Thursday, September 22, 2011

Close call on the Stateline Trail

All that was missing from the scene was an umpire standing above me, throwing out his arms in a broad gesture and screaming "SAFE!" Indeed as I slid to a stop I was safe, but this was no sporting contest. The surface I slid on was not sand and dirt with chalk borders, but rather white, cold, and unyielding, a deep snow drift which covered over the safe path beneath. At stake was not the production of a run and the avoidance of an "out" in a game, but rather the continuation of good health and the avoidance of injury on the deadly rocks below. I had slipped during a traverse of a snow field on the Idaho-Montana Stateline Trail, which is also a part of the Idaho Centennial Trail. While closing in on the completion of my 7 year quest to walk across Idaho, I came very close to having it all end in a devastating injury while sliding on this snowfield which stubbornly clung to the western face of the Stateline ridge in late July of 2011. I lost my footing while trying to walk across a snow field. Lacking an ice ax or appropriate footwear such as crampons, I slipped while trying to take my final steps down to the safety of bare ground upon which my hiking partners had already reached. I was down and sliding before I knew it. Events happened faster than I had the capacity to keep up with. I managed to roll face down and attempt to stab my hiking pole into the snow, which was my attempt to self-arrest. The hiking pole bounced from the hardened and slick snowy surface and flew out of my grasp. Acceleration was a frightening force that clutched at me and drug me faster on the slick cupped snow surface. The next thing I knew, one of my hiking partners with whom I have crossed about half of the state of Idaho was shouting "grab the trees, grab the trees" and had managed to get one hand on my GPS lanyard, ripping it out of my right shirt pocket in the process, but at the same time causing me to slow down from the frightening fast acceleration which was taking hold of my large frame. I glanced to the right and saw a tree parallel to the mountain's slope half-buried in the snow. I put a hand out to clutch it and was gratified by the cessation of my slide. I was safe, whether there was an umpire present on the scene or no.....

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