Okay, so…last weekend was an adventure. A big adventure wherein I thought more than once I was going to die.
That’s because I went snowshoeing.
It’s not that snowshoeing is inherently dangerous. The first time I was sure I was going to die wasn’t because we were in an avalanche zone or walking along steep cliffs or anything. The problem was my lack of physical fitness and doing rigorous exercise at 8800 feet above sea level.
When you’re working that hard and lacking both physical endurance and sufficient oxygen density, you tend to breathe very heavily. For most of the trek through three feet of mostly uncompacted snow using undersized showshoes, I struggled to make my way to the yurt where we’d be sleeping. My chest hurt with unfamiliar exercise and more than once I wondered if I was having a heart attack. Stubbornly, I refused to say anything to anyone, especially when my husband tried to pull the ol’ “This is as far as we’re going” stance. I was determined that I would not be the cause for ruining everyone else’s trip.
Besides, how would I feel about myself if I wussed out because part of the trip got hard? So I refused to give up. I did accept help later, but I never quit. For that I’m glad, because the time spent with the two other couples on the trip was a great deal of fun.
The other time I thought I was going to die was as we were packing to leave. One of our party, a very intelligent, very capable man inflicted with a strange tendency to do flakey things, had put his bag down on the counter next to the stove.
“I smell gas,” I said, feeling slightly panicky.
“Yeah, I smelled it too,” Flakey Fred (not his real name) said, his voice taking on the snark I’d grown accustomed to over the course of the weekend.. “I just figured someone farted, so I didn’t want to say anything.”
“No! No!” I said, my panic rising as I realized the aroma was stronger. “Really! I’m smelling gas.”
I glanced over at the cook stove but couldn’t see the knobs.
“Check the stove!” I demanded.
Sure enough, Flakey Fred had opened a valve unknowingly. Who knows how long it had been one? Fortunately it hadn’t been long enough to have gas reach the wood-burning heat stove which still contained live embers.
We opened the door and in five minutes or so the gas dissipated enough that my headache faded (although it’s started with this writing and remembering.)
It wasn’t until I got home and was telling my boss the story that it occurred to me how dangerous the situation had been. We were a mile from the road and about six miles into the wilderness. Even if the fireball could be seen from the nearest town, how long would it have taken for someone to figure out what had happened and dispatch emergency assistance? We would have either burned to death or frozen long before anyone found us.