Up and down, but not out (Part 4 of 6) (Posted 10 November 2012, 02:47am)

Typo, Scallywag and ED. Photo by Heehaw (Jason Phelps).

The rain continued into the night, but by morning it had eased and the puddles retreated. I had slept well and it felt good to have a few hours of sleep back in the bank for whatever challenges the trail still had in store. We packed up, taking care to be ready around the same time so we didn't have to wait for one another in the cold. We set out in light rain and soon passed a side trail along the Methow River that we had earlier identified as a bailout route. We were feeling alright so stayed on the main trail which began to climb to a higher elevation.

As we ascended there was more snow on the ground and the rain changed to sleet and then snow. ED was feeling the cold and walking slower than usual. Her hands became numb and the rain pants from the hardware store were disintegrating. When we got to the top of the climb we regrouped, but we were too wet and cold to hang around. We trudged on along an exposed ridge, whipped by a vicious wind that blew the snow around us. Being wet and under-dressed in these conditions was dangerous.

Heehaw and I discussed the options. He considered dashing ahead but we decided to stay together. We walked a little further to a small patch of trees and stopped there. My hands had also become numb and I got a fright when I couldn't open a ziplock bag. Thankfully Heehaw still had feeling in his hands so he got heating some water. ED was really suffering, shaking and in tears. Heehaw had spare gloves and a dry jacket which I helped ED into. When the water boiled we made warm drinks which we wrapped our hands around and then drank.

We were 7 miles from Harts Pass and the last road before Canada. We needed to get off the trail quickly and warm up properly. We knew there was a toilet there that we could shelter in, so decided to make a push for it. I walked along behind ED and told her stories to keep us both going. On and on we went, staying just warm enough because we were moving. Finally we arrived at Harts Pass. There were two hunters in a truck and I asked if they were going to Winthrop. They weren't, but they told us a car had just passed them going further up the pass. We knew this must have been Waldo, attempting to get back on the trail.

Heehaw had indicated that he was "done". He was the only one in our group with experience in snow and I wasn't prepared to continue on my own. We were just 30 miles from Canada but I could see it rapidly slipping through my fingers. Scallywag, ED and Heehaw headed for the shelter of the toilet. I left my backpack and ran up the road where Waldo had driven, hoping to catch him before he set off. He had seemed to know what he was doing and I realized he was my best chance to get to Canada. I saw a car coming towards me through the blizzard and I waved it down. It was Waldo. He had assessed the conditions and decided to turn back again because they were too severe. He was heading back to Winthrop for the night and offered us all a ride. We were elated, saved from the storm, and could not believe the timing.

We got a couple of rooms at a hotel in Winthrop and began the process of warming up and drying out all over again. Scallywag, Heehaw, Waldo and I headed out for dinner - ED stayed behind to warm up properly. When we four sat waiting for a table at the Mexican restaurant the waitress asked us if we were having a beard-growing competition. It took a while to convince her we were trying to walk from Mexico to Canada. ScrubRat, DoeEyes, DancingFeet, NotSoBad and CityFood were still in town and joined us. They had found snowshoes and planned to get back on trail at Harts Pass the following day. They knew of someone who could lend us snowshoes too. As we were preparing to leave, a hunter at the next table said he had seen Wolverine at Harts Pass that morning and given him a cup of coffee. Wolverine had said he was going alright and was attempting to push on to the border.

Heehaw's decision to get off the trail had made me worry - should I be getting off as well? ED had also decided to get off. Waldo was going to try to get back on the trail again at first light the following day. The weather didn't look good but it was hard to gauge since all of the forecasts were for towns at a much lower elevation than the mountains we were headed for. I was beginning to face the reality that I might be denied the finish by just 30 miles.

A couple of days before, when we were 60 miles from Canada, Heehaw had said we weren't quite close enough to "throw the Hail Mary". I felt that we were now, and I decided to give it one last push, with Waldo, and attempt to get through to the border in one shot. This was optimistic given the conditions and a bit of a gamble since I hadn't hiked with Waldo before. However, he was experienced in snow and we seemed to have similar physical strength and focus. Scallywag teamed up with the other five hikers who planned to start a little later and spend longer getting through.

Back at the hotel we prepared for the following day. Heehaw gave me his lucky gloves and a lot of valuable advice. Waldo put snow chains on his rental car and set his alarm for 5:30 am. Soon it was time to farewell Heehaw and ED. When the day began we had thought we would all finish the walk together, but we hugged goodbye and they wished me luck. It was past midnight and time to snatch a few hours' sleep.


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30 True to the thru (Part 4 of 4)
30 The waiting game (Part 3 of 4)
30 Something was wrong (Part 2 of 4)
30 A story that needs to be told (Part 1 of 4)
21 "I knew Typo would make it" (Part 6 of 6)
19 Throwing the Hail Mary (Part 5 of 6)
10 Up and down, but not out (Part 4 of 6)
06 Crossing Cutthroat Pass (Part 3 of 6)
03 Warming up in Winthrop (Part 2 of 6)

30 We're sleeping in a toilet (Part 1 of 6)
25 Another radio interview (Audio)
21 I made it
04 Nearly there

29 Trail Magic
19 Walking with Mum

28 Cold food
28 Hello Oregon!
20 40 miles in one day
08 Official trail name: Typo
06 (Humbolt) Summit Fever
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30 The beginning
25 Final preparation
17 Blogging along the way
16 No publicity is bad publicity
08 Walking before the walk
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