You were caught in an avalanche. To be rescued, you need to make it through the night. What thought(s) would give you the strength to go through such a scary, dangerous situation?
As I began to regain consciousness, I had only the awareness of darkness. Wherever I was, no light at all penetrated the darkest dark I’d ever known. My body was waking up along with my brain, sending me messages along all the neural pathways I’d read about, telling me where there was pain. I realized I was lying facedown, my arms over my head, but flat on my belly. I could hear my heart beating, almost feel the blood coursing through my body–which I took as a good sign!
Memory returned, and with memory came absolute and unremitting terror.
Skiing with friends. A roaring, earthshaking slide as tons and tons of snow slid down the mountain like a white tsunami. Knowing there was no escape. Tucking myself into a ball, hoping my friends were going to survive. Then blackness, and now as I woke up I had no idea at all how long I’d been out, what time of day it was, how deeply I was buried.
I rolled to my back, feeling twinges of pain here and there, but I was pretty sure nothing had been broken. While I was unconscious, my warm breath had cleared a little snow from around my mouth and nose. I wiped my thumbs across my ski goggles, seeing nothing at all. Dark,dark, dark.
I was thankful for my ultralight, ultrawarm thermal underwear; for my next layer that trapped body heat; and finally for the ski clothes that had cost me way too much money but that may save my life. It was comfortable, engineered for speed and warmth with no bulk.
I felt down my legs, realizing my skis were still intact. That may be useful. Then I remembered the belt around my waste that contained water, some survival-type bars of food, and above all, a thermal sheet that folded up as small as a handkerchief but would open out to completely wrap around my body for further warmth.
Technology is great!
I sat there, trying to think what to do. Should I try to dig? How much snow was overhead? If I tried to dig, would I have more of the stuff pouring in on top of me? Should I holler? Would the noise move the snow? If I did nothing, I might never be found. The dogs that are trained for this kind of thing are amazing, but if the snow was deep enough. . . .
Well, I’m not a do-nothing person. If I was going to die under here, I was going to fight like crazy. So I thought through all the possibilities, the equipment I had, how I could use it.
With very little room to maneuver, I removed both skis. The front ends were sharp. I couldn’t find my poles, assumed they had gone flying when the avalanche hit. Checked out my water to make sure it was still where it needed to be. Decided to eat nothing yet, wait until cold or hunger got the better of me. Then I started to carefully feel my way around this little cave, poking for any soft spot that may indicate a good place to start digging.
This was NOT impossible! There would be people out looking for others like me, and they had dogs and equipment. The thought of hot coffee, hot soup, a warm bed and heaps of blankets stimulated me to keep trying.
Others had survived in similar circumstances. So would I.