People have often talked about ‘Ground Zero’ being the worst place to be during a tragedy. Usually, those were the people that ended up with the most harm, both physically and mentally. Those were always the people that lost limbs or died instantly. But my ‘Ground Zero’ didn’t have any of that. What it did have was slow, painful suffocation and the worst hypothermia I have ever experienced.
Waking up in a cold sweat, I had suddenly lost my bearings. Am I at home? It doesn’t smell like home, that’s for sure. Despite not knowing that I was buried deep under mounds of snow, it dawned on in about half a minute. That was the moment I panicked.
S***! What the hell is this? I hadn’t known it at the time, but I was in a world of trouble.
Grabbing my headlight that I found near me, I turned it on so that I could get some light. Around me was pure white snow. It was soft, which meant that it hadn’t compressed yet. I still had some time. I turned my head up to see if I could dig out. Up. Up? Where was up? For all I know I could be upside down right know, how would I know? The thing about avalanches is that they don’t come with many warnings. They happen, and you just have to be prepared to deal with them. And surely, I was well prepared.
I remembered reading about a man who managed to find his bearing by spitting and seeing where the gravity would take it. So that’s what I did. I began to gather as much of it in my mouth as I could, and then I shot it out of my mouth.
The spit made its way towards the top of my head, meaning I was not right side up. I would only have a few minutes before the blood could potentially clot in my brain, leaving me to die.
“What do we have... phone, voice recorder, goggles, no helmet no backpack…” It seemed as if I would not get out for a couple minutes, so I took inventory of everything that I had on me. My most precious belongings consisted of a ripped jacket, shattered goggles, and a dead phone. I couldn’t even contact aid with the recorder since it didn’t have a radio on it. With no way to call for help, I began to dig through the snow, trying somehow, someway, to get right side up. But as I dug, the more the snow piled in. It was at this moment that I realized how dire this situation was.
I began to panic. I flailed my arms around in order to somehow catch the snow at a weak point where it would free me from its grasp and allow me to snake my way through. It was hopeless.
No matter what, I thought. Stay adamant. Focus on your breathing. You need to calm down. Don’t breathe so hard. PRESERVE THE OXYGEN, JOHN. DON’T BREATHE SO HARD.
“HELP!” I began to scream. “SOMEBODY HELP ME!”. At this rate, I only had so much time before the CO2 would build up to a point where it would poison me. I fished through my pants, trying to find some sort of device where I could get help. I found nothing; nothing but a torn picture of my family sat nestled in my pocket: my wife, my two kids, my mother, and my father. All of them would have to bear the pain that I had died in a skiing accident.
Some call it a miracle. Some call it adrenaline. But thinking of my family was like a kick of caffeine that allowed me to rip through the snow with godly speed. As I continued to do so, it dawned on me that there was an obstruction of some sort blocking my passage to freedom. Though I was now right-side-up, I felt nothing but a hard surface. I felt around it, trying to identify the blockage. Then I felt pain.
I felt the worst pain I’ve felt since I found myself in this mess. I looked down to see my leg riddled in blue and black areas. How the hell didn’t I think about this being an issue? I was affected by frostbite, and there was no way I was getting medical attention. I relaxed. I began to smile. I laughed even. There was no way I was gonna die stressed out. Hell, the whole point of this trip was to relieve stress. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
My name is John Daniel Carson. I’ve been trapped down here for God knows how long. Could’ve been a couple hours, could’ve been days. I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that I’m not making it out of here alive. I am stuck in what I believe was a category 3 avalanche. I have tried getting out, but I could not. I want my family to know that I accept my death, and I want them to know that I love them. If anyone finds this recording… please make sure it reaches my family. They’re lost, and confused. They need the entire story. John Carson, signing off.
[End of transmission]