A Good Lesson In Failure
March 7th 2006
Kite Trip 2006 Dillon to Killarney
Title: A Good Lesson in Failure
Tuesday March 7th 2006 the morning started with the discovery of a little crack on my ski close to the binding screws. The last kiting outing I had taken a few larger jumps off the snow moguls and must have cracked the ski then. A little crazy glue and vise grips and the gap closed up and hopefully will hold for the duration of the trip … Terry and I leave on a beautiful sunny day on our 110km journey with very little wind coming in from the North West to Westerly 5km-15km …not the ideal wind to start our Journey…
It took a couple of hours to get out of the main bay to the Gronco Ilsands, Terry flying his 6.6m and I with my 6m Leader SE. This pack that I am carrying is a big lug of gear weighing in @ about 50-55lbs of pure necessities one would need in the frozen wilds of the Georgian Bay. -30 sleeping bag, bivy, 3 x kites(2.2m,4m,6m, food, GPS and safety stuff, Tent fly in case of rain, water bottles…ect.. My weight that week was about 145lbs soaking wet.
… This trip has been months in the planning, gear, kites, keeping track of current ice conditions, working out kinks and body ailments, all the important things one needs to do to undertake a venture like this …the excitement of preparation and the anticipation of actually being there was the only tunnel vision I have had for the last few months leading up to the trip.
To bring us to the climax of this story early “I sprained my ankle on the first day 24km’s from home base, but we will discuss this matter latter on… I just wanted to keep you interested in the story. OK … The winds came up a little better in the afternoon and we continued to make our journey south .. Not making much headway but still pushing forward .. We were both dealing with our issues of kites and packs. This is a tremendous strain on my back, legs and muscles. I was feeling the burn. We both kind off leap frogged along, one waiting for the other, resting when one can … I discovered lying on my back being a better stance when needing a rest or waiting for Terry
…I had purchased a couple of crazy carpets and duct tape to use as a splint in the case of a leg injury or to tow gear if need be … I set up the carpet to tow my pack and because of the moguls it just kept flipping over making this attempt of this part of the journey quite a swear fest … In frustration I wore the pack again and dealt with the numbing of the shoulders and the weight on my torso while kiting.
It seemed all day, one of us had little issues to deal with and were waiting for one another, but that the way it goes when trekking as a team. We get kiting going pretty good for a while at the peak of the days winds just getting into the Pointe of Baril approaches.
Surface conditions were fine to ride till we hit this frozen push ice…and ice that looked like it was just run over by a Zamboni …this slick ice condition is very dangerous for skiing, especially when lugging a heavy pack and out of balance. All your leg muscles are constantly flexed for stability, creating lactic acid burn in muscle issue like nobody’s business. All the elements were in place. Fatigue, gooseshitslick ice, and going a little too fast perhaps, then …whamo ….@#$%^&crash, boom bang. My left leg flops over one way, ski smacking the ice, then 180 degrees the other way in a matter of a split second as I feel my ankle twist and feel a little snap/crack… I just hurt myself bad ... Profanity, profanity, profanity.
As I come to a full stop, the kite comes down and I lay there on the ice wondering how serious my injury is. I slowly get up on my feet/skis and realize that something hurts pretty badly down there .. .More Profanity … I just sprung my ankle or something …At this point Terry is downwind about a kilometer or two and I painfully start kiting once again trying to favor my good leg in an attempt to catch up and to signal stop and make camp…
We get another 3-4 km downwind before finding a suitable spot to make stop … a dead maple tree marks the ideal place, good burning wood for the evening’s feast of salmon, rice and veggies. Terry gets a warm blazing fire going and I commence the meal. My ankle hurts like hell and I am still not sure how serious it is …it throbs and beats with my heart. Food cooking, I kick up the heels and rest as we eat and recharge our well depleted energy reserves. This is the best meal I have ever had… Since the last one ..
Camp is a very comfortable place considering the throbbing and not really knowing what I have done … its not broken but … ??
I am worried that this trip might come to a sudden halt because of my ankle. I cannot carry the weight and kite these crazy conditions all the way to Killarney, it will be impossible and once past the Bustards you are pretty much in no man’s land a very desolate place with few options for a back door escape, especially with a bum ankle. If there was a proper place for me to injure myself, I can be thankful that it happened only 20km from home.
I hardly get a wink of sleep feeling the throbbing of the ankle with every heartbeat all night long … I move in the wrong position and sharp pain overbears … I had some codeine pills in the emergency pack, but decided not to take one for some reason. I made myself comfy in my bivy sac and managed a little sleep on this mild March evening …on the edge of frozen Georgian Bay.
The next morning was one of realizations …. Realization that I will never be able to continue on to Killarney with this ankle and that I have to consider an escape plan.. or ski back home 20 km away … I can walk on my ankle, but it is very sore. Add a 50 lbs load and its a painful ordeal. Terry has his cellular phone and I made a call to a good friend Andrew in Dillon )Home Base … The battery indicator on Terry’s cellular phone only shows a low battery and I hope to get the call thru …I am not sure how much time I have so I am pretty direct …”Andrew …its Chris … I twisted my ankle … I need you brother …can you come and pick me up near Point au Baril lighthouse? … We are near …” …Phone beeps and dies … ??$%^& I don’t know if he heard all my words ...I truly hope that he heard the call properly…
I am having a hard time dealing with the fact that all this preparation has brought me to this … A failed attempt … I have failed … I have always been one to attain the goals I set out to achieve…they are tangible on not so far out of reach … The big pig of a pack was the downfall… too much weight … and thinking this would be a cakewalk was definitely a bad mindset … I feel bad for Terry that I failed the team. Terry perhaps could have continued to Killarney solo and had the time /ride of his life … the winds were up that morning and perhaps he could of done the trek solo and succeed, but if something happened out there alone, it would be a bad thing ….
I decide to start making my way back towards home skiing with my pack on .. Its about 14.5km to the Twin Islands and another 4km to Andrew’s door … God I hope he understood my call and is on the way or it’s going to be a long journey back home …Terry is going to kite it back upwind and starts with his 6.6 m the wind did kick up and this was too powerful … so I saw he had the 3.5 m up as I continued to ski my retreat home. . I would stop every 30 minutes or so to take the weight off my back and ankle, sit on the pack looking, hoping to see a yellow dot of a skidoo on the horizon … at one point I saw a flash and thought it was a headlight, but realized it was only Red Rock lighthouse way far on the horizon ... I continued skiing on some of the same ice condition of slick shit, the same stuff that caused my ankle demise and had to circle around a pressure crack that opened 5 feet wide, and a foot deep of water.
I made it almost across the bay to the other point and I saw a dot moving, Utopia… Here comes the cavalry. As I realize its Andrew coming into view I see him hit a snow drift and get very airborne, land sideways …skidoo going one way and Andrew going the other sliding across the ice … I was shaking my head thinking ...here is my savior? I see another dot in behind and realize Andrew has brought someone else on another machine… Sid, a local friend is out with his 4 wheel ATV … I am overjoyed when they show up and dance a jig …. Well, you get the idea …
We pack and strap down gear to the ATV and watched Terry fight the wind with a small 3.5 m kite .. He needed a 4.5m to get him back up wind on his way home … Andrew goes and collects Terry and I jump on the back of the quad runner.. I am so happy that I don’t have to ski the way back and start thinking about writing a song about Sid and the magic 4 wheel machine that saves … As we bounce our way back into the familiar looking lands…. A cold beer is waiting and a ride home to my warm nest… all is well ..
That Wednesday evening Terry brings me some Arnica Montana and Ruta Graveolens to help the healing of my ankle and we discuss the issue of the packs and decide to get custom sleigh bags made for the next trip … We were already thinking next trip hours after the failed return of this one … coincidently as I write this story on Thursday morning at home, warm in my studio, I wake to rain… We would actually be out there in the rain camping right now …perhaps soaked and miserable … cold … 3rd day in … who knows… One can only think and wonder. This was a good lesson in Failure …