The waiting game (Part 3 of 4) (Posted 30 November 2012, 08:13pm)

The missing person poster.

This is part three of the story of I'mfine's adventure. Excerpts from his journal are italicised. You can read part one here and part two here.

I had to go home. I had been waiting in Vancouver for my energy to return, and for I'mfine to arrive, but neither had happened. I rang Air New Zealand and booked a seat on the next flight. It was leaving in seven hours so I hastily repacked my bag and made my way to the airport. I got an Internet connection just before departure and checked my emails. There was still no sign of I'mfine and Andrea Dinsmore had called Search and Rescue. Suddenly I realised the seriousness of the situation, but my flight was boarding. I felt sick. As the plane took off I stared out the window at the lights of Vancouver. I was leaving North America and leaving a friend in need. Please I'mfine, just be safe, wherever you are.

And I waited. And waited. And waited... And starved. And froze. And waited. On day two for some reason I had a premonition that after nine nights in my tent I would be rescued. I spent those nine nights rationing food at 300-500 calories per day, the first couple days were closer to 600 or 700. The first five or six nights were very cold, and during this period the snow would melt a little during the day, then usually more snow would fall back to its original level. After that it warmed up enough to rain, and even the nights held only slightly below freezing. After night nine, the snow was mostly melted.

During this period I spent all day either hoping, thinking, going crazy with hunger pains, or sometimes extreme anxiety, or lying down calmly escaped in a day dream. I would sometimes feel good in my decision to wait for help, and other times I contemplated trying anything I could to make an escape. I would drift back and forth between feeling relatively calm and sedated, to helpless and anxious. At times I was confident that I would survive, and other times I was less hopeful. By the fifth or sixth day I began imagining air plane sounds from the noise the creek was making, by the seventh or eighth day I began imagining helicopter noises, and by day nine or ten I would constantly hear both air planes and helicopters so I wore earplugs for the last two days to try to protect my sanity the best I could.

After the ninth night the snow had melted enough that I should have made a break for it then, but I decided to wait the day out in lieu of my premonition, and if I hadn't been rescued I would go for it the next day. This was my first full day with zero calorie intake. The day came and went, and when I woke up the next morning I decided that if I was going to die in the wilderness, I wasn't going to die lying in a nylon coffin in that godforsaken canyon which I had grown to detest.

I packed up and headed for the waterfall upstream, and carefully climbed hand over hand beside it, then followed the creek above to a low spot in the small cliff above the steep canyon wall, the only possible chance I had of climbing out. I crawled up the small scree slope on my hands and knees, then grabbed onto rocks and roots to climb up the canyon wall. I reached a shelf between the small canyon wall I climbed up and a large canyon wall on the other side. I fought through thick undergrowth and trees until I reached an exposed section and climbed up a small knoll to view the surrounding area.

I spotted my best chance of getting up the canyon wall and back onto the ridge line that I originally ended up on after the glacier creek. Leading up to this small spot was a steep scree slope, which I crossed very carefully, each ill-placed step sliding out. When I got to the point I would attempt to climb, I started up, and grabbing onto the frigid rock face for dear life, made it up. Thinking back I cringed a little at the thought of how narrowly I had made it to where I was and what would have happened if I made a mistake.

I hiked back to the first spot I reached on the ridge and resurveyed the surroundings. I hiked around the area for a couple hours, backtracking two different times until I got back to the same spot, and eventually traced my steps back to Glacier Creek, found the trail and where it crosses, and followed it up to Fire Creek Pass, which was still covered in snow about eight to ten inches deep and completely exposed, making navigating very difficult. The north side of the pass still had deep snow drifts and I couldn't see the trail at all at some points. I found my way until the trail became clearer, and I followed it as it dropped in elevation, back into pine forest. It started raining lightly and by nightfall I was pretty wet.

I camped on the trail north of Milk Creek. The next two passes between me and Stehekin were pretty much the same, difficult to maneuver, covered in snow, and sometimes frightening. I made it to Stehekin on a Friday; my last meal, if you can call it that, had been on the Monday. Hiking without any food, after already barely eating for nine days previously, was very difficult. Sometimes I could hardly keep moving when going uphill or through the snow. Having to pick my feet up to step over logs or rocks felt like I was lifting blocks of concrete. I ended up consuming massive amounts of water in spite of hardly sweating. I weighed in about eighteen pounds lighter when I got to Stehekin. I was ecstatic to have found my way out and to eat again, but also extremely sore all over and maybe a little disoriented by now.

You can read part four here.


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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)
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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
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20 40 miles in one day
08 Official trail name: Typo
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05 Live from the Mojave (Updated)
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12 Videos
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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
08 Maps for the trail