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...continued from Page 2

By now, the snow was blowing sideways and the winds were upward of 30mph.  We were enveloped in a whiteout, and we couldn't see more than 20 feet.  Luckily, I had tracked our route with my GPS unit, so we could follow the tracks back to our camp.  I concentrated on the GPS arrow intently, and when I stopped to look around, I realized I was standing on the end of a 2 foot wide, 200-foot long crevasse that had opened up since we were there last!   Quickly leaving that spot, we plunge-stepped quickly back to Sandra, who was ready to get down!  From the false summit, there was a glissading trench that Pat quickly jumped into.  After the excellent glissading at Mt. St. Helens, we were ready to go!  Pat took off like a rocket down the ice-laden trench, quickly careening out of control.  She attempted a self-arrest, but the icy slopes didn't take, and she lost her ice axe!  She tumbled down the glacier wildly out of control and crashed headlong into another guy who was preparing to glissade below, breaking her fall.  After a stern lecture from him about never losing her ice axe,  she looked up to see Sandra coming down.

Sandra hadn't seen what had happened to Pat, because the slope prevented visibility below, and she hopped into the same glissade trail.  At warp speed, she took off down the slope, flying off the path, and desperately tried to self-arrest.  Her arrest didn't take, and she too tumbled down the slope, trying to stop herself with her ice axe to no avail.  Her jacket flew up over her head as she slid wildly down the slope, and snow piled up underneath, under her bra, underwear, pants, and goggles.  She held her ice axe over her head, trying to slow herself down, and repeatedly tried to self-arrest, but nothing doing.  She threw off her goggles in an attempt for visibility, but the speed of the descent prevented that.  Eventually she stopped short of the rocks below and another climber helped warm her freezing hands and empty her clothes of snow.  Pat still clung to the slope above with a look of terror on her face, as Gabe prepared to glissade above.

Gabe sat down on the glissade trail and in a split second was nowhere to be seen.  He also lost control, flew off the glissade path, and began to fly all over the mountain, but was able to self-arrest.  Shaken, he decided to don crampons and walk the rest of the way down.  Salima and Tom also decided to walk down, but I was totally unaware of what awaited below, and opted to glissade.    I suffered the same experience, as I flailed down the trail and was flung out of the trench across the glacier.  I slammed my ice axe into the icy slopes and self-arrested without incident.  I decided to make a new glissade trail, and slid down easily.   We glissaded safely, unless you count sore backsides, down most of the rest of the way to camp, until the weather became torturous.

 The winds now were upwards of 50mph, with ice pellets and snow beating our faces.  Our goggles were so clogged with snow, we couldn't see, and we tried walking backward down the slopes with our hands over our faces.   Visibility was near zero, and the foot of fresh snow had obliterated our tracks.  For nearly five hours, we put all our faith in the GPS unit, and eventually we made it back to camp.  The blizzard was still in full force as we approached our campsites, and we made a decision to tear down camp rather than wait out the blizzard on the slopes.  Our tent had collapsed under the weight of the snow, and only the rocks that we all had placed inside our tents before breaking camp that morning had kept our tents from blowing away.  We dug out our tents, supplies, stoves, and other items from the fresh snow, and quickly packed up.   We were wearing all our layers by now, still freezing in the frigid blizzard conditions.  We heard a rescue helicopter's beating blades nearby, but we could see nothing.   We continued following the GPS down the slopes, and eventually found a trail marker.  By now, the snow had gotten too deep for crampons, but under the top layer was a solid sheet of ice, making the going quite treacherous, as we all fell down repeatedly. 

We struggled down the trail as the wind began to let up around 7,000 feet.  By 6,500 feet the snow had subsided as well, and the clouds began to lift, along with our spirits.  Exhausted, we traveled the seemingly endless final stretch of relatively flat trail back to our cars.  Near collapse, we packed our gear into our rigs and began the treacherous trip back down the "road" to Trout Lake.   We made it home around 10:00pm and were unpacked by midnight, just in time to get up for work at 6:00am the next morning.

We learned a lot from that trip, made a lot of mistakes, and exercised some bad judgment, but all in all, we can look back and know better for next time.   Some chance of showers!  Thank goodness for GPS! 

You can view photos from our trip by clicking here to view our slide show, or click on a link at left to view another page.

Click the Arrow above to return to page 2 of 3.
Click here to view the slide show!

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