick up much speed, but the truck made it up nearly half-way to the first big hump. Unfortunately there was no more momentum and the truck slid backwards down the hill, and more unfortunately it was too slippery to get enough control to make the backwards turn at the bottom of that slope. It went into the ditch backward and facing up-hill, and the road up-hill is too slippery to use to pull anything out. So we're waiting for the tow truck again, not sure which way he'll try the recovery. One back wheel is close to bottomed out on the suspension, the other almost in free air, but as everything happened in slow motion hopefully there is no damage to the truck (turned out there was some body damage to the Subaru from the last set of incidents, but we haven't had estimates on that yet). The truck slid off far enough that it's not blocking the road on this occasion, but that's probably another factor that will come into play as we go forward, especially if/when a larger construction truck slides off.
11/30/17eveningHill OneIceTow truck can't get up Hill One, road impassable overnightThree vehicles stuck at bottom of Hill One overnight, two truck with six-wheel drive can't ascend ice on Hill One. We've just walked home the 2km from Gryffin Lodge Road, as Hill One is impassable. We have two vehicles stuck at the bottom, and there is a third from another property owner also parked there, who even though she had a 4WD, the tow truck driver had advised not to attempt the hill because he couldn't even get to the top of the first section. The tow truck driver had dualies, and had all six wheels spinning just trying to reach the bottom of Hill One (before it starts to climb) to get the vehicle back onto the road. He had to use a long cable as he couldn't get close, and it was so icy once he got it out that he was able to push it around on the ice by hand. It was quite a production to get our truck back to the mailboxes without sliding off again, and then to get the van down the rest of Hill One without hitting any vehicles at the bottom or going off the road. After we all got to the bottom I asked the tow truck driver to try going up Hill One, and he flatly refused saying he had all his wheels spinning even to get to where the vehicle had gone off, and he had to use chains at that point to stop his truck from sliding while stationary.
Sheer ice on Hill One.
Tow truck made it safely back down Hill One. It had been in six-wheel spin trying to get up only the first part of the hill to recover a vehicle that slid backwards.
12/01/17morningHill OneIceConstruction pickups can't get up hillHill One was still icy this morning, though not as bad as last night. However, a construction pickup could not climb the hill even by taking a 60km/hour run at it starting from Gryffin Lodge Road. Other trucks were reluctant to try, as everyone was afraid of sliding backward down the hill. It turned out the truck's 4WD was not functional, and once one other truck had blasted up the hill, the others were brave enough to follow. As Muskoka ambulances are 2WD, the fact that the first pickup could not get up indicates that Hill One will have been impassable to ambulances and regular vehicles for more than 10 hours. It's also easy to see how icy the entrance to Gryffin Bluffs Lane is allowed to get, and how the pickup truck yesterday ended up sliding out onto Gryffin Lodge Road.
Even with only two homes occupied, and one home under construction, when roads are impassable traffic backlogs build up quickly.

Trucks sliding while trying to blast up an icy hill? You probably don't want your kids walking to the school bus here

12/07/17morningHill OneIce, snowTruck with studded tires slid backwards down hill
12/07/17afternoonHill TwoIce, snowTruck sliding backward down hill, road totally blockedFirst actual snow. There were vehicles stuck on Hill Two (an F350 with a trailer) after having slid backwards down the hill when trying to climb it. It was so slick once it was stuck that it took quite a while with a tracked bobcat to get the combo back onto the road. The trailer was abandoned (last I saw it was still at the bottom of Hill Two) and the truck eventually got up, but the four-wheel drive boom arm (?) was sliding all over the place and spinning out trying to get up (I've got some good video). There was no snow clearing until well into the evening, long after much more than four inches had accumulated, and long after Gryffin Bluffs had been plowed at least once and well sanded (though the sand did get covered with snow again, the extra traction made quite a difference).
If a friendly neighbor had not had a Bobcat handy, the road would have been blocked for far longer.
No-one is going to be driving past this
and probably won't risk walking either

4WD barely makes it up Hill Two with wheels slipping

12/07/17eveningHill OneIce4WD slid sideways down hillAbout 8:20pm attempting to climb Hill One the 4wd spun out on the slick snow and started to slide backwards. I thought it was going to be very expensive but the 4WD car actually turned sideways and slid down the hill sideways... that seemed to slow it but it went quite a ways even on the flatish area below the top. No amount of brake pumping or ABS makes any difference when sliding sideways down a hill.
12/07/17morningGeneralSnow4WD car bottoming out on accumulated snowSubaru does not have enough clearance, scraping through uncleared snow to exit. Headed over to Mary Lake Highlands just after 10am to see how things were there, and was surprised to find that the snowblower had just been through and their roads were great compared to ours (still slippery, but their hills are nothing like ours, especially when people can go in the 'top' entrance and never have to climb or descend the hill to Fitzgerald). I thought the next stop would be Gryffin Bluffs, but even 12 hours later there is no sign of any more having been done and ours are still very poor. I see in the forecast for tomorrow that there is still another four to eight inches forecast, and that will be on top of the six or so that has not been cleared this afternoon. So all in all, this has been a pretty good test of how our snow clearing is working. I'd have to say based on our standard of passable with 4wd and being plowed at four inches, we are not making it right now on either measure. It also looks like we are much further down the priority list than Mary Lake Highlands, or maybe not on the blowing list at all even though blowing was supposed to follow plowing.
12/12/17afternoonHill OneSnow on top of iceTow truck can't get up Hill Two"This is Cottage Country Towing. Please plow road. If police or ambulance have to come back here to save a life they will not be able to. I need to recover a vehicle here and I can't because it is too dangerous." - quoted by permission
12/12/17afternoonHill TwoIce, snowTow truck can't get up Hill TwoHad to rent a car in town. Cottage Country Towing, which we've had to use on two previous occasions on condo roads, tried to get in to recover the truck early this afternoon. As you'd expect for a Muskoka towing company, he has a very well-equipped four-wheel drive truck (actually dual rear wheels, so six-wheel drive). He did get as far as the bottom of Hill Two at Stonecairn Trail. However, he was not willing to go beyond that point up Hill Two because he pointed out that if he slid backwards, with the weight of his truck there would be no stopping him. The camber of Hill Two is graded to the down-hill side so any vehicle slipping will tend to go off the steep side (hills are normally graded so they tilt towards the up-hill side so sliding vehicles just bump into the up-hill side), and of course if trucks don't go off at the steep side as the other 4x4 did last week, there's a curve at the bottom of the hill so they'll go off there and go off going much faster (I'm getting to know what happens from the number of times I've slid down condo hills in our 4WD, and watched others slide down). That our roads are regularly left to deteriorate to this level is unacceptable.
12/18/17eveningHill One & TwoIce, snowRoads dangerous with accumulated snow and iceRoad is deteriorating quickly this evening. The temperature is warming up and the new snow has not been scraped. Depending on which forecast we believe, rain or freezing rain and warmer temperatures are on the way for tomorrow. If this lands on the new snow from today that has still not been scraped, the hills are going to again be very dangerous.
Somebody else has been off the road here...
01/02/18afternoonHill TwoIce, snow4WD sliding down hill, can't ascend safelyWas still quite possible to ascend Hill Two, but only by taking a run at it. There were a couple of four-wheel slides trying to descend it. Fortunately there were no construction vehicles going in to Stonecairn at the time so in our game of Russian Roulette we continue to avoid an actual crash. With so little snow (around 2.5" right now) so far and the hill already in rough shape, if contractor is not already on his way (and planning an additional clearing/sanding or more as the snow worsens later), it looks like it it should be requested now.
Water flows out onto Gryffin Bluffs roads in several places... a stuck vehicle may mean walking on ice or through freezing puddles.
01/10/18morningHill One near Ruby LaneIceRoad blocked, construction truck & trailer slid backwards down hillThe construction vehicle was stuck near the top of Hill One, just after the cut-off to Ruby Lane. The trailer had slid off to the inside of the corner as the combo ran out of momentum near the top of the hill, and slid backwards and sideways towards the snowbank and ditch. (Tony, it was your guys from Uxbridge that slid off - this is now the second incident of sliding trucks/trailers blocking our roads in the past few weeks. We really need a warning sign at the bottom of the Hill One that winter maintenance on Gryffin Bluff roads makes them unsuitable for anything other than 4WD with snow tires or chains, and no construction vehicles should attempt the hills with trailers. We also need a contact phone number on the Gryffin Bluffs sign because people don't know what to do or who to call - people will keep phoning Steve.) We got one of the guys from the crew on Stonecairn to help out. Even with the E250 by itself, the 4WD truck could only move it by tugging it, otherwise Hill One is already slippery enough that all four wheels on the truck were just spinning.
Hill One is easily blocked, and no warning signs at entrance that trucks with trailers should not attempt to use Gryffin Bluffs roads
01/16/18afternoonHill TwoIceRoad blocked, vehicle slid backwards down hillJust slid backwards down Hill Two (near Stonecairn) and went backwards off the road, blocking the narrow hill. Driver not injured, but she is obviously shaken up. Since it doesn't matter when sliding backwards down a hill whether the vehicle is two-wheel drive or four, the hill requires maintenance even by Gryffin Bluffs exceedingly low standards. This is in the same area where maintenance is perennially poor, where the construction trailer had to be abandoned many weeks ago (and is still stuck there at the bottom, after being pulled out by a tracked bobcat). This cannot be blamed on the weather, because as is normal in Gryffin Bluffs the roads are typically at their worst at times other than actual winter storms. There has only been a skiff of snow, perhaps up to 2cm, but that is on top of the 2 or 3 cm that had previously been allowed to accumulate on the hill without maintenance. Van was being used because ice ruts near Lot 20 are so deep our 4WD Subaru is bottoming out.
There's no traction when snow builds up on top of ice. Here, a vehicle has slid backwards down the hill twice.
01/18/18morningHill OneIce, snowNear head-on collisionHill One urgently needs proper maintenance, as it is slippery enough to make collisions likely. Had closest call yet on Hill One this morning. Coming slowly over the top down the hill, there was a construction-related pickup truck coming up near to top of the hill. Immediately attempted to stop as best as the conditions would allow, while also trying to pull into the snowbank on the right to avoid a head-on collision. There was very little breaking possible on the unplowed fresh snow lying on top of the snowy and icy surface beneath. Able to come to a sliding halt just as the pickup reached vehicle. Fortunately the hill, while poor, is in better condition this morning than it often is, and the truck was not going as fast as the developers recommend is necessary for vehicles to be able to ascend the icy hill. Similarly, while the downside was slippery, it is often worse and on this occasion vehicles were able to stop faster than would often be the case. This near-accident was between our newest 4WD vehicle, and a new-looking pickup truck. While I think the vehicles were going slowly enough that any injuries would have been minor, the damage to both vehicles would have been substantial and very costly. Presumably the vehicle owners' insurance companies might attempt to recover these costs from the condo association, as they might argue the incident was as a direct result of the failure to maintain the road to a reasonable standard.
With a build-up of ice, a layer of snow, and no real sand, hills are slippery.
01/27/18afternoonHill TwoIce, snowRoad blocked, vehicle slid backwards down hillHave just slid backwards down Hill Two with my two young guys in the back. Fortunately no injuries. Had to walk one kilometer home. The van is now off the road, blocking the hill and all access into and out of my home. The worst conditions are actually past Hill Two, where the ice is dangerous even to walk on. The hill, plus the road after that down past Paul's place where the thick ice is accumulating, all need sanding in order to get vehicles to and from our home.
More glare ice

Very slippery even for walking - but at least it's not dark and very cold.
01/29/18afternoonEntrance near Gryffin Lodge Road, Hill TwoIceCan't get past mailboxes to get to bottom of hillWhen coming in and had to stop in mailbox area for outgoing vehicle, but so icy no traction to move forward again. Had to reverse out onto Gryffin Lodge Road to get a run across the ice to get to the sanded area at the bottom of Hill One. Similarly sand does not extend beyond the very bottom of Hill Two, and the icy area there remains. The road is not completely blocked so long as it's possible to take a run at it (and no-one is coming down the hill). Up top of Hill Two there are several extremely icy stretches. They remain treacherous for vehicles and pedestrians, and especially when vehicles are passing pedestrians which happened twice for me today.
01/31/18noonHill OneSnow on top of iceRoad blocked, vehicle slid backwards down hillHill One is impassable, and the driver has been forced to leave the vehicle where it stuck, about 1/8 of the way up. It hasn't taken a lot of snow on top of the ice to make Hill One impassable. We don't know about the other hills as we can't get to them at the moment. We were able to get in and out this morning, though even with the skiff of snow on top of all the ice it was very difficult to get from the turn-around area at the end of Gyffin Bluffs up the rise to the junction at Betty Lane. We can't get our other available vehicle out past the van as the road is blocked, so we'll try make arrangements for our son to be picked up by someone else from school and keep him there until the road is re-opened (we should note that this is not a snow day for schools, and other roads like Gryffin Lodge, while not all in great shape, have already been plowed once and are passable). Expect it will be a while before the tow truck can come for the van, and even then he has had trouble before coming up even to the bottom part of Hill One when the hill is very icy.
02/05/18eveningHill TwoSnow over iceImpossible to stop on hillConditions on Hill Two very poor, with lots of slipping and sliding on the unmaintained snow that has been allowed to accumulate over the day. Gryffin Lodge Road is easily passable, with at least one and probably two plowings today, plus sand. There was no maintenance done in Gryffin Bluffs today, certainly not beyond Stonecairn. Impossible to stop on the hill itself, but down in the parking area the amount was over four inches in several places. (Four inches was the new standard increased from two inches at the AGM without any evidence being presented, where it turned out two inches or less was the standard recommended by the engineer who designed the roads.) Have a young guy home sick now with fever over 40C, and it greatly compounds our concern to know that we may need to go in or out to the doctor or hospital, but we can't depend on Gryffin Bluffs roads, especially when a sick kid might have to walk one or two kilometres if we can't make it back to the house.
02/23/18morningHill One & TwoFreezing rain over unplowed snow and iceHills can't be ascended by 4WDDriver has just called to say that while she was able to get out in our AWD, it was borderline even getting up the small hills near the passing places at the top of Hill One, and having only barely got up the little hills, she does not believe she would be able to get back up Hill One or Hill Two. For the time being she is staying in Huntsville until we see how the weather develops. There is of course freezing rain at the moment, but school buses were not cancelled, and the situation on Gryffin Bluffs roads is much worse than elsewhere, presumably because of the lack of previous maintenance having contributed to the thick build-up of ice here that has not been allowed elsewhere.
When water runs out on the road, as at the junction with Betty Lane, and ice accumulates, snow on top of ice makes even slight hills difficult.
02/25/18morningHill One & TwoFreezing rain over unplowed snow and ice4WD slid out of control down Hill TwoWith the little bit of freezing rain very early this morning, Gryffin Bluffs Lane was in very bad shape. Coming out at 9.30am in our 4wd with snow tires, we were out of control sliding/freewheeling down Hill Two, and Hill One was also extremely dangerous. It would not have been possible to ascend either hill. Don't know how long the hills had been impassable before that, but based on the weather I would guess more than two hours.
02/25/18afternoonHill OneIceRoad blocked, truck slid backwards down hillContractor came to sand sometime near noon, but by then there was a large delivery truck stuck that had attempted to climb Hill One, but had slid backwards down the hill and into the ditch. Contractor was able to get some sand around the truck, and eventually they were able to get the truck back to the bottom of Hill One near the mailboxes. The truck driver was unwilling to attempt the hill again even after the sanding, so the contents of the truck were being transferred bucket by bucket by a full-size tractor.
Tracks visible where truck slid backwards off even the gentlest part of the hill.

How would trucks know Gryffin Bluffs roads are unusable if there are no warning signs?
02/26/18nightHill TwoIceVehicle sliding backwards down hillDriver arrived about 2am up from Toronto. It took several runs at Hill Two to get up, including one where he slid backwards down the hill. He was at the point of giving up and walking the kilometer back to the house along the icy road when the last run finally went up. Required and requested maintenance beyond the top of Hill Two also still not been done, making any walk up and past Hill Two extremely dangerous on the icy and sometimes through deep puddles. There had been no significant precipitation since earlier in the day, it appears to have simply been the ice that has been allowed to accumulate melting and covering the sand, along with banks on the side of the road that have been left too close and/or where the grading of ditches is insufficient to allow drainage. The Town deals with these issues by making sure ice is not allowed to build up, and where it does, by sanding as often as necessary to keep the hills passable. This is neither safe for road users, nor is it fair to continue placing resident families at risk.
While sliding on ice, remember pedestrians and dogs must use the road as a trail too - best not to walk at night.
03/14/18eveningStonecairn, Hill Two, Hill OneIceRoad blocked, construction vanA vehicle owned by a construction contractor tried to get up Hill Two and was not able to make it. It slid down and is now blocking the entrance to Stonecairn. We got Stonecairn unblocked around 8pm this evening. Hill Two is still in very poor condition, and needs both plowing and sanding. I was asked to accompany the vehicle at Stonecairn down to Gryffin Lodge Road. I noticed on my way down Hill One that some other vehicle had tried and failed to ascend Hill One at some point earlier today - the tire tracks show it going up, then a good-size area of skidding, and the tell-tale backwards tracks leading into the snowbank. It wasn't obvious what sort of vehicle it was, but it didn't look like something with dual rear wheels so likely not a truck or tow truck. The road was not blocked when I saw it, and judging by the tracks it looks like they would not have got stuck that badly and may have been able to get out and slide down the rest of the hill.
Van travels all over Muskoka, but not up Hill Two. This van type is used for transporting wheelchair passengers... maybe unrealistic to think they could live in Gryffin Bluffs.
03/23/18afternoonHill OneIceNear head-on collisionThe driver came over the brow ready to go down the top of Hill One, and suddenly saw an SUV coming up the hill at a pretty good clip. (That's not unusual, vehicles often have to do that to make it up our hills without sliding backwards.) The driver immediately started to brake, but there was virtually no traction on the un-sanded packed snow/ice, even with studded winter truck tires. The oncoming vehicle was then very close, so the driver steered into the snowbank to avoid a head-on collision. The driver of the oncoming vehicle did not stop, and left the truck that had avoided the accident stuck in snowbank. Before the towing company arrived, a three-ton truck from one of the construction sites happened by and pulled the truck out.
Run off the road in slow motion, but head-on collision avoided.
Some people run away after an accident, but fortunately others come to help.
04/04/18afternoonHill One & Two, flooded road sectionsIce and waterVehicles sliding down hillThe 4WD is still sliding down hills in places. However the worst problem is the depth of the snow combined with ice ruts and potholes filled with freezing water. As has happened before, the Subaru is scraping along the unplowed snow and building up snow underneath, and on occasion bottoming out. The unplowed road is also causing meltwater to collect on the road and in the potholes, and that water is freezing on the suspension components (as has also happened before - it results in terrible vibrations at highway speeds). When the snow is so wet, as it was earlier, it's hard to tell how much has actually fallen. However, in some places the tracks are certainly 4" deep or more, so we are already past the 4" standard where maintenance was to be done. Note that Gryffin Lodge road has been plowed more than once since the snow started, and sanded, and other minor area roads are generally in very good condition compared with ours.
The smarter vehicles perhaps don't even attempt Hill One today.
04/06/18nightHill OneIceRoad blocked, vehicle slid backwards down hillVehicle slid down ice at top of Hill One and became jammed in snowbank. Road completely blocked for 10 hours. By morning parts of Hill One are a little better than they were last night, but other parts at the moment are worse, and at one point a 4WD was sliding backward down the upper section (just beyond Ruby Lane, where the road was blocked last night). Taking a fast run it might be possible to get a vehicle up, but it took a lot of abuse last night and the conditions are still bad enough I don't want to chance it. Not sure it would get up Hill Two anyway, so it's safer to abandon it at the entrance until the road is fixed. Since the ice underneath the snow is really slick in some places (and you can't tell where until you put your foot on one), you may wish to warn pedestrian users to be careful until the road is sanded and safe for both vehicles and people.
With roads so narrow, almost any vehicle can slide and block access completely.

Well-maintained municipal roads are a luxury that appears to end at the entrance to Gryffin Bluffs.
04/12/18eveningHill TwoIceRoad partially blockedHill Two in terrible condition in evening, proved impossible to get a vehicle up. We avoided actually leaving the road completely blocked, but maintenance is desperately required. Far more than the set standard of four inches has fallen since the last time any maintenance was done. There have been three snow falls since last week, and while other area roads have been in excellent condition for several days now, with multiple plowing and sanding resulting in clear and safe road surfaces, Gryffin Bluffs roads have had absolutely zero maintenance for several weeks. This is the second time during this set of relatively minor snowfalls that one or more of our roads has been blocked or impassable for multiple hours at a time. This is a result of snow being allowed to accumulate, turn to ice, and then get covered with yet more snow and slush. Even a four-wheel drive vehicle going up Hill Two is only able to make it by sliding at 45 degrees, and sliding dangerously even on relatively flat sections above Hill Two, presenting dangers to vehicles and pedestrians alike.
Good news is spring is here. Bad news is more water flowing onto Gryffin Bluffs roads to add to the ice.
04/18/18afternoonHill TwoIceRoad impassable for 2WD for ten daysRequests for needed maintenance ignored or rejected. A unit owner contracted with external maintenance provider for scraping of ice and application of sand. Quantity of sand used appeared to be many times the amount applied by the approved contractor, and the price appears to have been less.
04/21/18afternoonHill TwoIce, ponding, melting ice with no drainageRoad again becoming impassableMaintenance requests refused or ignored, a unit owner contracted with external supplier for scraping, sanding, and creation of drainage channels where lack of earlier maintenance had blocked runoff.
Slush by day, ice by night. Ten days would be a long time to not get closer than one kilometer to your house - maybe wise to be sure all your vehicles are big 4WDs.

Note that the ‘detail’ information in the table is generally extracted from emails, and may include formatting errors, extraneous detail, or other issues for which we apologize in advance. Dates and times are approximate. Not all incidents are necessarily recorded here. Additional pictures and video are available for many incidents, but taking pictures and video is not always the first thing drivers think of doing when sliding down hills backward in the dark, so not all incidents have pictures (or show pictures) related specifically to that incident. If you would like more detail on an incident, have additional information, corrections, or pictures of an incident, or would like your own incident(s) to be added, please get in touch.

Summer Road Use

For summer-only use, most people have found the roads to be adequate for the current low traffic volumes. Even spring and fall, provided that there are not freezing conditions, are quite workable.

However, there are some areas that have experienced problems at other times of the year.

Hill One & Hill Two

Because there are inadequate ditches and culverts for drainage, heavy rain creates rivulets down hills. This happens near the intersection of Ruby Lane and Gryffin Bluffs Lane at top of Hill One, and on several areas of Hill Two. The rivulets very quickly wash away the road surface, and create additional channels that aggravate the pot holes. Prospective purchasers are typically told that the road is graded/maintained twice a year, but that can mean many months go by where roads can be very rough, as maintenance is often delayed.

For example, in the spring of 2018, a nearby gravel road, Stephenson Road 12, was graded around May 1 to remove winter damage and spring frost heaves. The same road was graded for a second time around June 16. In contrast, Gryffin Bluffs Lane was not graded for the first time until late June, leaving two extra months for vehicles to drive through or around the winter-damaged surface. Similarly, road damage resulting from rains in July 2017, including a pothole more than five feet across and several inches deep, was not graded in Gryffin Bluffs until around November of 2017. The result is that municipal roads, such as Stephenson Road 12, are rarely in poor condition, where roads in Gryffin Bluffs are rarely in good condition.

Narrow Roadway

Gryffin Bluffs roads, at about 4m, are much narrower than the 6.5m standard set by the municipality for private roads. With many hills and bends, and often potholes and similar obstacles, attentiveness is required. Even in ideal conditions, vehicles can easily leave the driving surface.

For example, on May 26, 2018, in dry, daytime conditions with full sunlight, the right front wheel on a large Honda all-wheel drive vehicle left the driving surface near Lot 23. While there are not usually ditches along Gryffin Bluffs roads, there was a hollow at that point. The right-front corner of the vehicle tilted down into the dip, and the left rear of the vehicle was several feet in the air. Owing to the type of drive system in the vehicle, it was stranded and unable to reverse back out, and had to be pulled out by another vehicle. There was on this occasion no damage to people or vehicle.

As vehicle, pedestrian and even bicycle traffic increases many times beyond the level today, there will be more times when vehicles need to go close to the edge of the driving surface, and are at risk of hitting rocks or being stranded by a hollow.

Extension of Gryffin Bluffs Lane

One is the extension of Gryffin Bluffs Lane that extends down the hill past the emergency turn-around area and onto an unpaved section. This section of road cuts sideways across a hill, and it is believed that there are few to no culverts, resulting in the road forming a dam across the slope.

Even AWD vehicles have been known to get stuck in the resulting mud. In early summer of 2018, additional construction was undertaken on this section (it is not known whether by the condo corporation, or the developers) to add a thicker layer of gravel on the road surface. However, in the absence of adequate management of surface water flows, applying gravel on top of what could still be mud would not result in a dependable summer road.

This road, and the extremely steep hill to reach it, would be a severe problem in the winter. Unit owners have been assured by the developers that this road section will never be kept open in the winter. However, it appears that the developers may have advised one or more non-condo lot owners in this area that this road section can in fact be kept plowed open in winter.

Steep Hill to Dock

The other is the paved portion of Steep Hill extending down to the east waterfront area. There appears to be an insufficient number, or possibly a complete absence, of culverts. This results in surface water flowing down the hill hitting the paved road, and eroding the up-hill edge.

The developers carried out some remedial work to add or reinforce a trench or gutter on the up-hill edge, so as to divert the water down the roadside instead of allowing it to continue naturally down the hillside. This results in very high water flows reaching the bottom of the road, where they are channeled in a trench or gutter crossing the road rather than through a culvert, and on down towards the path and stairway to the docks.

Unfortunately it appears as though the remedial work will not be enough to prevent the erosion of the up-hill side of the road, and dramatically increased the water flows reaching the bottom of the hill cause erosion of the dock path. Repairs of the road damage arising from the design and construction limitations would presumably now be the financial responsibility of the condo corporation, eventually adding to condo fees.