How a deadly storm fanned the flames of love 

Near-death experience binds two souls in a love to be celebrated by marriage in Whistler

click to flip through (6) Jo Johnson and Jim Dickman's trusty shovel which was used to dig their snow caves on Rainier during their ordeal. They signed it the weekend they survived and it has joined them on every expedition since.
  • Jo Johnson and Jim Dickman's trusty shovel which was used to dig their snow caves on Rainier during their ordeal. They signed it the weekend they survived and it has joined them on every expedition since.
 

Page 3 of 4

They would have to head back up. All of those maddening descending steps down the mountain, sometimes in waist-deep snow, had been in vain.

Around 2 p.m., still in the basin of the Stevens Creek drainage, they built their second snow cave and prepared for another night out.

It was hard for Johnson to wrap her head around the fact that just the weekend before she had been in the same area playing in the snow.

"Here we are just one week later doing the exact same thing and I have no idea where I am," she recalls.

"All these years of climbing... and I was feeling really foolish.

"How could this possibly be? After all these years, how could this possibly be?

"But I had to keep telling myself — be calm. Because fear is the biggest zapper of strength."

They awoke again, ate a little food, and set off, one foot in front of the other.

Johnson thought of her ten-month-old grandson Brandon with each step.

Left foot: "Brandon, nanny loves you." Right foot: "Nanny's coming."

Not only did she have Dickman near her, his looks of love keeping her going and supporting her, she also had Brandon's unconditional love waiting for her at home.

As they went through Stevens Canyon Dickman followed Johnson out.

"We had to stay about 50 feet apart so if I was hit by an avalanche, he would have the shovel to dig me out. I turned often and saw him in his bright orange jacket, slowly following my steps. We were very quiet because sound can bring down an avalanche without warning. (But) just seeing him there, looking up at me when he felt me stop to look back at him was all I needed".

"He would wave his frostbitten, gloved hand at me and I would raise my hand and wave back at him, just so he knew I was OK."

Big motivation, big inspiration.

"Love is the key to survival I think," she says, voice laced with remembered emotion.

They crested the ridge... and saw the rescuers — the first sign of life in three days. There had been no animal tracks, no sounds of helicopters, no birds save one lone raven. Just wind and whiteness. This was a sight for sore eyes. It was Monday morning.

As it turns out, the rescuers weren't even looking for Johnson and Dickman; they were searching for Yong Chun Kim, leader of the Korean group of snowshoers, who had fallen as the blizzard began. He was found alive, not far from where Johnson and Dickman had built their last snowcave.

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