Erik Bjarnason and Cathi Shaw Rocky Mountain Books, 2016
One moment you think you’re going to live, to see your children again, to claim the promises you made to yourself while tent bound; the next, it’s a foregone conclusion that nothing stands between you and an icy grave on the highest mountain in Canada. This sort of erratic vortex of emotion plays itself out repeatedly as Erik Bjarnason draws on everything he’s learned as a longstanding member of Vancouver’s North Shore Rescue. He’s seen many a tragic outcome in the mountains and commits himself utterly to survival in the coldest place on Earth outside Antarctica.
This memoir, written more than a decade after an expedition to climb Mount Logan that saw three team members trapped in an extratropical cyclone. Their tent shredded, their water and fuel gone, Bjarnason’s hands become unusable and acutely frostbitten. The events are told as if they happened yesterday, and are harrowing to say the least. As much as it’s a cautionary tale of the power of the alpine to wreak havoc on the most systematic of plans and the courage to fight as a team, it’s also a personal account of the motivations to set off into the mountains in the first place.