We were at eleven thousand feet. The fog was closing in, it was late in the day, and it was getting mighty cold.
My brother, Wayne, and I had decided to go on a Big Horn sheep hunt in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. On the way up, the sky had been partly cloudy, but the weather had been satisfying. On the first day, we had reached the top of the mountain, where we made camp and ate supper before going to sleep.
When we woke up, we faced an eerie world of fog. We couldn’t see more than fifty yards, and so we sat in camp all day, waiting for the fog to lift. It stayed for two solid days.
We finally decided to go down lower on the mountain. Upon consulting our contour map, we found a way down that was different from our route up the mountain. Down we went. After a hundred feet or so, we broke out of the fog—but to our dismay, we found ourselves on a steep slope formed by an accumulation of rock debris. It sloped down about forty-five degrees or more and formed a point about five hundred feet below us. From there on, broken rock and smooth snow persisted for a couple of thousand feet.
We tried to go back up, but the combined weight of our packs and ourselves, as well as the impossible footing in the loose rocks, made us give up on this idea. We went to the slope’s point and checked the snow. It was glare ice. We had no ice axes or other equipment to secure footholds. I turned to my brother and said, “We can’t go up, and we can’t go down. We’re trapped.”
Vertical mountain slopes to the side of us were the obvious reason why the contours on the map were so close together. There was no place to pitch a tent, and it was getting colder. Now what?
Turning to Wayne, I asked, “What do you suggest?” And from the look on his face, I knew that he felt we were in serious trouble. If we tried to go down, it would be a wild slide to our deaths in the jagged rocks below.
Finally, he said, “Let’s pray.”
We each knelt down and poured out our hearts to the Lord. We told him about our situation, about what we had tried to do, and about the grim prospects of our staying on the mountain. We both knew beyond a doubt that our getting off the mountain was now in the Lord’s hands.
I looked again to my brother for direction. He was the mountain man, the hunter. After a pause, he said, “We go down.” Then, upon checking the ice and snow, we found to our joy and amazement that the ice had turned to slush. We could walk on it. The weather was still cold, with no warm winds to soften the ice, and I knew in my heart that the Lord had melted the ice.
We made it down the slope using a thin nylon rope as a safety factor. Upon getting to the end of the rope, we gave it a flip and attached it to another rock. We were tired when we finally found a tent site, but not too tired to thank our Father in Heaven for our deliverance.
The next day brought beautiful weather. Grateful to be alive, we gave up the idea of hunting sheep. After loafing in the sun, we broke camp and hit the trail for home.