Aug. 16 2012
Day 2 update from one of Nikki’s pacers, her cousin David Wolfgang-Kimball:
Crazy night! Yesterday mostly went well, with some impressive hiccups. The major challenge (besides the mileage and the 4000 feet, 6.8-mile climb over Camel’s Hump) was emotion management. A series of miscommunications led to Nikki thinking she was way behind, and she wasn’t. Added to some equipment issues, this made for a hard few hours.
We got that sorted out on the way to the Hump, and Nik’s shoulders dropped about an inch in relief, and we all went back to the standard lowbrow on-trail gutter talk and joking. Crew was doing the can-can as we entered Camel’s Hump. Whatever it takes!!
We sent Nikki, her brother Bill, and pacer Dennis up the Hump, which is the largest unbroken climb on the trail. The rest of us headed to Appalachian Gap (App Gap), where we thought we might see her around 8:30 or 9pm. 9pm rolls around, then 9:30, then 10 – and we are getting worried. I scout the fire tower to see if it’s climbable for a view. Satellite phones are switched on. Worried film crew is filming worried running crew.
Plans are made: at 11pm, we are going to push all the emergency buttons, because it’s taking too long. Even the sat phones are having trouble locking on. We have four crew 2 miles down the trail, incommunicado, prepping food and night shots, and no idea where Nikki and company are. Are they lost? Injured? This is extremely technical terrain, and it is dark, cold, windy, and a t-storm is coming in.
At 10:58pm, no joke, Nikki and Dennis emerge. We take our fingers off the buttons and breathe a sigh of relief. Nikki is wrecked: wordless, staring only down.
Plans to send her two miles down trail to shelter and food are abandoned, we rinse her off and tuck her into the van for 6 hrs of sleep.
But where is cousin Bill? Dennis and Nik left him behind a few hours back… so the emergency planning starts again. We send someone to retrieve the down trail crew, and the film crew starts interviewing me about my emergency plans for finding Bill. He knows the trail, so that’s good, but it is cold and windy and the night is long. Do we risk losing more people? Ugh.
Then, miraculously, Bill’s father manages to get him on cell phone from a nearby town. He’s fine and about a mile away. Emergency over.
I am due for a short pacer leg at 5:30am, so I head to lodgings. Just as we are pulling away, Bill steps out of the woods. Whew!
This AM Nikki was back to normal, and off we went. Folks, this trail is extreme. slippery roots on rocks, mud, wet mossy rock, very steep, twisty, and minimal visibility even in daylight. Think Murkwood.
Personal update: got a few hours sleep and a shower. Dreamt I was kissing a beautiful girl, but had to run off to help Nikki. Sorry beautiful girl, this is how it works up here. Shout out to awesome pacers Dennis and Jenny (who slept under a truck during last night’s t-storm).
And now I’m about to run again. The wheels on the bus go round and round… A tough night, and a tense one, but all’s well that ends well.
Thanks all for your support.