serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Twin Mountain Trudge Trail Race turns Epic (4 of 5)

posted by Chris Barber

twin-mountain-trudge-snow-shelterWhat was Going Through My Mind

Here is a checklist that was going through my mind:  First, I needed to stop moving since I did not know where on the course I was.  Making the decision to stay in one place gave me the direction of what I needed to do until I am rescued.  Plus, it is mountaineering 101 to stay in one place and have the rescue party find you.  Second, Josh and I are the only runners doing a second lap and when Josh comes in Alec will ask him where he past me on the course.  Josh will respond, “I didn’t pass Ray” and with this they will know I am lost.  Third, Alec would not leave any runner on the course.  Fourth, I knew it took Alec about 6 hours to mark the course.  This meant that I needed to stay safe for 6 to 8 hours before I could expect anyone to find me.

The bottom line in all my thoughts was not to panic and make any stupid decisions, and to stay calm.  By going over my checklist I had a rational plan that I would be rescued and this gave me a sense of reassurance.  However, it was most likely going to be a long time before they found me with no guarantees that I would be able to hike out on my own.

My Plan of Action

Since I made the decision to stay where I was, I was going to need a shelter to combat the high winds and snow.  The task of building a shelter gave me a focus and kept me from panicking.  No matter what, I needed a shelter.  What would happen if for some reason they could not find me and I had to stay out overnight in temperatures that would be in the low teens.  I decided that not only would I build the shelter for the short-term, but I also mentally prepared myself that I might have to stay out overnight.

I started building my shelter’s frame with branches and sticks.  I built it about 10 feet off the Trudge course so it would be easier to find.  The snow was like champagne powder and was not ideal for building a shelter.  I used my poncho as part of the wall facing the wind to help give my shelter the most protection.  I was beyond exhausted building my shelter, but what kept me going was that by building it I was keeping warm, and that I MUST have a shelter if I wanted to survive through the night.  After over 6 hours my shelter was ready.  By this point I had been in the cold, wind, and snow for over 13 hours.

I took my ski poles, crossed them over each other and stuck them standing up the snow on the trail in an “X”.  This was a signal that my shelter was here and that I am inside.  I could not take the chance that I would stay conscious and needed a piece of mind to know that rescuers would see the poles and explore the area and find me.  I was ready to take refuge in my shelter, crawled in and barricaded myself inside.  For those of you who have never made a shelter out of snow, it is extremely important that you leave air holes, otherwise you can suffocate and die from asphyxiation.  On the ground of my shelter I put sage brush and pine branches so I would not be lying directly on the snow.  I put on the extra clothes that I brought and then laid on top of my running backpack and the plastic bag that I used to pack my clothes in.

Read More to find out if Hawaiian Shirt Ray made it out alive.  Well, of course he did, he didn’t send me this story from the wifi connection in his shelter…

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  1. [...] to.  I have to admit, I had a little panic at this point but quickly regained my composure.  Check out what happens [...]