Assignment 12 – 19.03.12 – 22.03.12 mountain safety field trip

Five days in the snow, sleeping in tents and snowholes, skiing and studying the snow was the on the plan for this mountain safety trip. We started our journey on Sunday morning, loading all the gear and baggage in the bus and drive up to Berg. While our 2.5 hours drive, we were wondering where the snow is, because we didn’t see even a little of it. When we arrived on top of the hill, finally there was some snow, even if it was not much. We weren’t sure if it would be possible to build snowholes. First I thought that’s not that bad, because I was a little worried at the beginning of the trip. I couldn’t really imagine how it will be and how big the snowhole will be.

We split up the groups as we decided before the trip. First I was in the group with the weaker skier, but then I could change, because I wanted to have the challenge and I was sure that it will be hard but possible for me to ski with the better skier. At the first day, we skied 6 km to a cabin. When we arrived we set up our tent. First, we had to flatten the ground, because even if it didn’t seem at the beginning, there was a lot of snow. We found a good place for our tent behind a big rock. We had some wind shelter from the rock and in addition to that we built a wall with snow blocks. We decided to not take the inner tent with us, to have more space. But in the morning, everything was wet.

In the evening, we set a time to be ready in the morning. We tried to be in time but in the end, we were half an hour later. It is very hard to know how much time is needed to pack the stuff again and especially boiling water out of snow takes much longer than we expected. It was ok because it was not that cold in the morning. The first part of the second day was a very steep hill we had to go up. I was very motivated, even if I knew that I will be one of the slower members of the group. Surprisingly we went up the hill as a group and didn’t have that big gaps between us. It was very difficult to know what to wear for skiing on this trip. It was windy but not that cold and when it was going up I started to sweat. We had just several little breaks, what was very good not to get cold while standing around. The last part to the next cabin was going a little down, so we were a little faster. We had a break 300 meters before the cabin, because we were so much faster as expected and we didn’t realize that we already passed the lake. So, when we arrived at the cabin we went up the hill behind, where a good place was to build the snowholes. I was very tired after this 9 km and had some problems to go up that steep hill. It was again 15 minutes and I was very slow. Up there it was very windy and snowing a little. The plan was, that one of the group cooks water or something but it was so steep and windy that all of us wanted to work for the snowholes. We were freezing and it was very hard work to dig. After 1.5 hour, we were able to dig inside but one of us had to stay outside to dig the snow from inside away. I was a lot of the time outside and it was very cold and I was very tired. The problem was that I didn’t want to have a break because I knew that I get cold then. But suddenly I didn’t feel well and I realized that I didn’t eat. I had a break eat just what I found in my backpack and felt so much better after that. Now I know it is very stupid to not having a break and it is important to eat something after a while. I could dig a little inside, where it was much warmer but also very wet. We were so happy when we were finished after 4 hours. We were exhausted, wet, hungry and tired. I wanted to help close the entrance, because of my claustrophobia. Max and me we tried and failed. We had to do it a second time because it wasn’t stable enough. But then it was good and we could go in too, change in to dry cloths and get warm in our sleeping bags. Our snowhole was very big and we connected the three snowholes with small windows. I was surprised because I didn’t have any problem being in there. Just going out and in was not very nice for me but it was ok. We cooked in our sleeping bags and went to sleep very soon.

Even slept in the cabin and we had to wave from the snowholes at 9.00h, that he knows that we are ok. During the night, it was very windy and our entrance was nearly closed. But it was just light snow, so that we could easily dig it away. Even came up and we discussed what we should do this day. Because we were very tired and wet, we spent the day in and around the cabin. We could dry our cloths, boil some water and rest a little after the hard day before. The weather was not very nice, so we decided to build an igloo next to the cabin. Everybody had to do something and Even leaded us. I couldn’t imagine that it is stable enough just the ice blocks above each other. But it was and after around 3 hour we had a very nice igloo. Again, I had to go on my borders, going inside with all the others. But I was happy that I tried it and surprised that it was not that bad. But I was also glad to go out after a few minutes, when it started to get harder to breath. Coming to the snowholes this day was very nice, because everything was already ready. We just had to go in our sleeping bag and prepare our dinner.

In the cabin, we had time to plan the trip back to the first cabin for the next day. We had to go back the same way, so we all knew how the way will be like. I was a little afraid of the hills we have to go down, because my experiences at the last trip in Alta with the big back pack were not that nice. I tried to traverse whenever possible not to get to fast, because I had some problems to keep my balance. I was very surprised that it was not as bad as expected. I would say I improved my downhill technique in Alta and on this trip and got more confident. When it came to the steep hill right before the cabin I was very tired and fell a lot, but I always could help myself back on the skis. There we met the other group and could have a talk with them what they did the last two days. We thought we will build the emergency shelters in that area, but then the plan was to ski as far as possible towards the cars. We were a little surprised about that but were also happy that the next day would be over very quick. This part was hard, because we all were very tired and the snow got icy and it was all downhill. I was glad, when Timon told me to put some of my weight on his sledge, because sometimes I nearly wasn’t able to get up again after falling. 2 km before the cars we stopped and got the task to go in groups of two or alone and build an emergency shelter for the night. We were very tired and first not very motivated to dig again, but then we found a nice spot and build a nice shelter. It was for two and quite big. The problem was, that it was not that much wind protected. After visiting all the shelters and some tips form Even and Len they told us, that it was never the idea to sleep in this shelter and that we will ski to the cars and to back home this evening. I was glad on one hand and a little sad on the other hand, because I liked our shelter. But it would have been a little dangerous, because some shelters were not good enough to sleep in. So, we did the last 2 km to the car and were happy, proud, exhausted and tired.

This trip was a great experience and I am very happy and proud that we did it. I learned a lot about myself and about borders which are mostly much higher as we expect.

What I learned:


- It is important to have food with a lot of calories, so that you don’t have to eat much but feel full for a long time

- I put portions of food in bags –> so it didn’t need that much space

- The easiest is food where you just have to add water

- It takes very long to boil water out of snow and ice

- Snacks like nuts, energy bars or dried fruits are good to have in the pockets for the small brakes

- It’s good to have too much food in case something happens

-  On the trip to Alta we experienced that fruits freeze and don’t taste very good anymore and in addition to that it takes much space –> so I dried some apples and put some resins in my oatmeal


- It is hard to know what is needed for the day, because the wind makes it much colder and when the sun is shining it is suddenly very warm

- It is good to have something to easily take off and take on again in a brake for example

- For digging a snowhole it is good to take on very waterproof cloths and not the skiing cloths you have to ware again the next day –> an extra jacket and trouser would be perfect