Fly-fish­ing a white­out

Popular Science - - TALES FIELD -

ZACH BEHNEY, FOR­MER NA­TIONAL PARK SER­VICE RANGER, KATMAI NA­TIONAL PARK

A big part of my job is sim­ply get­ting fa­mil­iar with the ex­treme ter­rain I pa­trol. So a few years ago, two friends and I skied Alaska’s Nelchina Glacier. On our eighth day out, a storm rose up. We hailed our boss on our satel­lite phone, and he told us the blast would last for days. Rather than risk get­ting ma­rooned, we de­cided to ski down.

But we couldn’t out­pace the weather. The clouds and snow grew so thick, it felt like we were trapped in a white ping­pong ball. To avoid fall­ing into a crevasse, we teth­ered to each other, tied a 30-foot-long green para­cord to a ski pole, and threw it ahead into the white­out, like we were fly-fish­ing. A com­pass guided us down the glacier, but the rope helped us see the ground we were step­ping onto.

Af­ter hun­dreds of throws, we fi­nally got be­low the storm. You never know when you might do a lit­tle fish­ing.

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