The accident on Lebnes back in 2014 taught me many things. One of them was the importance shit handling, that is, the skill to deal with shit when it has hit the fan. On Saturday Jan 30th, when Martin had the courtesy to fly into a tree and literally crush his right tibia and part of his patella, I was made witness of astounding shit handling competence.
It was a beautiful day. Yr.no, the meteorological institute of Norway, had forecasted strong winds, but as I, Martin, Kjersti, Kaisa and Kenneth reached the treeline of Gorzelvtind, there was just a mild breeze. The snowy mountain was sprinkled by the light of the newborn sun. Up higher, it was swimming in light. It was very tempting to head higher, but a big collapse along with confirmatory results in our snow pits told us that this was not the day for alpine terrain, so we instead decided to play in the trees.
When I was done with my snow tests, the other girls were getting a bit cold and eager to start the descent. Martin and Kenneth were still digging. Having agreed on the plan of the day, we left the boys behind and charged the trees. We stopped a couple of times on the way down to see if Martin and Kenneth would catch up, but eventually decided to wait at the foot of the mountain.
So we waited. And waited. And started to wonder. I realized that I had my phone in airplane mode, so I switched it on and tried to call Martin. Someone else answered and I thought that I had called the wrong number so I hung up. Then Kjersti’s phone rang. I could see her eyes grow darker. I could hear her say: “Are you completely sure? – Ok. We’ll be there as soon as we can”. She looked at me and told me the bad news.
I couldn’t help it. I started to cry. Kjersti gave me a hug and then transformed from dear friend on a Saturday cruise to a dead serious professional. She practically flew up the mountain. I tried to keep up, but couldn’t get my lungs to suck in enough air. I tried to get my legs to go faster, but couldn’t. I could feel how I was starting to panic. Then I heard a soft and calm voice behind me: “Let her go ahead, Andrea. Martin will not die just because you take a few minutes more. Focus on being strong when you get there. Breath.” Kaisa had the presence of mind to lift her focus from the need of the injured and see a partner in despair.
When I and Kaisa arrived at the scene, Kjersti was already by Martin’s side, where he was sitting on his backpack hugging his nemesis tree. By then, Kenneth had already contacted the local mountain rescue and provided them with details about the accident and coordinates for our position. Minutes later, we could hear the sound of rotor blades roaring. While the helicopter searched for a place to land, everyone on the ground were working on keeping Martin calm, warm and as pain free as possible: Martin’s snowboard soon became a bed padded by backpacks, our down jackets, a bivi bag and a space blanket turned into a warm cover, and a bottle with warm water became a heater warming Martin’s chest.
The day after, as I and Martin talked to the Orthopedist who’d spent the night building Lego with the pieces of Martin’s tibia, it became very clear that he had been lucky. Lucky that he was traveling with such competent people, lucky that the weather was as good as it was, and lucky that the Tromsø mountain rescue kicks such serious ass: even though we were located in dense trees on a relatively steep mountain side, the rescue team managed to get to us with a stretcher (read: by flying in with a guy attached to a wire underneath the chopper), and get Martin off the mountain (also hanging from that wire), within one hours time.
If it hadn’t been for the competence of all the people involved, Martin might have lost his leg. The fracture was massive and had caused a substantial bleeding. Without proper and speedy help, his muscles would have died.
I feel like I and Martin have experienced our fair share of drama by now. I hope that there will be no more. But I do learn from every experience. This time, I learned how well really bad things can go when people have excellence in shit handling. I will never find words to express my gratitude. I also found out that I, while I at least think that I tend to stay pretty calm when the drama is around me, is no way near calm when the drama is about a loved one. Damnit Martin, stay in one piece in the future!