Friday, January 7, 2011

Food Shortage and Fresh Snow

Deep snow + high friction sleds + possible food shortage = early end to E.S.C.A.P.E Survival Challenge attempt #2.

After arriving home on day 5, 10 days earlier than expected, Harold refers to the coating of Line-X (spray on truck bed liner) he and Derek added to the bottom of their sleds as, "the worst decision!" Hoping to increase the durability of the sleds, which were chewed up by the rocks on the trail from the first attempt back in November, the Line-X instead transformed the sleds into 90lb bricks. The difference - recent heavy snowfalls transformed the rugged rocky terrain into powder over hip deep. Low friction has taken the place of durability on the sled's top requirements.

"The sleds simply would not slide," said Harold, "When we stopped to take even a quick break, the sleds would freeze in place and we had to put all our weight into them just to get moving. Even then, every step was a strain. When we were going downhill, we were still pulling!"

Day One: "We only covered 1.5 miles," recalls Harold, "and we worked at it, an all out' effort." Due to heavy snowfall, they were not able to drive up to the trailhead even with the help of the Mid-Valley Crawlers 4wheel drive club. This put them on a steep climb in dense woods. Despite their best efforts, Harold and Derek were not able to establish a satellite signal to make a call or send their location coordinates to the support team.

Day Two: The team was still working hard and only managed to make it a little over 2 miles. Dense forests again prevented connection with the support team.
Breakfast and Dinner

Day Three: Harold and Derek realized the pressure was on. Several things weighed on their mind:
1. They seriously needed to pick up the pace in order to make the food drop at Warm Springs cabin. With only 7 days of food in their packs, if they chose to hike much farther, they faced the possibility of running out of food on the way to the food drop. If they ran behind, they would miss the food drop and be forced to turn around and hike out without rations. The end of day 3 would be their last opportunity to turn around in hopes of  having enough food to make the trip back to Detroit Lake. Still, within a few miles they could reach the summit where they hoped the snow might be blown off and the going would be a bit faster without the incline.
2. Unable to establish communication, Harold knew that his brother may deploy a rescue team very soon. But again, further up, Harold knew the trees would clear and his SPOT II transmitter would send a confirmation of their location and safety.

They kept hiking toward the top. The boys reached a clearing about a mile up the trail, and the snow was only getting worse. Harold and Derek stopped for an agonizing hour, running through all the details, possibilities, food concerns, and communication difficulties. Harold ask Derek what he would like to do.

"I will continue if you want to," Derek replied, "but I won't be a happy camper."

The clearing where they had stopped allowed for Harold's brother to be contacted by satelite phone letting him know they were safe, but coming home. Before any more information could get through, the satellite connection was lost. Harold and Derek got up, turned around, and headed back down the trail toward Detroit Lake.
Now going downhill they were able to booked it all the way back to their camp from the first night just after nightfall.

Day 4: "We got up early and huffed it," said Harold, "We pushed so hard I almost threw up!" The going was much faster once they hit the icy road. But still, the sleds resisted each step. The guys made a little over 8 miles and setup camp just above the Breitenbush hot springs complex.

Day 5:  Taking advantage of the no cook breakfast and an early start, by 10:00, the crew made it to Fox Creek when a woman from Breitenbush met them - the first person they had seen since they began the trek, aside from a couple snowmobilers from the first morning. The friendly stranger radioed Breitenbush where a pickup was sent to packed up the team and  drive them the remaining 6 miles down the road to Detroit Lake where Derek's brother met them.

By 1:30 pm on Thursday, January 5, Team E.S.C.A.P.E. was home.

"I don't view this as a failure," said Harold just after returning home, "There were a lot of factors against us this time - the weather preventing a close drop and the friction on the sleds. Last time was such a dissapointment when we were forced to turn around because I had the flu. This time though was a great learning experience and even though we traveled slower, we ended up covering almost as much ground. I'm hoping to try again someday."

(Stay Tuned!)


  1. Sounds like an adventure!! We knew when we dropped them off in 3ft of snow that it was gonna be a challenge. For what it's worth, Line-X makes many types of durable coatings, some that are not super grippy bed liner (like the guys used) but rather slick and smooth to the touch. Glad to hear everyone is home safe. Let us know if Attempt #3 formalizes and we'll do our best to help out again. :)

  2. I am sure they will want to hear more about a different coating!