'I FIGURED I’M PROBABLY SPENDING THE NIGHT, SO I BETTER GET MY ASS OFF THIS CLIFF'
VERNON - A sandwich, an extra pair of socks, and some tips from Survivorman helped North Okanagan resident Jordan Edgelow make it through a cold night in the backcountry.
Getting stranded in six feet of snow with no cell service and little food was not the plan when the 27-year-old Lavington resident set off with a group of friends to snow bike in the Hunter’s Range area, just outside of Enderby.
“We found some new areas and it was all untouched. We were have a blast, dipping down into the trees and finding new lines,” says.
An outdoor enthusiast, it was only Edgelow’s seventh ride on his new snow bike — a machine that has a ski and a tread instead of tires.
The trouble started when Edgelow dipped a little too far down a hillside and couldn’t get back up. He ventured a little lower, thinking he could find another way out but things only got worse.
“I didn’t decide to just walk out like I should have and get help. I thought I could side-hill across the mountain and find a less steep way up,” he says.
Within minutes, he’d lost sight of his group and was entering into steeper and steeper terrain.
At one point while descending a chute, Edgelow lost his bike. He slid down after it, but while trying to retrieve it, some rocks gave way and the bike went tumbling down the slope.
“I tried to stop it and realized there was another cliff below,” he says.
He estimates the drop below was about 60 to 80 feet and quickly let go of the bike, which was intercepted at the last second by a stump and left teetering precariously on the cliff.
“I was thinking ‘I can replace it,’” Edgelow says.
That’s when he resigned himself to the reality that he was not making it home that night.
“I figured, I’m probably spending the night, so I better get my ass off this cliff,” he says.
Knowing he would need a fire, he carefully reached out and filled up a jerry can with gas from the bike. Then, he set out to find a safe place to make camp. He trudged through five to six feet of snow searching for a flat area to build a shelter, often making his way out onto cliffs to get a better vantage point of the area. At one point, he received a text from his buddy asking where he was. Edgelow texted back ‘I’m screwed, send a helicopter’ but lost service before the message sent.
Eventually, he made his way down to a meadow and set to work. He dug out a fort in the snow and piled branches around it for shelter. While making his way down to the meadow, he gathered a ball of ‘witches hair’ and dry twigs to help start the fire. Even with the gasoline, he says it took from around 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. to get hot coals on the fire.
“By the time I got down there, I was soaked,” he says. “I’m glad I packed an extra pair of socks that day, and a spare pair of gloves.”
He had one sandwich, a bottle of water, and a couple cans of beer. He ate half the sandwich that night, thinking he’d better ration it. He briefly considered drinking the beer, but thought better of it. Instead, he emptied out the cans, ripped the tops off, filled them with snow, and boiled them over the fire to get water. All the while, he was careful to conserve his energy and not tire himself out.
He built a cot out of branches, but didn’t get much sleep that night.
“I was pretty delirious,” he says. “I was definitely worried… but you’ve got to stay positive and hope for the best. Pretty much all I did was plug away and try and stay comfortable. I was confident in my friends, and I was pretty sure they would do just what they did.”
His friends contacted search and rescue after he went missing, and crews were out that night looking for him, but due to the dangerous terrain and the darkness, they had to put the search on hold until morning.
Edgelow heard the chopper around 7:30 a.m. the next day. He piled branches onto the fire and tossed the six litres of gas he’d saved on top to make a smoke signal.
“I waited for good visibility — it was snowing sideways — and they saw it right away,” he says.
They pulled him out of the canyon using a winch and flew him to Silver Star Mountain Resort to get checked out. His bike is still out there, and he’s hiring a helicopter team to retrieve it.
Edgelow is extremely grateful for the efforts of the Vernon and Shuswap Search and Rescue volunteers and has a few words of advice for those enjoying the backcountry.
“If you drop into something you know you can’t climb out of, stop and just walk out and get help instead of going deeper. I feel like a jackass,” he says. “I’m just glad no one else got lost or hurt looking for me.”
He’s also glad to have watched a lot of Survivorman and Bear Grylls of the TV show Man vs. Wild.
“Hopefully the publicity of my experience will save someone’s life in the future,” he says.
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