2009-08-22 50 -118
The north-east end of Vidler Ridge, in the Monashee Mountains.
It takes me about an hour and a half to reach Sugar Lake, where I could then exit onto the first forest service road. Kate-Outlet FSR proved drivable, despite long stretches where you would not be able to get around an oncoming vehicle. There was no signage, so the waypoints I had created at home proved useful.
After about 20km, I exited onto unnamed trails and bottomed-out my vehicle a few times. A few hundred meters short of my destination waypoint, I came across a wondrous sight...
First I have to explain, my Mussio Backroad Mapbooks never fail me. They include everything short of a game trail. I had expected that I would have to bushwack elevated terrain to reach the subalpine ridge. Instead I sat in awe, at a sign with a little man hiking. The Vernon Outdoor Club had built a trail to Vidler Ridge. There was even room to park!
With my expedition-weight pack, I merrily started up the trail. It didn't take long to become winded, and my enthusiasm drained. It was steeper than I expected, the surrounding bush thicker than expected, and my pack (perhaps 25kg) more of a burden than expected. I stopped to catch my breath several times without even 1km traveled.
Nonetheless I reached a point where a fire had cleared the trees, and it was obvious I was pretty much on top of this mountain. I expected the rest of my hike to take me along the relatively flat top of the ridge. I picked up my pace, and followed the trail until it was leading me in the opposite direction of the coordinates. I double-backed, left the trail, and ended up overlooking something like a mountainous canyon--the GPS indicating I should proceed forward.
I had to go around, which dropped me down into thicker forest. Miraculously I came across a little arrow made out of the same material as the first sign. Considering the expanse of the area, and the fact that the trail was no longer visible, it was truly lucky. I kept losing the invisible trail, and then simply by following the direction of the coordinates, finding it again. It did not matter much, as the bush wasn't as thick as where I had started.
Since I dropped down, I had to come back up, the agony returning, this time with no trail. When I finally reached the subalpine clearing, it was a very welcome sight. Despite being able to see far ahead, I somehow ended up on the outside of the ridge, with a 1000m or so below me, and no way but up. I had to use all four limbs to haul myself and my pack straight up. It was this point where I was exactly 1km away. The sun was setting on the opposite side. My delirium began.
I did not know exactly how much time I had to reach the coordinates. The camping geohash achievement requires reaching the coordinates before sunset. I had not stopped for any longer than what was required to catch my breath. I was still wearing my thin summer layer, thoroughly damp with sweat. I could feel the temperature dropping by the minute. I had not stopped even for water or a snack. I was exhausted and sore, my lungs sounded strange (I blamed the thin air), and even my stomach made an unknown sound.
I hurried in my stupid state. Once closer to the coordinates I had to descend the opposite side, which was thick with bush. Once 200m away (and 100m above), I came up with the "ingenious" plan of leaving my pack so I wouldn't have to take it all the way down and back up again. I marked it as a waypoint on the GPS, and continued with only the GPS and the camera. I reached the coordinates, took the picture, and looked at the surrounding bush in the low visibility of dusk.
It was then I realized how stupid I had been. And then I looked at my GPS--the battery meter had one bar remaining. Had it turned off, I would never of found my pack in the receding dusk. Maybe in a properly clothed and nourished state I would of just had a horrible night lost in the woods, but as I was, I would of died up there.