…we climbed though the beech forest when disaster stuck. Fiona stepped into a now frenzy of angry wasps. Apparently as we moved up the mountain I had stepped unknowingly into the nest, Aaron pissed them off and Fiona took the brunt of it. We was stung at least 10 times. We all ran to a safe distance but the surprise and attack almost froze Fiona meaning more stings. Eventually she got away leaving her pack (which needed to be retrieved later).
She immediately started to show the impact of the stings and started going into anaphylaxis. Things were going bad fast. Her reaction was severe including vomiting, loss of bowel control (which needed cleaning up… welcome to AR… perhaps the most vulnerable you will ever be), swelling, hives and air constriction. We set off the PLB and sent a brief but to the point message on the tracker “Multi wasp stings send help”. This was a backup to the PLB which would be alerting Race HQ through the Rescue Coordination Center.
Back to the action. Fiona was in a bad state and getting worse. Obviously the priority was breathing. This was becoming increasing harder for her. She was unable to keep antihistamines down, vomiting them up. Was about to give them to her as a suppository. Also had by this time a cold Buff on her neck to reduce the constriction of the airway. She was in and out of consciousness and semi-lucid. The situation was now bad enough that I did ask either Aaron or Dave (I can’t remember) how there tag team CPR was. We decided to move her away from the potential of further stings for her and all of us and down too near a clearing next to a creek for the extraction. The short decent through the thick bush wasn’t easy, as we stepped over tree fall and holes. At one point Aaron smacked into a tree branch with his head from concentrating on foot placement. This caused a reaction that in turn meant that he accidentally head butted Fiona. Total accident and not funny at the time but in hind sight. By now about 30mins has passed… No chopper. UGH.
As a side story I had taken a Sat Phone to the race. Normally I wouldn’t do this. But right before the race both my parents were diagnosed with Covid. And being in there late 70s/early 80s obviously meant some potential problems. I had the phone to call Robin and get updates if needed. But was getting good comms from our wonderful support crew in the TA and hadn’t used it. But now time was ticking and where was the helo?
I fired up the phone and called Robin. She was of course surprised to her from me. But that quickly changed when I told her the nature of my call. My instructions were…. what happened, time, symptoms being presented, Fiona’s condition and this is legit. “Get that helo dispatched”…. I’ll leave the phone on, Bye..”. click. Soon after that the phone rings from Medical Staff at RaceHQ. As they started to talk I quickly interrupted them to ask if the helo was in the air. YES came the response. A low cloud ceiling was slowing the response.
Finally after about 65mins from the wasp sting we could hear it coming. On the ground the EMT’s quickly took over. By now Fiona was conscious but in no shape to continue. They quickly stabilized her and prepared to transport in the helo. Within minutes she was gone. It was a long 75-90mins but now she was in good hands. I think Aaron & Dave were assuming we would be leaving too. I didnt want to & anyways the option wasn’t there as the helo was already quite full with pilots & medics.
I suggested we regroup at the small hut across the creek. We sat in there with a lot of feelings, emotions and adrenalin, if only we could have given some of that to Fiona. We fired up the cooker had a dehy meals and discussed our options. I was keen to carry on. “We are here for an adventure… let’s go have one”. And being in the outdoors a lot it’s not a matter of if things go wrong but when & how you respond to them. We are perhaps only half way thru the race & there was a lot of beautiful scenery I wanted to see. I left the guys in the hut to chat & I went outside to call Robin back and tell her what happened. She had a message from Race Director wanting to know if we were going to carry on “Hell yeah” I told her. This was of course before the guys had agreed.
I walked back in the hut and they were in a lot better place about continuing now after a few minutes earlier talking about trekking out to a random road. NO WAY! We can do this if we re group and support each other, were my words. This was a game changer and would mean different dynamics as far as nav, motivation and supporting each other. Shortly that they announced they were ready to go and continue this Adventure. So we put packs on and headed up the same mountain we had just been on the beginning of earlier. I wanted to be at the saddle before it got darks as to see a better view of what we were in for and how many more ridge lines we need to descend, climb, descend, climb, descend, climb… There were are few.
We finally made it to Islands Hut around 230pm. We put up the tent and slept for about 2.5hrs or at least we were off our feet. I felt pretty beat up at that point and I know Dave & Aaron were. And verbalizing that A LOT!
We got up pre dawn, packed and left picking our way through sub alpine scrub that wasn’t friendly. We were with a few other teams and so had some good friendly banter. We had now spent 2 night out on this section and were hoping to only spend 2. But it was apparent we would be out for another night. Uh-oh… hope we have enough food. One of the cool things about GZ is sections where they give you route choice. And this was one of them. 57Km, 3700m elevation get from point A-B with a few CP’s the rest is up to you. And this section was certainly that. Some awesome high terrain in some awesome back country.
To be continued.