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The Abyss

They say all good stories should follow an arc. A call to adventure, a threshold experience, a home coming with new found wisdom. An Abyss!

Finding Warmth

The sky was as dark as we had seen it, day or night. Heavy rain fell to the point that bailing was required. We lost ourselves in a cold, wet, uncomfortable stupor and keep paddling. Unwilling to make any unnecessary stops we barely checked the map. We couldn't see the opposite bank at times so there would be little to gauge our progress without the GPS anyway. Wave after wave hit the bow taking my waterproofs past saturation point. I didn't want to move, as the movement would uncover the cold reality, that I was actually soaked. If I stayed perfectly still, what little body heat I had left, warmed the damp clothing and I could just about fool myself that everything was was fine. Everything was not fine! With hindsight the signs seem so obvious. Our logic was that the weather was horrible and we knew we had to leave the mountains behind. Rather than wallowing we would get our heads down and just paddle. We were hypothermic. Our bodies temperatures dropping without check, the blood gathering around our core organs to stave off the symptoms of death! It is notoriously difficult to make good judgements after you have succumbed to the cold but it is also very hard to realise at the time just how cold you have become. 

Hoods firmly clamped over our heads there was no real communication. Ironically this was probably the day that our paddling really came together as a team. Through pure bloody mindedness, and the urge to warm up by flexing our muscles, we paddled hard. Our only stop was short, a handful of trail mix, then off again to quell the shivering. 


Valuable Shelter Against the Rain

A rocky shape loomed ahead of us. The descent of the river was steep, and every few minutes we rode a flume, that would take us side on into another wall of water threatening to capsize us. My synapses slow and unresponsive a few times we would hit these hydraulics without any effort to counter them. Being slapped in the face by another icey wave didn't seem to matter. Only making downstream progress. We knew that we should be out of the mountains now and into the Taiga forest. This lump ahead of us must be significant. We pulled the canoe onto the bank stumbling over rocks and mumbling to ourselves. It was only then that it really started dawning on me that we could be in trouble. When the GPS had found the satellites it needed I couldn't believe it. We where at the foot of Mt. Deception. I had allowed 2 days to make the journey but somehow we had made 70km in that one day! There was no time to celebrate. In our shabby condition this had just become a survival test. First priority- shelter. We lugged the gear further up a stream bed to find better protection from the elements amongst the trees. This helped through the physical effort to raise our temperature. It took us back to the stage were we knew that we were cold and started shivering again.  When you are so cold you stop shivering that's when your body has given up on doing a self- warm and is conserving resources before you go into the long cold sleep. Mechanically we managed to get the tarp up and the tents followed beneath. Each step, painful, but also a little bit closer to those dry warm sleeping bags. We fired up the stove. I can't even remember what we ate, but it will have been basic, hot, and eaten fast. The dark colour of my pee later also indicated that I was dehydrated. With all the water faced during the day I obviously didn't think it drink enough of it. Finding my water bottle it was almost completely full. All the we wanted to do was crawl into our tents and hide but we forced ourselves to eat, drink and hang the really wet stuff to dry under the tarp. Having averted the immediate risk we had to make sure we didn't cut any corners that would make matters worse over the coming hours. The rain kept coming. Keeping to the maxim 10% extra effort, 100% more comfort, we sorted the camp, did some star jumps to raise the core temperature and jumped into our respective sleeping bags super glad the struggles of the day were hopefully behind us. 

Trying to Dry Our Gear