Team Stories – Red Rock Raiders
April 19, 2001
Red Rock Raiders (P.Chan, M.Grant, P.McGrath, B.Wright)
Eco-Endurance Challenge 2001
It is now November but I have been reading the race summaries put up by a couple of other teams and am inspired to remember as much as possible about the event.
It was a bright sunny morning but we were not encouraged when we checked out the water levels in the lake and the huge rush of water under the bridge near the starting line. We packed a complete change of clothes, lots of food and water and headed off.
Start to 15: we decided to give #1 and #14 a miss so we could get into the woods faster. Turned out to be a moderately good decision as we stayed dry for an extra 15 minutes. Let other teams run off and the team agreed to keep a steady pace. CP 14 was easy as other teams were showing the way but we knew we could get it on the way back. Found the trail over the hill toward 15. At the bottom on the other side we followed a very wet road and tried to stay dry. It seemed longer than it should have been and I took back bearings on a nearby hill to check our location. Knowing we had to go further we plunged into the water and found the CP in knee deep water.
15 to 23: Set a compass bearing for the bridge south of 15 and set of wading through water and snow. Our feet were now wet for good. Across the bridge we headed East up the road looking for a good point to turn south. Spotted a tree fort in the woods and turned generally south across the clear cut toward the powerline. Pretty easy going but very boggy near the power line. Followed the powerline down to 23.
23 to 24: Stopped for lunch by Cooper Lake, then followed roads South and East to 24. Couldn’t believe someone had gotten to 24 over an hour before us!
24 to 25: Back down the road toward 25. At the small junction set a compass line into the woods but the CP was tough to find. At this point having four people on the team helped as we fanned out in a line with about 10 m between us so we could easily see each other and talk. Followed our compass line to the CP.
25 to 26: We had decided to skip 30 as there appeared to be no easy way to cross the swollen streams from 30 to 29. Followed the road NW for 500 m and then set a compass line for the powerline SE of CP 23. This was very bushy but not a long distance. Followed the roads to the lake and then through the woods to 26. Saw the lakeshore trail and skipped it and had to backtrack a few minutes to the CP.
26 to 29: When we got to the powerline we headed East staying just inside the woods along the powerline. We heard another team on the trail and ran to the powerline and down the trail toward 28 until we were out of sight. That was the first time we ran.
29 to 28: This was pretty easy and there was lots of traffic. Got to the road junction and headed straight into the woods to the CP. 28 to 27: Opted for the roads to 27. The clearcuts would have been way to slow. We caught up to some other teams looking for the CP but headed up the gravel hill directly to the marker.
27 to 18: Back along the roads. Pretty easy to make the turn to 18 since we were expecting it and that’s where the water supply van was parked. Took a break to eat and lie in the sun for 10 minutes. Followed the logging roads to 18.
18 to 22: Followed roads in the general direction of 22. From the hill we could see the islands so taking a bearing on the rough direction we headed into the woods. Some confusing roads in here and decided to follow the lakeshore. The CP seemed further North than it should have been but finally found it on the shore.
22 to 17: Headed due West through the woods to the logging road then along the road to 17. Pretty easy going for the most part and we had been relatively dry since CP 26. This was soon to end.
17 to 21: The dreaded swamp. We tried to stay dry but mostly just ploughed through the water. Only got wet up to my thighs but the best was yet to come. At CP 21 a team was coming behind us and not paying attention. We stood absolutely still and they almost walked right by us. It was kind of funny as we were only about 3 metres off the trail.
21 to 20: Deep, very deep, water. We all went in to our waists. I saw one fellow from another team go in chest deep. I never saw someone move so fast to get to higher ground. Along the trail a team had started a fire to warm up so we took advantage of the warmth to stop for a few minutes. One of us took the opportunity to make a complete change of clothes. We then shared bags of wet gear to keep their pack as light as possible. Down to 20 and into the lake to punch our sheet.
20 to 19: It was now almost completely dark so we stopped to get our lights out. Decided to head down to 19 because we heard it was pretty easy and visible from the trail. Off we went, found the trail and headed toward the lakeshore. We couldn’t find the CP. Even though we carry headlamps and very bright but compact hand flashlights we couldn’t see the flag in the dark. Walked down to a very rickety bridge to an island where we encountered some campers. They told us to backtrack so we did and then veered off into a clearing. We almost walked right up to the CP before we say the flag. This was going to be a long night.
19 to 10: One nice thing about not being the first to a CP is that sometimes you can follow footprints. We found the trail to 10 as expected and walked down to the shore but no amount of bushwhacking along the shore revealed the CP. So we walked slowly back along the trail scanning the ground carefully until I saw very faint, and I mean very faint, tracks just off the trail. Turned into the woods to the CP.
10 to 12: The turn to 12 was more obvious than many of the little trails we passed in the dark. Trudged along until we found the clearing and encountered a team of two stumbling around in the dark. They said they had been looking for the flag for 30 minutes. It was a big clearing and lots of it was overgrown so we figured the clearing was actually bigger than just the open landing area and continued along the road for another 50 metres until we started to encounter very large trees. Then we cut into the bush and found the CP.
12 to 11: Back along the trail to the main road. Couldn’t find any real trail so we headed downstream but stayed about 5 to 10 metres back from the stream. Encountered barely visible trails. We arrived at the fast moving tributary stream and were going to give the CP a miss but after hopping around on logs and “dry bits” for a couple of minutes, I spotted the CP only 10 metres away. The flag was not visible from the end of the “trail” and we were almost right on top of it. No cart that I’ve ever seen could follow the trail we took out of the woods.
11 to Shelter: Nice walk in the starlight. It was getting pretty chilly so we stopped at the shelter to sit by the fire and eat and change socks. A couple of us decided it was time to get out the gore-tex socks. I’m glad we didn’t have them on earlier as they would have been full of water. This turned out to be a good time to change socks. After a 30 minute rest and refuelling, we headed off.
Shelter to 9: This shouldn’t have been so difficult but a CP at “NW of top of hill” doesn’t give you many clues. It was easy to decide where to turn because I could sense the steepness of the road changing and the hill coming lower on our left. We headed into the woods and tried to follow a rough elevation line and not go off the steep side of the hill. This proved to be a very difficult CP to find in the dark. We must have walked by it several times before we found it behind a tree. Again, having a team of four worked well because we fanned out and walked through the relatively open woods but we didn’t see the flag until we were coming back.
9 to 8: Ha! Are you kidding. With the CP’s so hard to see in the dark we figured it would take three to four hours to go from 9 to 8 to 6. No thanks.
9 to 6: Back to the shelter then along the side road. The water on the trail was pretty shallow but starting to freeze. Our water lines were also starting to freeze so we had to drink regularly and suck hard to get any water. Gore-tex socks good, no Gore-tex socks, bad. Not all of us had warm feet. Found the trail to 6 and encountered lots of footprints. This clearing turned out to be very small and hard to find. Walked up and down the trail, adding to the many footprints. Finally did a very slow search of the trail edge and while walking down the trail all hunched up say the footprints and flag sign. Up to the CP and off again.
Sidestory: somewhere around 5:00 am we were walking along the trail. We were tired. All of a sudden this very angry noise came charging toward us out of the woods. The lead team members start screaming and running and I, a veteran of bear charges in the BC woods, go into “bear attack” mode and start yelling and trying to look very big. That seems to work and the noise retreats. Then, out of the woods on the side of the trail a very sleepy voice says; “It’s only a dog”. Nervous laughter from us and we gingerly bypass their “huge vicious man-eating hound” and continue down the trail. We were quite wide awake at thatpoint.
6 to 14: We were tired and a couple of us were very footsore and cold (our shoelaces were frozen) so we decided to skip 7, 3 and 13 even though it was starting to get light out. We did a slow shuffle back toward the event centre. Stopped at CP 14 on the way back and trudged into camp around 7:00 am.
SAR staff were quick to put some coffee on and let us sit in the bus so our feet and shoes would warm up enough to untie our frozen shoelaces and change into dry shoes.
Final route: 15, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 28, 27, 18, 22, 17, 21, 20, 19, 10, 12, 11, 9, 6, 14 plus bonus points for arriving back three hours early.