I left my university classes early to put my studded winter wheels on my car to be prepared for the likely event that the roads might be icy. Kyle and I jacked up each side of the car and switched the tires working together in what could be viewed as a very slow pit crew.
We drove for four hours before finally reaching our stop for the night; the home of a university friend of ours. We got out of the car to dogs barking, and an army of old tractors and farm equipment. His parents were very friendly though, and showed us to our own room where we spread out our sleeping bags and fell asleep right away.
In the morning we got up and ate some wonderful bacon and eggs before getting some gas and heading off to the confluence point. We parked our car in the same farmyard we had for the previous two attempts at this point, and as we were getting on our hiking boots, the farmer came out to see if we were going to make another go at it. We went inside to show him our satellite image of the area, and after a bit of rummaging he found some of _his_ hunting maps of the area! These were a big deal because they showed paths going much closer to the actual confluence point (~3km away rather than the original 14km).
Pushing the car through the snow was great. There were ATV tracks that we could push down, but the wheel width of the Tercel was wider and so often became stuck in the (reasonably) deep snow. If Rob and I got out and pushed we could usually make it through most of the soft areas but it was too risky to stop and wait for us to get back in so we had to run alongside the car as it kept driving and swing ourselves into our seats (pulling a whole load of snow inside in the process).
We pushed for quite a long distance but eventually hit deep enough snow that it wasn't worth it to push any further. So, we began pushing the car in reverse and eventually made it back to a large frozen pond that we deemed to be a good spot to park the car for the evening and most of the next day. It didn't seem like a big deal then, but I'm sure it must have been quite a head-scratcher to any hunters who might pass by to see a Tercel out in the middle of nowhere parked in the middle of a frozen pond. We did leave a note on the dash explaining where we were headed and when we planned to be back, just in case anyone began worrying.
We hiked for ~7km on paths and stopped an hour before sunset (~4pm) to make our camp. We had brought along a foldable saw, in case we needed to fell any trees. Our thought was that there may be a running river that hadn't frozen, and unless we could make some sort of bridge we wouldn't be able to cross as the cold weather would make being wet a very dangerous plan. We cut down several trees far off the path and began constructing a lean-to with one long tree horizontal and the others propped up against it.
After dinner we packed up to do the last 3km without our heavy packs. We filled our pockets with granola bars and meat sticks (no water though), put on our good winter clothes (gaiters, facemasks, big mitts) and headed off for what we expected to be *likely* a 2 hour hike to the point and back getting to bed around 9pm tired and happy.
We headed out at 7pm taking a path for the first 15 minutes but soon had to turn off the path through the undergrowth for a more direct route to the point. It was only 3 more kilometers, but our speed would soon drop to 1.1km per hour trudging through the deep soft snow of the thick forest and underbrush. There were some very nice views of the silent forest with only the white beams of our headlamps cutting through the darkness. The first two kilometers we went much faster than we should have and soon became warm and sweaty, a bad combination in the cold remote wilderness. As we began to get tired we began to feel the lack of any water along with us. It was already 8:30pm and we still had 4km to go back to the camp. We began to discuss whether we should just turn around even after we had come so far. One person wanted to stay and the other two felt like they wanted to continue. Since it was pitch black and freezing, we decided to continue trudging onward.
Forty-five minutes later we finally reached the confluence point tired and slow. It was the first confluence point any of us had successfully reached as first conquerors (I had actually attempted this confluence two times before personally and never made it either time). We got a picture with all the gear we used to get this far, and then nervously turned around worried about whether we were going to make it back to our camp.
At this point we added tiredness and thirstiness to our already worn-out legs from pushing the car along through the snow earlier that day. To get over the multitude of fallen trees we would often have to lift our legs over the trunks with out arms as our leg muscles had given out and we couldn't do it with them alone anymore. We would stop often and designate one person to stay awake in case the others fell asleep so we wouldn't freeze to death in our sleep.
I was planning what to do if one of us collapsed or couldn't keep going. Unfortunately, none of my plans were very good. After many stops and eating snow to try to become hydrated (even though they say it doesn't help) we started to hit thinner trees and wider paths and then with much rejoicing, stepped out of the forest onto the groomed path. It was only 1 more kilometer to go and we would be back at the camp.
When we made it back, we made the biggest fire we could, and drank water, and burnt our socks and boots trying to warm them up over the fire. We were so tired, we went right to sleep so thankful we made it back.
In the morning, Rob's water was frozen and we thawed a little of it, then hiked back to the car sitting on the frozen pond. We were able to drive back without much more pushing through the snow and said goodbye to our farmer friend and let him know we finally made it (the first ones!). It had been attempted many times before, but never completed until we made it.
Once we got back into cellphone coverage on the highway we phoned our very worried girlfriends and families to let them know we were alright. And that's the end of our story.
In our tardiness to post, another set of guys has made it (great congratulations!) to this truly difficult confluence.
Coordinator's Note: This visit is considered as "incomplete" because it does not meet the project's Photo Requirements