Tower installation in 15ft trenchs
Walking off the mountain near sunset
This time the chopper made it in
A harbor near downtown Vancouver
Downed trees in Stanley Park Amie near base with white unbrella Lions gate bridge in Vancouver

I went with the road crew this week to put up a wind monitoring tower near Whistler, BC. What we weren't ready for was the 15ft of snow on the ground. There is a BC bid for wind development next fall and wind developers are scrambling to get winter wind data so they can make the bid. This results in last minute efforts that cost 10 times as much and involve more digging than tower installation.

The first day started ok. We had a nice chopper ride up the mountain to the site where the tower would be installed. It didn't get much better from there. We spent most of the day digging. Since the tower must lay flat before tilting up, it needs to lay on the ground first. The ground doesn't really exist because there are so many dead trees. Therefore there was a lot of chain sawing in addition to digging. The end of the day came and we were ready to call the chopper to pick us up. That's when the adventure started.

We could hear the chopper not too far away but since the fog had just rolled in, the chopper was down the mountain a few hundred meters. As the fog thickened, the chopper had to pull back and left us on the mountain. No big problem. Our client who lives in the area came up to the site many times in the summer when it could be accessed by quads. There was a cleared path not too far away where he said we could walk to a nearby town and catch a taxi. A nice stroll would normally be a good thing but since it was 1/2 hour until sunset and we were soaking wet from our gloves to our underwear, a hasty, short walk would be the prefered. So off we went (see first pic – it was a lot deeper than it looks because the first 4 people of 8 had snow shoes to break trail). Some steps were not bad when staying in single file but every once in a while, a step off course could leave you up to your waist. Occasionally there were tree wells (snow falling on tree branches forces snow outwards and leaves chasms near the tree trunk) to avoid.

The 1/2 till sunset came and went. So did another hour and another hour. We were obviously not that close to the 'path' if the path existed at all. But onward we pressed, blindly following our leader. After a couple hours it started to get mighty cold on that mountain. I rolled my fingers tight in my wet gloves to try and conserve heat. I hadn't felt my toes for a while now which was alarming but there wasn't anything I could do at this point. Luckily we had a cell phone and GPS. We called for help and gave our coordinates. Rescue teams set out to find us. We stayed in the same spot for the best part of an hour. No one came! We decided to keep walking because we could see lights every once in the distance. It was better that then stay in one spot and freeze to death. During the walk a couple of the guys with us fell down and we weren't sure if they would get up. Muscles were already sore after a long day of work. No one needed hours of walking across a mountain in the dark. At one point one of our 300lb companions fell down a tree well. Getting him out was an adventure in itself.

2 hours later after walking towards the lights, we met up with rescue snowmobilers. We were saved! There were losses though. 3 of the 8 guys didn't show up for work the next day (they had been hired for shoveling) – no more adventures for them. It is two weeks later now and I still don't have feeling on the tips of my toes. I hope that heals.

After working the next day and successfully getting choppered off the mountain, the snow came in full force. We were forced to postpone the project for a few days. I went to Vancouver and met up with Amie there for the weekend. We toured around and stayed with friends and cousins. We happened to be in Stanley park after the destruction from winter storms left huge trees laying across roads and walkways.

-steve-

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