Two Manitoba snowmobilers say they never gave up hope after they were stranded for 26 hours in a blizzard during an ordeal that began near Lake of the Woods and ended in Minnesota last week.
Danny McLachlan and his girlfriend, Leandra Mardynalka, went ice fishing with another couple on the lake Jan. 26.
But the 20-year-old snowmobilers — along with Torque, their 1.4-kilogram Pomeranian — got lost in blowing snow as they were driving their snowmobile back to their cars.
"When we left, it was bad but it wasn't terrible. I thought for sure we could still make it there no problem and I'd be able to find my tracks on the way back," McLachlan said.
"But just as soon as we started driving, then boom, it just got real bad and [I] couldn't see nothing."
After driving for more than an hour, the Steinbach couple's snowmobile ran out of fuel.
"I have to admit, when we were on the ice, starting to run out of fuel, that was my breakdown moment. I got off the snowmobile, I just started crying," said McLachlan.
"I completely lost my composure, and Leandra looked over at me and she said, 'You know what? That's not going to get us anywhere. We got to stay calm, stay focused and figure out what we're going to do.'"
The pair managed to started a fire nearby and stayed the night.
“We didn’t let each other sleep. We let each other close our eyes and just keep talking to each other, “ he said.
The next morning, McLachlan decided to head out on foot when he heard the sound of another snowmobile.
He followed it for hours all the way to Roosevelt, Minn., where he called for help.
“My feet were past frozen. It just felt like I was walking on hooves,” he said. “[I] was just happy that house was there, and [I] ran to it.”
McLachlan was admitted to hospital and treated for severe frostbite to his feet and is still dealing with numbness from the incident.
“I can move my big toes, but I can’t feel anything,” he said.
McLachlan said he feels lucky to be alive but regrets leaving the ice shack when they did. He said he will be much more careful next time he goes ice fishing.