Tuesday, Feb. 2, 1971: Burning money to survive

Posted on February 7th, 2007 – 12:37 AM
By Ben Welter

Jim Marshall of the Minnesota Vikings and Minneapolis Star columnist Jim Klobuchar were among 16 snowmobilers who set out from Red Lodge, Mont., for a 55-mile mountain ride to Cooke via Beartooth Pass one morning in late January 1971.

Conditions were fine at the start, but by afternoon winds began to rise, with gusts up to 100 mph. Blowing snow reduced visibility to nothing, and windchills dropped to 80 below zero. One by one, the machines began to fail and were abandoned. The party broke into smaller groups and sought shelter on foot. Hugh Galusha, 51, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, and another man built a snow shelter along the highway. But it wasn’t enough: By 7 a.m., Galusha was dead, the victim of exposure.

In an interview with Tribune columnist Sid Hartman a few days later, Marshall recounted his tale of survival.

Marshall Burned Money
to Keep Alive on Trek

Minneapolis Tribune Staff Correspondent

Jim Marshall had to burn his money to stay alive. The Minnesota Viking defensive end, one of a party of 16 that was stranded in deep snow during a blizzard on Beartooth Pass, Wyo., gave his account of the trip that cost the life of Hugh Galusha, 51, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank.

“After we were stranded, we walked from about noon Saturday until about 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning before we found a place we felt would provide suitable shelter,” said Marshall on his return to Minneapolis Monday night.

“Before my snowmobile quit operating, I had a narrow escape when my machine went over a cliff and almost rolled on top of me.

Jim Marshall, snowman
As a Minnesota Viking, Jim Marshall was no stranger to snow. Here he embraced the elements at a Met Stadium practice in December 1961.

“There was a 2,000-foot drop at the spot of my accident. After I had dropped about 30 feet, I was lucky enough to be able to grab on to some rock. Then with the aid of some of the other members of our party I was pulled back to safety.”

Marshall said that he, Paul Dickson (Viking tackle) and Bob Leiviska Jr. and Vern Waples, the guide on the trip and his wife, had started walking with the idea of reaching a place called Top Of the World – a store and motel in the area that is frequented by tourists in the summertime – after their machines quit operating.

“It got to be dark and we were afraid to stop for fear we would freeze to death.

“The snow reached the waist of Dickson and myself. The lighter people could walk on top of the snow and not get stuck. Paul and I would take three or four steps and we’d be worn out.

“We passed about three or four stages of total exhaustion before we finally decided we couldn’t go any farther.

“Finally, young Leiviska (15 years old) located a piece of land with a grove of trees and a hill in back of it to block the wind. We decided to try and stay there for the night.

“The snow was about 10 to 15 feet deep in this area.

“Dickson took out his lighter and we started the fire with five one-dollar bills, some candy wrappers, my checkbook and billfold.

“The snow melted, giving us a hole about six feet deep by eight feet wide.

“Dickson had some $20 bills to keep the fire going.

“Money didn’t mean anything at this stage,” Marshall said. “You can’t beat nature with money. We would have burned everything we had if necessary.

“We kept the fire going with any wood which would burn, including boughs and pine cones. We also stripped the low branches of 15 to 20 trees.

“We were afraid if we went to sleep we might freeze to death. You’d get that warm feeling with a strong desire to go to sleep. You had to work hard to stay awake. You’d stop shivering. You felt so good you wanted to lay down. It was a tough battle to stay awake.

“We were sure at the time that nobody else in the party had survived.

“Sunday morning Mrs. Waples and Leiviska left to try and get help.

“When help hadn’t reached us about an hour before dark Sunday night, Dickson and I decided it would be unwise to spend another night in the open.

“We walked about a mile, and saw some snow vehicles that had come to pick us up. You can’t imagine how happy we were.

“We also finally got reunited with the rest of the party.”

Marshall described the experience as “the toughest thing I’ve ever encountered in my life.”

The star Viking didn’t think his physical condition had anything to do with his survival. “It was more the lessons of determination and competition one learns in football that helped me the most.

“I never worked so hard in my life to stay alive. It reached a point where I thought it was virtually impossible to go on. Yet I was able to catch my second, third and fourth wind and go on another two or three miles when the going was the toughest. This is where football helped.”

Marshall and his group went some 36 hours without food or water except for a couple of candy bars and a small piece of salami.

“I’m going into the hospital for a week to get my body back in shape,” said Marshall. “But I’d go back and try again if I could get myself in condition.”

Tipped sled
Jan. 30, 1971: As conditions deteriorated, Jim Marshall’s sled hit a snow ridge and slammed into a guard rail, pitching him over the rail. He rolled down the slope for 30 feet before he managed to dig his feet and fingers into the loose rock, averting a 2,000-foot fall to the bottom of the canyon. This photo, filed without caption information in the Star Tribune library, would appear to be Marshall’s sled, based on several newspaper accounts published in February 1971.

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