Mountain Safety Trip

Mountain safety ski trip

Day 1

This week was our Mountain safety field trip to Bjaen. When we arrived to the area where we dropped the van off, started to prepare our skis by putting the relevant wax on them; prepared our maps for the journey which we will have to use to navigate; and ensure we have everything we need. Len surprised us with a Pulk sledge which is known to pulled by dogs and humans; and he gave it to our group for the first half of the trip. Kyle, not being the one to shy away from a challenge, volunteered to pull the sledge over the entire distance which he found to be more comfortable than carrying the rucksack on his back. This is due to the fact that the weight is evenly distributed between his back, which makes travelling up hill more bearable.

Everyone was taking it in terns to navigate us to our destination, taking regular breaks on the way and everyone was finding it reasonable, physically. On the other-hand, I was really struggling; and from being ill during the week prior to leaving I had less energy and I was struggling physically compared to the other guys. Which meant on a regular basis I was slowing the group down. This happened to put a dint in my confidence levels, based on the fact that I was struggling and we still had the rest of the week ahead of us. Fortunately, the majority of the group were really supportive, especially George who was very observant and made sure he was always talking to me to take my mind of the fact I was struggling. In relation to Belbin’s theory (1981) George was taking up the role of a ‘monitor evaluator’ as he was providing judgments based on visual perspective, which meant that when he could see that I was really struggling and that I was saying otherwise, he would take up the role of a leader and stop the group for a break (even though I had enough fluids and food, this did not help me entirely). Which comes to show how much experience he has leading groups. An important factor for myself at this stage was believing that I could do it, which are the characteristics of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is defined as participating in an activity for its satisfaction rather than some separable consequences; such as external prods, presser and rewards (Richard, Edward & Deci, 2000). This sort of drive pushed me forward. Where I was brought to the front of the group which allowed me to set the pace and after a while we made it to our destination where we set up camp.

When we arrived at our destination, Connor designated myself and Bowen to create a wind shield surrounding the tent whilst Elouise and Conor created flat ground using spades and started to assemble the tent. A while afterwards we all contributed in covering the snow skirts with big blocks of snow to prevent any cold air from getting into the tent. Shortly after when it was all assembled, we all made our way into the tent and set our sleeping bags up ready for the evening. Len came into the tent to see how I was, and said that we are not doing any tasks in the evening so he proposed that we cook tea and get as much rest as possible ready for the morning. We noticed the following morning that a lot of our stuff got wet due to the condensation produced from our body heat and storm kitchen; not to say quite a lot of snow was getting blown onto our faces most of the night!


Day 2

This was an early start for everyone as we had to all get up in good time, cook breakfast and dismantle the tent ready for our 8km ski to the destination where we would create our snow holes. Once all our equipment was put away, tents were dismantled and skis waxed, we were ready to go. Mel was given the first part of navigating and she started off by informing us of the weather forecast for the day, which was essential information but because we haven’t been moving around much we were all stood around too long getting cold. Mel finally set us off on our way and half of the group were struggling to maintain grip on the snow which meant that we had to stop and re wax, which allowed group 1 to build an extensive lead up which made us think that we were going too slow. Most off us in the group found going up-hill very difficult with our rucksacks, which were resulting in a lot of set backs. I was finding going up-hill quite comfortable because my skis were gripping nicely, but knowing that we will end up needing to go down-hill again (this not being my strong suit) this made us all aware that it was going to take too much time. With group 1 out of sight, making it to the destination in time to build the snow-hole seemed unrealistic, so we decided as a group that it would be more prudent to ski back down to where we camped and build our snow-holes there. We realised that this was the correct decision to make because it took us just as long to get down-hill as it did going up-hill, which made the majority of the the group fatigued always having to pick themselves up with heavy bags on.

Once we all made it back down to camp we all set the tents back up and made lunch. After lunch we were split up into two to build the snow-hole whilst the other two melt snow for the other two before you switch (every 20mins). The preparation of water was necessary due to the conditions that day, and how physically demanding creating the snow-hole is, so you could make every minute count resting. Len found an appropriate place to build the snow-hole by using a snow probe to check the consistency and depth. Myself and Bowen were first to start and Bowen began digging whilst I was removing debris from the ground to clear space. It was important that day that we were both wearing the appropriate equipment; such as full water proofs and enough warm equipment, but not too much to ensure you are comfortable and not irritated. As the weather was pretty difficult to work in that day, we made sure we rotated every 10 minutes so one another could keep warm. Once we did this and formed a tunnel (minus the roof!) which was large enough to allow everyone to lay down head to toe, we had to begin digging sideways to form a sleeping chamber. Instead of using our spades, it was more efficient to use a sword to cut large blocks out of the snow with that would be utilised for the entrance of the snow-hole. Whilst we were doing this and after multiple rotations, we all worked together; one digging the sleeping chamber, another removing debris, another putting blocks on our roof and the other creating a wall at the entrance of our snow-hole. We had to make sure that the sleeping chamber was curved to ensure full stability. By digging to the depth that will fit two on each side we were able to check if the snow was deep enough. Once this was completed on both sides, everyone helped in removing debris from the snow-hole and in order to prevent drips and cut holes inside the hole, we all scraped the roof of the snow-hole to make it as smooth as possible. Then when this was completed all of us started to move all of our stuff inside where we were sheltered and to choose which sides of the hole to sleep.

Later on when we finished building the snow-hole we noticed that all of our stuff was wet through, which for me was pretty bad as I did not carry any water proofs on me and meant that the only trousers I had for the trip were soaked through. Len said to me that if I wanted to I could sleep in the cabin with Danny where I could make a fire and dry of all my wet clothes and equipment (we took this opportunity which allowed others to dry their stuff as well). We stayed in the cabin for the remainder of the night and cooked food. I think from this experience I should always go with an extra pair of trousers, which I forgot about :/!


Day 3

Myself and Danny woke up this day and found out that the weather was not great at all with lots of high winds, and snow fall making it hard to see over a long distance. So the rest of the group joined us in the cabin and we melted snow and played games until Len arrived to speak to us at 12. He came to ask us whether we wanted to join him on a ski tour around the area. This made matters easier for us all because we were able to leave our big bulky things at the cabin and just take day items. We all as a group skid up the same hill as we attempted the previous day and this was so much easier and took less time which was a major benefactor. Once we got to the top, Len stopped us at an Avalanche prone slope which was not that dangerous. At this point, we took of our skis, had a drink then Len introduced us to snow profiling. This was really interesting which I learnt a lot from as this enabled us to identify different layers in the snow.

The correct procedure for this is;

To create a wall which is the length of skis.

Create a shelf at the top which is around 30cm deep.

Then use a saw provided by Len to slice down both sides of the wall, along the back of the shelf and then downwards, that leaves us with 3 blocks of snow.

Then you take your shovel, place it on the shelf and begin to tap on the shovel 10 times and if that does not work you hit it 10 times again but harder until layers of snow fall off.

If that does not work, you take your shovel down the back of the layers and gently push until the layers come off.

Once we me and Bowen did this successfully, we cut a hole in the snow to allow someone to lie in it so we could practice using the avalanche probes. This showed us how deep the snow is and how easy it is to miss someone when probing. We got the hang of it after a while!

Once we had finished this it was time to head back down to the hut. During this time, we were able to practice going down-hill which is something I definitely needed! Shortly after once we made it back to the huts, we made food, melted snow and prepared for the next day of our trip. 





Day 4

This day involved a tour around the local area which firstly involved a quick lesson on avalanches. Len pointed out an avalanche which had gone off over night, he stated that this avalanche erupted from a narrow gulley and when Len used a probe to check the depth it was 2 metres. When we were touring around, Len noticed a rare bird called a ptarmigan which we were trying to get a closer look of before the noise made it fly off.

Straight after this, Len thought it would be a great idea to work on our technique to make going home a lot easier, which was a lot of fun and much easier knowing that we did not have our rucksacks on. I felt that this helped me considerably as Len was providing me with positive feedback which helped with my confidence levels.

Once we had lunch we were reunited with group 1 and at this point our teachers decided that the best option would be to ski out and back to where we started. As this would take a while we set off in good time and I felt a lot more comfortable in my ability to make it back in one peace! (after the entire week practicing); and working on navigation. We made it to our destination about 20 mins away from the mini bus and Len said we had to build an emergency shelter that we would stay in for the night. Myself and Danny decided on doing one ourself which took us approximately 1 hour, where from a reflection point of view is not quick enough as an emergency shelter in bad conditions should as you should only take around 20 mins

Eventually we had finished our emergency shelter which was fair to say not in the best of conditions and I believe everyone else saw the funny side of it. But the aim of the task was to see how we would do in a certain time frame. We found out once we had built it that we were not going to stay in the shelter, which was a shock and surprise for the majority of us as the likes of the advanced group spent 2/3 hours creating theirs and were disappointed with the outcome. Its fair to say that myself and Danny and some others would have felt uncomfortable sleeping there for the night, but the experience building it nevertheless was great and we can take a lot of positives away from it.

During this week I felt as though my skiing, navigation and whole domineer improved a lot as I was able to practice this on a daily basis. But with this being the final skiing trip I can safely say that cross-country skiing is not for me, even though every second was enjoyable!!