Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I just got an email from Mike. He's done, flying back to Anchorage this morning.
Rather than try to summarize, I'll give it to you straight from the horse's mouth:
My camelbak broke open inside the sleeping bag on night 2.
Woke up to a very strange and very alarming sensation of being soaked
from ~mid-thigh on down. I don't think I noticed immediately because
the camelbak was full of warm water, and you just get so used to feeling
warm, squishy toes up here that although I *did* notice it, it didn't
ring alarm bells until much later. Wrung everything out then shoved it
all back inside my top layer to 'dry' with body heat while laying there
(still soaked) and trying to reason out potential options.
Making a dash for Skwentna woulda been too easy, so I packed up (takes
forever with frozen gloves) and walked forward toward Shell, with the
hope of drying out my gear enough that I could just keep moving.
Probably woulda worked (albeit slowly--mighta taken 2-3 days to get
everything dry) *except* that somewhere in the Shell Hills the snow
turned to rain for ~2 hours, then back to snow. When I got to Shell I
was warm inside my armor plated clothing, but everything that hadn't
been wet from the camelbak was now thoroughly sopping. I didn't see
any choice but to stop there to dry things out. While inside I
started to get filtered versions of what was happening up the trail,
and it became obvious (from what I was hearing + what I'd already
seen) that this was neither the year to go to Nome nor even to try to
make it to McGrath in this 'style'. I ditched the tent + all but 8
days of food before leaving. In hindsight it's easy to see that had I
remained loaded I wouldn't have even made it to Finger.
Foot problems started while walking in soaked socks with 'dishpan
feet' on the way to Shell. Once it's started there's no way to stop
the process while on the trail--you can only (slightly) delay the
He added earlier, "Odd/difficult year, but maybe not in obvious ways. Very rewarding on so many levels. Learned bunches I didn't even know I had to...
With the exception of raw toes and ankles (had to peel my socks off
tonight, and lotsa skin and scabs came with 'em--doh!) I feel great.
Kathi's comments about Mike drying gear out at Shell Lake now makes more sense. I figured it was due to rain and warm temps, but a leaking camelbak in the sleeping bag is bad news indeed.
This was definitely a challenging year on the trail, and I'm glad Mike was able to make it to McGrath -- quite an accomplishment right there. The race winner to McGrath was about two days (about 50%) slower than usual. Not the kind of conditions that are conducive to what Mike was trying to pull off. As he said, "In hindsight it's easy to see that had I remained loaded I wouldn't have even made it to Finger" [let alone over Rainy Pass].
I'll still keep the tracker hosted on topofusion.com (http://topofusion.com/spot.php) going, watching Billy's progress on the southern route to Nome. I've put quite a bit of work into it, and I hope to see it used in other self-supported events this year (whether officially or not). I'm also looking at adding direct support for SPOT tracking in the TopoFusion windows application itself. That way things like the playback feature I posted a video of and a whole bunch of other geek-o-rama stats and charts would be available to everyone. There's no way all that stuff is ever going to make it onto a web-based tracker.
Thanks for reading along with these updates (and thanks to Mike for the opportunity/idea for this sort of thing). It's been fun!