Meanwhile still on the trail to Brew…
Darkness falls in the forest. Amanda and I make slow but steady progress along the tracks left behind from the other group members. We realize how efficient we are moving along the trail together; completely unsure if this is from advice we offer each other in navigating the icy incline or just company to keep our spirits high after seven hours of skinning in rental boots that that blister and bruise our feet and shins. We made resolutions as we passed through the forest. Acquire a GPS for future trips; invest in a good tele setup and better gear in general; have an earlier start and keep a faster pace early on since as we found out later, this trek was long and strenuous for even the more advanced members on the trip. I felt comfort in knowing we were together and making good progress along a marked trail, and that we would be on the final stretch up to Brew hut in short order. What made me nervous was our lack of GPS, and how much time was passing without Jeff and Birgit returning to make sure we made it up. I knew that once we reached the final stretch up to Brew, we would be faced with a white out that has already removed the skin tracks and make it near impossible to navigate to the hut on our own.
We reach a section of trail that is quite steep and iced over. There are no more tracks in front of us, but rather side-step tracks that lead up to tracks going left. There are also no markers in front of us. We struggled to get up this section but found ourselves on the tracks it lead to which had markers in front. I questioned at the time whether this was the right way since it seemed to lead downhill. We looked at our other options which didn’t make much sense either and decided to continue on as this is the only place we could find markers and a track. At some point we should have realized we were going the complete wrong direction. We were skiing down. Brew hut is a 1200 metre elevation gain! It just shows how exhaustion can affect you in the back country, and how important it is to stop, eat a snack, and question where you are going/and what you are doing. There are markers on the trail to bring you to Brew, but there are also markers to bring you home!
As we continued in the wrong direction, I heard my phone receive a text message. It was Cora! We both had enough reception to speak on the phone. They were sending five of the quickest folks from the hut to come find us. There were no trees ahead of us (as we managed to back track completely out of the forest) so we turned back and found a tree to take shelter under until they arrived. From here on out, the worst was over. This was our final destination and where we would spend the remainder of the trip. Amanda very quickly laid down a therma-rest, got out her stove, and made some oatmeal. I warmed up my frozen feet and we huddled together under our warmest and driest clothes and fleece blanket. We then made instant coffee. Life was good again. We decided to read “Ode to the lads” as she had a copy of it folded in her bag. One of our rescuers, Emily, called and said they were on the way and shouldn’t take long to find us. We passed the time by keeping warm and talking, and communicated with Cora and the rescue team intermittently. I was unsure of how much time had passed but surely they should have arrived by now. They called again and expressed concern that they had passed us somehow, and check that we were close enough to the trail that they would see us. They did not think it was possible we were any farther away and considered turning back in case they passed us, but decided it was best to continue right back to the logging road before turning around, just in case. Eventually they did find us! When they saw how far away we were they realized we got turned around at some point. As we ended up back tracking most of the way, we decided to set up a tent they had brought and Emily and Elliott camped with us. Even though we got completely turned around, and did not make it to the hut, we managed to salvage the rest of our trip and had a blast! Shout out to the five members who made up the search party that came to find us. We truly appreciate it!