Harrison Hut Bridge Repair (June 1, 2014)

      This report is something like six weeks too late, but better late than never. In my defence I’ve been spending all my spare time on the stuff needed for a long-term solution for the bridge across Barr Creek.

      In this thing Veenstra promises that I’ll provide my own trip report:
      The bridge across Barr Creek to the Harrison Hut had been squished by the snow, and I’d talked a bit with Veenstra about how to repair it. On Wednesday he gave me word that if I got my act together with the bridge repair that I could go with him as he did his speed traverse and drive his car back after fixing the bridge. I was already booked for hanging with my son while my wife was at some meeting on Wednesday, so I didn’t get started until Thursday night after I had brushed some small teeth.
      I’d finished the design and engineering calculations by 2:40 am, and then I went home and plopped in the bed for a bit. I got up a little before 6:00 am and went out and purchased everything I’d need before work. After work I started cutting and welding–I finished get everything together at around 4:40. I went home and packed until Veenstra picked me up.
      I’d just managed to fall asleep on the road when I woke up to Veenstra’s hand in my pocket rooting around for my phone. Hawt. After that I failed to really fall asleep again despite being quite tired.
      Because Nick, Lena and Veenstra were doing this farcical traverse and wanted to be to bed early so that they could be fresh in the morning, they didn’t want to take too much stuff. They did take some, as there was quite a bit, but I had the lion’s share. My responsibility was to go fast enough that they’d not be slowed down and would get enough sleep, without unloading onto them despite being a zombie. I more or less did, but it totally mangled me. I was in pretty rough shape by the time I got to the bridge; blisters, sore and stupidly tired.
      Everyone except Lena walked over the log jam to avoid the broken bridge section. She was a couple minutes behind and just bounced across the broken bridge. The thing was bending all over the place and walking off the rock it was balancing on. I yelled for her to stop, but she just said, “It’s fine. We went across last week with heavier packs” and continued bouncing across. That was pretty zany.
      It took us only about three hours to get the bridge repaired despite my crippling tiredness. As we finished, I bummed some duct tape off Veenstra and started repairing my feet. At that point the others asked if I minded if they went on ahead and ran to the hut to get to bed. I told them that would be no problem. Nick asked if I had a headlamp as he was leaving, and I assured him that I did.
      After I got taped up, I started following up very slowly. No one was depending on me to go at all fast anymore, and I was enjoying stumbling along slowly. This happy period lasted about twenty minutes before things started totally going to hell.
      The first crappy thing that happened was the snow. There started to be more and more of it. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem, because the previous two weekends people had booted it up to the hut without snowshoes, skis or problems. This wasn’t the case for me. It had been very hot, and the snow was completely isothermal. I’d without warning break through and end up to my waist or armpits time after time. I landed in water a few times and filled up my boots, which didn’t help my feet, either.
      It then started to get dark. I pulled out my headlamp, and it worked for about five minutes before really dying. I turned it off and started just turning it on for a few seconds when it was time to find the next marker.
      The next nail in my coffin was the markers. At some point some perverted rodent had started picking all the reflective stuff off the markers and eating the glue, which didn’t help things at all. I hope it died of glue poisoning, but it’s probably still alive, thinking about the next way it can screw everyone.
      As the snow got worse and worse, I had to resort to crawling to get anywhere. I just couldn’t stand up at all without dropping through. How the hell did the rest of them make it? For one thing they’re not as fat as me, but I could also just make out pole prints. They had ski poles. I then had this horrible thought:
      “Wait a minute. I _had_ poles.”
      I really couldn’t think of where I’d lost them, so I just went forward. I figured I was probably closer to the hut than to my poles and I’d likely not find them without being able to see anyways.
      As I crawled along, my fingers swelling up to ridiculous proportions, I thought that I had better do everything I could to get to the hut. If I wasn’t there when Veenstra woke up, he’d probably ruin his trip by looking for me. If I was off the path, rescue might be called, and that’d just be too terrible for words. “Search and Rescue located a stranded hiker crawling through the snow wearing shorts and a T-shirt. He had no poles and no batteries in his headlamp. He had no means of starting a fire and a bunch of tools totally irrelevant to survival in his pack. When asked for comment, North Shore Rescue stated that he must be far stupider than anyone they’ve ever rescued.”
      Things got progressively worse as I approached the hut. I was falling through lots even though I was crawling and getting busted up on the boulders beneath. My feet were disintegrating in the water, and my headlamp had gotten to the completely useless phase. The rest of them had put the skis on as it had gotten to be too much for them even though they had poles and weren’t chubbalicious. I crawled along feeling the skin tracks from there on. When I got to the hut, I was a wreck. I was starving but unable to contend with trying to cook without lights. I scrawled a note telling the rest of them to make me food when they got up and that I was mangled, and then I fell asleep. It didn’t take them too long to wake up and shower me with pity while getting me some food before taking off to do the traverse. I went to bed again.
      I was up again in a few hours, about 6:30. I think my internal panic button had gone off because of the snow situation. I got up and headed out to try to get through the snow while there was still a little crust on it. It did help–I fell through a bunch and had to crawl some, but it wasn’t nearly as heinous as the way up.
      I discovered my poles at the bridge. This was nice. I tried to carry on for a bit, but I was just too tired. My left eye had this uncontrollable stream of tears coming from it, I couldn’t focus, and my eyes were twitching. I passed out on the trail until 3:30 and let the bugs do their thing.
      When I got up, the race was on to get my mangled feet and self plus all the tools and leftover hardware back to the car before dark.
      The duct tape on my feet has disintegrated by the time I got back, and the feet underneath weren’t so happy either. Here is a picture of the tape:Duct Tape
      Back at the car Lena had a bag around her bike, which I think was left over from her traverse the week before. It was filled with a preposterous number of beetles.
      While I definitely had the lowest caloric output and the least amount of impressiveness of anyone on the trip, I’m pretty confident that I out-suffered the rest combined.
      By some miracle I arrived at the meet-up point at the same time as everyone else.
      On the way back all the restaurants were closed, so we stopped in at the Petro Can and got some junk. I got a bar and some chips and a litre of chocolate milk, and Veenstra purchased six taquitos from the disturbing rotating food cooker. Shortly after consuming them he admitted that six taquitos was near lethal for him.
      Epilogue 2:
      When we were approaching my house at around 2:00 am, Veenstra’s brakes exploded and we came squealing to a stop. There was brake fluid pouring out the back. This was a nice garnish to everything else. We got it to unlock by throwing it into reverse, and then we made it to my place in 4-low. Then he fell asleep on my couch.
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One Response to Harrison Hut Bridge Repair (June 1, 2014)

  1. Lena Rowat says:

    awesome report Jeff, well worth the wait, & fills me again with gratitude for how much you suffered to support our traverse! xoL

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