Their companions called 911 and the sheriff’s office at the base of Mount Hood was alerted; meanwhile, the threesome began sending signals to the office with the Mountain Locator Unit they had rented. In search of a sheltered spot to wait out the storm, they trudged along for about 45 minutes until they reached a boulder. After spreading their foam pads on the snow for insulation, they climbed under their sleeping bags and their tarp and pulled Velvet inside with them. The bad weather turned worse.
Later, they learned that the winds had reached 70 mph, and the temperature, with wind chill, hit about 20 degrees below zero.
To keep their blood circulating, they performed isometric exercises every half hour. Velvet, without prompting, stretched out across each of them again and again in turn, warming them with her body heat. “Twenty-four hours after we lay down,” says Bryant, “we looked up to see three or four guys—angels—there to rescue us. Another day and we might not have made it.”
The group made one critical mistake, Bryant says. They didn’t heed the weather report that predicted severe snowstorms. But because they did everything else right and had Velvet with them, Bryant was the only one who suffered from any extremity issues. His temporary frostnip might well have turned to frostbite and permanent damage, he says, had Velvet not eventually draped herself over his feet and settled there. “That we made it off of that mountain, alive and not permanently injured, is truly a miracle,” he says.
Bryant has since married (and he and his wife, Amanda, took his mother’s maiden name, McDermott). At the wedding, on cue, Velvet charged down the aisle bearing the rings.