Masks were frozen to our faces

Thermometer showing temp over 40 below zero

We stopped every couple miles to look at one another’s face, checking for frostbite.

Thursday, January 10, 1980—we got up for an early start—it was -30°. I had bad feelings about this trip. I thought it was way too cold to go, but Tim really wanted to go. He wanted to get those metal bunks and bring them back to the lodge here. Hooked on to the trailer, loaded up the snowmobiles and sleds and went to Lake Louise. Unloaded the snow machines and checked the temperature there at the lodge and it was -45°. We got the machines started and went down the lake—it’s maybe 20 miles or so to his mother’s cabin on Tyone Lake.

We stopped every couple of miles to look at one another’s face, checking for frostbite. We had masks over our faces, but frost would still get through. We got to Tim’s mother’s cabin and my machine wasn’t running right, seemed like there was still something wrong with the carburetor. When we got there, there was a little bit of daylight left so we went out looking for wood to use as fuel, but there was nothing but scrub, black spruce—it’s very small. We found all the dead trees we could find from 6 to 8 feet tall. Got those up to the cabin and cut it up into stove wood and started to build a fire in the stove. This is a tiny, tin stove. Lo and behold, the stove is two thirds full of ashes. We dug the ashes out so there was some room and got a fire started.

We didn’t have very much light in there and we took turns sitting in front of the fire to thaw the masks off of our faces. We both have beards and our masks were frozen to our faces. By the time we got our masks off, it was warming up a little in there. We put a kettle on the stove and thawed out some beans for supper—tried to make a pot of coffee too. We ate the beans and cut up wood for the night, we were glad for that.

We banked up the cabin with snow the best we could. Still, it was so cold in there that even later in the evening, we could sit back four feet and blow at the stove and see our breath. There is no insulation, it’s just boards. In an effort to try and stay warm after we ate, we crawled in our sleeping bags. It was cold all night and we had a hard time getting any sleep.

Friday, January 11, 1980—(found out later that it had stayed -38° to -40° all night and we think that farther down at the lower elevation where we had been, it was probably even colder.) The snow machines were really cold the next morning. We fixed a good, big breakfast and I went out and took the carburetor off of my machine and brought it inside. That’s a cold job with bare hands. I took the carburetor all apart and there was some ice in it—got it dry and put it back on. Then we loaded up our gear and those bunks and started out. I got a few white spots on my face from the frost, but we got back up to Lake Louise and to the lodge where we had our vehicles parked. We got things loaded up and got warm in the lodge and went back to Nelchina.