Patriot Supply would like to thank Janice Wilson from Winnipeg, Manitoba for participating in our “Survival Story” contest. Janice’s story was the winner and as such she is the recipient of a free Havalon, Baracuta-Edge knife! Thank you Janice!
About ten years ago we decided to do something different. My boyfriend Eric and I have always enjoyed the outdoors and spent a lot of our free time outside. We both grew up camping, hunting and fishing and more often than not we combined all of it into major expeditions.
This time we went for purely a hike and we wanted to make it grand. Someplace very special. We chose the mountains of Yukon, just outside of Kluane National park. The hike was supposed to take two days.
We stayed at Haines Junction the night before and the following day we headed out into the mountains. Being the adventurers we are, we decided to stay off the beaten hiking paths and go where hopefully no man has gone before…into the wild.
We took a week off from our jobs in Winnipeg for this tour and figured that the two days spent on our hike would still leave enough time for some sightseeing and travel back home. We planned on spending the night out in the wilderness away from all civilization and came sufficiently prepared.
INTO THE WILD
All went well the first day and night. Given there is something to the tune of nineteen hours of daylight in that part of Canada in August, it wasn’t much of a night. Nevertheless we felt rested the next day and ready to go. At about twenty past ten or so, we found ourselves on a high, narrow ledge on a side of some mountain. The view was amazing and very far away we saw what we thought was the village of Haines Junction. We felt like we were on top of the world even though there is was more mountain up above our heads.
Captivated by the view, I stopped paying attention to what I was doing and stepped on a lose rock too close to the edge of the trail. The rock gave way and in an instant I found myself in what seemed like an endless free fall into a dark abyss. I landed hard and on my back. The pack I was wearing cushioned my fall. Something told me to open my eyes fast and when I did I saw Eric’s body coming at me. I tried to get out of the way but I wasn’t quick enough. As I tried rolling out of the way Eric landed on my side and I felt a crushing sensation.
He spoke first asking me if I’m ok. I replied that I am, and asked him the same. He said that he thinks so and sat up, leaning against the rocky mountain wall. We fell on to a small, flat landing with a few, quite dry bushes and one small, crocked pine tree. After this quick situational assessment, I noticed pain. I looked at my left leg and almost fainted. My calf was split wide open from my ankle to almost my knee. As Eric saw the blood he immediately took his pack off and started looking for his first aid kit. I quickly realized I had full function of the leg which meant that the wound was not very deep but I was losing a lot of blood. Shortly, Eric was able to stop the bleeding. I was getting light-headed but Eric seemed like he had a handle on everything. I drifted off. When I woke up I saw his smiling face and then began to look around. He said the internal frame of my pack got completely destroyed. That would explain that crushing feeling…thank god there is were no further injuries…
There were grassy patches in our “new home” but for the most part the ground was rocky. The view was to die for and it appeared we just might… The problem was that this outcropping was some sort of a balcony that the Gods constructed…but there is was no way to climb back up to the trail from where we fell and there is was no way to climb down to lower elevations. At least not without a rope. Below us was a wall of rock straight down for about two hundred feet. That turned into a sloping mountain side covered in dense brush and trees. This eventually leveled out, deep in a valley below us. Climbing up was at least twenty feet. Wondering how we survived the fall, we were thankful that we were together, at the same time understanding that togetherness will not feed us and our time on this pretty plateau is very limited…
Throughout the remainder of the day and into the evening, we slowly nibbled at the rest of our rations, most of which were consumed the day before. As we were supposed to be back by that evening, we were also beginning to run out of water. My thoughts drifted to Aron Ralston who in 2003 got his hand stuck under a boulder while exploring canyons in Utah. He ended up amputating his own arm off to free himself after six days of being trapped…
The night was uneventful. Even though we understood that if someone doesn’t walk by on the very trail that we were on, our chances of getting saved were probably very slim. At the same time we were grateful that we were at a place where bears couldn’t get to since we would probably end up as lunch. We thought about making a fire but fuel was very limited and wouldn’t last long so we decided to have it ready in case we hear an aircraft. Perhaps the smoke might catch the pilot’s attention.
I was very tired, probably from the blood loss and felt almost annoyed when Eric shook me awake very early in the morning. He saw a party of three people way down below us. He was encouraging me to scream as loud as I could so we could get their attention but it didn’t work. It did appear as though there really were three hikers very far away from us, miles below the base of the mountain we were on but no matter how much we screamed and waved our arms, they didn’t notice. At one point we thought that one waved back but it really was too far to tell for sure. Eventually the group passed and disappeared in the trees miles away and once again we were left alone. Eric changed the dressing on my leg which just about stopped bleeding and we accepted the fact that we will be spending at least another night together on this beautiful but isolated place. This time, it would be with no water and food. Tomorrow was going to get really tough and if no one finds us in two days, it might be game over.
I am not sure what time it was when Eric said he heard voices. I was tired and told him to leave me alone. He stood up and looked up toward where we fell from. He said in an exciting voice that he saw movement and began to scream like a mad man. Then someone answered! I just about jumped to my feet. It was a party of four climbers. They were from B.C. and one of them was a member of the Provincial Emergency Program. They had climbing gear including ropes and in what seemed like a few short seconds I was standing on the very spot where I tripped while watching Eric being helped up by our rescuers.
Although we were saved, we still had a long hike into town. We walked down the trail a ways to a suitable camping spot and stayed there for the night. The climbers shared with us enough food and water to get us back up on our feet and the next day we carried on. Everyone took turns carrying me. At about eight o’clock that evening, we made it into town. I received detailed medical treatment and we were informed that the climbers didn’t even want to take that trail. One of them simply thought it was a shortcut but it ended up setting them back a day…
WE WERE LUCKY
Our trip took two days longer than planned but we were both very grateful that the delay was only two days. It could have been permanent. We were very grateful for the climbers…they saved our lives. It turns out that the trail we fell off of was not an official hiking route and in reality was nothing more than a wildlife path. We were very lucky.