Wednesday, January 12, 2011

E.S.C.A.P.E EXPOSED: Gear Gallery

Take a look inside E.S.C.A.P.E Survival Challenge. Harold opens his pack to show what it takes to be self-sufficient on a long distant hike over a wintry mountain range. Derek also opens up about his passion for the outdoors.

Five Men to load the pack. One man to carry it over the Cascades.

Self contained catalytic camp stove with pot.

One cup that separates into two - one for food, one for drink, fold up spoon inside. The spoon has an extra long handle to stir food while in the cook pot.

Derek has always been outdoorsy . . .

Spot II satellite transmitter allows adventurers to send a location to support team as well as help/emergency signals to search and rescue teams.

Garmin GPS allows the team to veer off the trail and find their way right back on track. Elevation, mileage, way points, and trail can all be tracked accurately.

A bin full of all the little essentials - journal, knife, suspenders, batteries, etc.

Re-rolled duct tape.

Not just for scaring off raccoons, although it works for that too!

Jacket lined with light weight omni-heat reflective liner, which has the highest heat retention per gram of any liner out there.
Waterproof sealed seams on all outer-layers including jacket and snow pants.
Gators - neoprene socks that go over soft fabric socks while in camp.

Crocodiles - heavy guards that keep the snow and gravel out of boots.

Felt sack Harold stuffs with extra clothes to make a pillow. Harold sewed the Velcro on after the first attempt to keep the stuffing from falling out.

Completely waterproof gear bag that holds extra clothes, bivey sac, sleeping bag, and other gear. The bag then slips into the main cavity of the backpack.

The right undies. So important. Longer leg = less chaffing.

Food! Each meal is contained in one Ziploc sandwich bag. Harold and Derek chose foods that offered the most calories per ounce. Dehydrated soups, beans and rice, and mashed potatoes along with pop tarts and energy bars make up many of the meals.
Lunch and Dinner

Harold's weather-proof sack and backpack.

Derek pulling the self-modified sled on Attempt 1.

Harold's infamous backpack complete with shovel bungee-corded to the back.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

E.S.C.A.P.E Continues

Deep snow, rough sleds, and the possibility of running out of food have put an end to E.S.C.A.P.E. Survival Challenge: Part II. Meanwhile, E.S.C.A.P.E., Exchange Sponsored Child Abuse Prevention Effort, is still up and running. They are helping families all over Salem and the surrounding area, protecting children, and improving home life through support and education.

Harold and Derek have not given up on this mission and continue raising money for child abuse prevention. They hope you won't give up either! In order to learn more about E.S.C.A.P.E., you can attend the weekly meetings each Tuesday, 12:00pm at Copper John's in Downtown Salem, go to the E.S.C.A.P.E website, or leave a comment and we'll get in touch with you.

As always you can click DONATE and support E.S.C.A.P.E's mission with a financial gift. Studies have shown that E.S.C.A.P.E programs not only benefit children and families in need, but support the community by easing the tax burden and creating successful, contributing families. So save yourself some money, do some good, and give today!

Harold and Derek have been resting up over the weekend, going over their maps, and should have new details for you soon. Keep checking back to find out whether or not their will be a third attempt!

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!)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 5: The Boys are Back in Town!

Word is in! Derek's brother-in-law will be meeting the team at Detroit Lake around noon. We have not yet heard from the team directly but look forward to hearing their stories from the trail. We'll keep  you posted as we hear more.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 4: First Contact

"We've been having fun," said Harold. These are the first cheery, welcomed words heard from the team in 4 days. Harold continued, "That's meant to be sarcastic by the way."

Hoping to hear that Harold and Derek were calling from Ollallie Meadow or Lemiti Butte, moving swiftly over the snow with their newly modified sleds coated with Line-X, spray-on truck bed liner, the report was disappointing.

"We're turning back," Harold's voice came through over a scratchy connection. He continued to explain.

On Day 1, the deep heavy snow on Hwy 46 from Detroit Lake up to the Breitenbush trail head prevented the 4wheel drive club from coming even remotely close to the drop point. With 7 miles added to the trek, all to be made up with just two extra days, Derek and Harold began hiking. Starting at 3000 ft elevation, the crew had a steep climb to the summit at 6000 ft.

Slogging through over 3 feet of snow, the duo quickly found that although the Line-X added to the bottom of the sleds was durable, the added friction made the sleds feel like they were coated in Velcro.

"The Line-X was not such a hot idea," admits Harold, "We were prepared for the extra 7lbs the Line-X would add, but the surface is not dead smooth, which makes it feel like we're pulling a brick." The added friction, deep snow, and steep elevation all worked against the boys limiting their first day's total mileage to a mere 1.5 miles.

Starting at the lower elevation brought a few more challenges. The thick woods affected the teams GPS and satellite instruments making precise position, direction, mileage, and time immeasurable as well as preventing Harold from making check-in phone calls.

The first night was spent just off the road in the woods.

The second day brought them only 2.4 miles further up the mountain. With less than four miles logged and 3.25 miles still standing between them and the trail head, they knew that on day three they would need to travel 5 miles the next day to stay within the time table.

With the pressure of being behind weighing on their minds, the team turned in on the second night hoping for a restful night. That's when the cold set in. Weather stations a good 1,000 to 1500 ft below where they camped on night two were registering as low as -9 degrees, which means it's a good possiblility it was colder at their elevation.

"The extra water bottles in our packs froze solid. The water next to our bodies in our tents froze solid. It got so cold, it was snowing inside our tents," said Harold with a slight chuckle, "Our breath rose, condensated, froze, and came right back down on us like snow."

Still the team kept on. Making slow progress again that third day, Harold and Derek began worrying about their food supply. In order to make the food drop, they had to break over the summit in three days - an impossible feat considering the problems with the sleds, current weather conditions and 6ft of snow.

The third day was the point of no return. Without making it over the top it would be impossible to make the food drop at Warm Springs cabin. The choice take a chance that the food drop team could be contacted or that the team could locate them much farther south than expected, travel on half rations or turn around. After a mile traveled on the third day and after about 45mins to an hour of discussion, and the big question could they or should they take the chance? 

The decision was made and the team began to hike back down 4220 to 46 toward Detroit Lake. Today, Harold was finally able to make a satellite connection and call out from the small clearing where they had stopped to discuss the situation.

"We'll try to make it down to Detroit Lake," said Harold knowing that travel up the snow covered highway would be tricky for the support team coming to pick them up. Before hanging up to send out a help message from his SPOT II transmitter, Harold added, "We're exhausted right now, tired and ready for dinner, but for now we're just racing to the bottom."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 3: Still no word

It's been three days out on the trail and still no word from The Crew. Before leaving, the plan was for Harold to check in each day from his satelite phone. With a limited amount of battery, calls could only be about 4 minutes each.

Knowing how prepared Harold and Derek are with a Satelite Phone and SPOT transmitter for emergencies, along with a good amount of know how and wilderness savy eases the mind.

Still, with how cold it has been in the valley for the past few day, along with the generous dumping of snow in the pass last week leads the uninformed mind to wander . . . how are Harold and Derek doing?

We'll of course keep you posted as soon as we get an up date from The Crew.

If they are still on course, they should be camping at Triangle Lake Equestrian camp tonight. Wednesday they'll travel north past Olallie meadow past Lemiti Butte to Lemiti Creek near forest service access road 125.

Derek answers the question, "Why are you doing this?"
Sunday, January 2nd.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 1: And They're Off!

Harold's van pulled into the dark, vacant parking lot at 6:50 am today. With Derek in the passenger seat, the two jumped out as if it is already dawn.

It wasn't. 

Harold packs up his last minute addition, Alka Seltzer, while Derek starts a list of things he forgot. A watch and extra resealable plastic baggies top the list.

Scheduled to  leave at 7:00 am with Willamette Valley Crawlers 4 wheel drive club, Harold and Derek put the finishing stuff-in and zip-ups on their 80+ pound packs.

Over the next hour, the Crawlers join the E.S.C.A.P.E team in the Salem Napa Auto Parts parking lot making the last minute preparations on their Jeep's to get Harold and Derek as close to the Pacific Crest Trail head at Breitenbush as possible.

"There are bets on how close you'll be able to drop us," jokes Harold. Still the Crawlers seem pretty confident of their snow busting abilities.

As the sun slowly lit up the sky, the temperature remained at a low 24 degrees.

"What time is it?" asked Harold. Derek just shrugged his shoulders. After all, he left his watch at home.

"The sun's coming up," Derek replied in a relaxed tone, "I'm guessing we're getting close to eight."
"We were suppose to be eating breakfast in Detroit Lake at eight!" says Harold with a little urgency. After all, with months of itinerary planning, weather pressures, and such, Harold knows that the recent snow in the Cascades makes time much tighter and every minute of daylight counts.

"We have time," replies Derek, "We'll do like we did last time and hike as far as we can. We'll be fine." Harold agrees.
Harold continues to use every minute ironing out details and making sure everything will go smoothly while he's away.
"I'll check in each day around noon when we take our lunch break to keep everyone updated," says Harold as he hands off his final fundraising fliers. Ever-mindful of the survival challenge's purpose, to raise money for Child Abuse Prevention Center in Salem.

By 8:06 am, the Crawlers were ready, 5 men hoisted Derek's 80lb pack onto one of the Samuri's (laughing), and the convoy of 4 wheel drives were off.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Going Back!

Fresh year, fresh start! The first trek ended prematurely with the appearance of the flu and a leaky bivy sack. Vowing to return, Harold and Derek are at it again.

Originally planning to re-embark on Tuesday, January 4th, last week's heavy snow moved the schedule up a bit.

After checking the entrance route last Tuesday, Harold found that Hwy 46 was not plowed. With heavy snow on the entrance route, Harold and Derek will not be able to reach the first drop off even with the help of a local 4 wheel drive club.

The extra 15 to 20 mile hike, just to reach the start point, pushed the departure date up by two days. "Two days we needed for preparation," says Harold who admits to being a little nervous on this night before E.S.C.A.P.E Survival Challenge.

Still determined to go through with the fundraising challenge on behalf of the Exhange Sponsored Child Abuse Prevention Effort (E.S.C.A.P.E), the team scrambled to collect and prep the remaining gear and make the nessesary contacts to Ranger Stations, support teams, food drop crews, and others.

On 7:00am, January 2, 2011, E.S.C.A.P.E Survival Challenge will be underway when Harold and Derek depart Salem and head into the Cascade Range for the next 14 to 17 days.

"Now I'm just wanting to get some sleep," says Harold, "or just think about how to fall asleep!"

Make sure to subscribe to this blog and click the Follow button for automatic updates on the E.S.C.A.P.E Survival Challenge Crew as they trek over the crest of the Cascade Mountains. Not only will there be tactical updates, but anecdotes and personal reflection from the team.

Hopefully you'll be inspired by the efforts of Harold and Derek and choose to support E.S.C.A.P.E by donating and passing on this link.

Check back tomorrow for final pics and thoughts from Harold and Derek as they leave town.