It’s a parents worst nightmare. It doesn’t matter if your child is 6 going on 7, 17 going on 18, or 43, it will add gray hair, stop your heart and raise your blood pressure.
9:20 AM Sunday morning, I got the call. “Good morning. This is Constable B—— from the Keremeos area. Do you know a climbing party by the name of W—-?” “Yes,” I stammered, “that’s my daughter and her husband.” “They have been reported missing.” In that instant my heart stopped beating and got stuck in my throat. He went on to say that people in the next camp site said they didn’t return from their climb and Search and Rescue had been notified and would call me in 10 minutes with some questions. I took down his phone number and ran outside to tell my husband. We both immediately went into our “hyper-anxiety parent” mode — pacing the kitchen waiting for the next call.
My younger child and her husband were celebrating their eleventh anniversary with a climbing trip. Eric is an expert climber; Michele, above average. Both are very experienced in wilderness backpacking, orienteering, and first aid. Both are in great physical condition. They headed to Cathedral Provincial Park in British Columbia to do the “Grimface Traverse.” On Friday they left their truck at the park entrance, took a 13-mile jeep shuttle to Cathedral Lakes Lodge and hiked to Lake of the Woods to set up camp; then on Saturday they hiked Goat Lake Trail with their climbing gear to scale Denture Ridge and three mountains — Matriarch, Macabre Tower, and Grimface (all around 8,000 feet in altitude). The plan was to top Grimface and catch Cathedral Rim Trail back to their campsite that evening.
Diane from Search and Rescue called at 9:40 AM asking about their level of expertise, their plan, when due back, etc. Lots of questions. She said the helicopter team was being dispatched and the ground team assembled. She recommended that we stay near the phone as point of contact. What she didn’t know was that I was already glued to that phone!
So we moved into the second stage of parental anxiety — keep busy. My husband had planned to power wash the house over a three-day period to prepare for painting. So he immediately began pulling out the equipment and starting the task — looking through each window as he passed by to see if I was on the phone. I began knitting — fast — and when I just had to move my whole body to keep it together, I cleaned — the kitchen, the living room, the dining room — then I’d knit — fast. And the phone didn’t ring.
My friend Pat came over with her knitting to hold vigil with us. We both knit — fast — and my husband kept right on power washing.
11:40 AM Constable B—— called. The helicopter team still hadn’t spotted them. The Search and Rescue Climbing team was in position and had set up a command post waiting for the helicopter to direct them.
Pat and I knit — faster. My husband kept on power washing — three-fourths of the house completed.
12:30 PM Constable B—— called. Michele and Eric walked out on their own to Cathedral Lake Lodge. He gave me the phone number. Search called off. I called the Lodge, but they had already gone to their campsite. The desk clerk said they probably would not be in cell phone range until 4:00 PM or so. So Pat and I kept on knitting, but at a much more reasonable speed, while we waited to hear from them.
At it turned out, they were never lost. They always knew where they were. They weren’t injured. They actually chose a course of action that help avoid injury. With the summit of the last peak in sight, but daylight quickly vanishing, they decided better to repel back down the far-side rather than summit in the dark. Repelling into the ravine meant leaving some equipment behind and a long hike down a steep gully on a non-maintained trail with a headlamp and temperatures in the 30’s. Hiking kept them warm. They had all the essentials for back country — food, water, shelter, extra clothing, map, compass, light, etc. But around 2:00 AM they needed to rest and crawled into Eric’s emergency bivy bag for a couple uncomfortable hours. Back up and on the trail at 5:00 AM, they finally left the side trail and its downed trees, rocks, roots and joined Cathedral Rim Trail for the final push to their campsite.
Crisis averted. My granddaughter’s Tuesday Morning Mittens were finished; the power washing was done! Michele and Eric were tired, embarrassed about all the excitement, but safe and sound. After letting the Park Rangers know they were safe and gathering their camping equipment, they waited for the return shuttle. They tried to stay anonymous while others were talking about the activity of Search and Rescue and wondering what happened. Suddenly the desk clerk came out hollering, “Hey, lost people!! Call your mommy!”Tuesday Morning Mittens