Brandon – West Virginia Mountains Stranded In Snow

It was the winter of 2015 and I went out on a snowboarding trip with 3 of my buddies to Snowshoe resort in WV. Driving from Kentucky to a place where nobody has been we obviously used modern technology to provide directions through Google maps. We stopped for breakfast that morning and I couldn’t finish all my Cinnabon cinnamon roll so I tossed it in the box and saved that beauty for later. We passed up on filling up the 4×4 truck because we were so close to the destination and we are a bunch of guys beating our chest in the excitement of a guys trip. 40 min into our drive we came across the road called scenic highway, where we drove down a one lane road for the next 36 minutes. To the left of us was a ravine which stretched about 35 yards across, and to the right was a steep embankment. A critical mistake happened when a subtle over correction was made which sunk the truck into the embankment burying the truck into 3 feet of snow. So we grab our phones to learn we have no signal. We got out and put all of our gear on and began to hike in knee-deep snow, taking turns as the leader to not over fatigue each other. We knew it was 5 miles to the next turn and we imagined someone would eventually come by, but no one ever did. We walked about 2.5 miles and realized the truck had OnStar and we could use the satellite to get help and doubled back thinking how big of idiots we were. Once we got back we took a minute to warm up and try the OnStar. Sadly, it wouldn’t connect. We were defeated, but still determined. So we spent the next 4 hours unburying the truck trying to get it to break free with no success. It was cold, at 6pm it was 8 degrees. We knew we only had a few hours of sunlight left before it dropped down to even colder temperatures. That night we decided to stay in the truck and head back the way we came driving in. We could recall seeing houses on the road early on, but had no idea actually how far back or what would be inside. Remember when I had saved that Cinnabon? It was our only food other than a pack of starburst and a half sized can of pringles (BBQ flavor). Also, we didn’t stop for gas which became an issue when the truck was now on an incline and the fuel gauge read 1/4 tank. We could have more or we could have much less. That night was the scariest coldest night of my life. We started the truck every hour for 10 minutes to try to heat the cabin as the temperature dropped to a low of -20 degrees. I had wrote a note to my family in case I didn’t survive the trek back. As a nurse in the emergency department I am familiar with the effects the bitter cold can have on the body, and the exposure time we had already weakened our bodies. After making it through the night we attempted to melt some snow for water without success, and obtaining water from the ravine meant risking falling in. So we elected to salvage the pringles can and pull water from any mud puddle that wasn’t frozen solid. I had spent all night calculating if the hike back would be possible before dark. I thought that I was going to die and my best friend of 4 years kept telling me, if we stop we will die. Do not stop. Keep getting up. Never quit. We ended up walking 12 miles before coming across a cabin where a man had been living with no electricity or phone; just him, his dog, and the mountains. He drove us to town and told us the history of scenic highway where the locals would take their trucks out and make it a game to see how far they could go before getting stuck, and if they weren’t back by dark send someone to come get them. The local tow truck man said we made the record by 7 miles.

Author: Brandon