Mountain Safety Field Trip 19.03. – 22.03.
Before our actual trip, Len divided us into two groups according to the student’s abilities: beginners and advanced skiers. We all agreed it would make more sense and would mean more fun. Moreover, he divided us into cooking groups, I was with Kathrin and Eliska.
Our starting point was a little place called Berg around 2h drive from Kristiansand. First thing we had to do after had arrived was to wax our skies. Two layers and maybe a third one right underneath the bindings should give us enough friction for going uphill. After introducing ourselves to Ewen, who was supposed to be the guide for us advanced skiers, Simon and me took over the lead to the first stop 30min far from the parking lot. Once arrived, others took over the lead and we had a good pace. But the higher and further we came the colder it got but still we were trying to keep up our pace. The weather turned worse but to our fortune the trail was marked and Ewen was leading us. After 6km we arrived at our first destination Stavskar. There it was very windy and we had to set up our tents behind a big rock to get a little protection. Furthermore, we put snow blocks around the tent and loose snow on the tent skirts, so no wind would blow into it. We used the little cold air well, that we dug before as a kitchen place and it was really easy since Kathrin, Eliska and me decided to have couscous with vegetables. The night was quite cold but surprisingly I slept well.
On the next day, we started with a slight delay and already the first part was really step and since I volunteered carrying the sledge it was extra hard for me. So Ewen gave me skins for my skies and it got so much easier. 9km and 3,5h later we arrived at the second hut where we searched a good spot for the snow holes. The trail there was mainly flat and easy after the first ascend and we took couple of breaks. The weather changed several times during our tour.
So we arrived at Bossbu earlier than expected and Ewen led us to a good spot for digging our snow holes. For measuring the depth of the snow, we stabbed the avalanche probes into the snow and it could have easily disappeared completely. So we started digging the entrance which had to be at least 2m high and around 50cm wide. We didn’t have much space, because the hill was steep and only one could dig at a time, so the others stood around in the beginning. The deeper we dug the more people could help and we took turns who had to dig and to shovel away the snow from the entry. Once being a little bit deeper in the snow we began to dig to the sides as well for the sleeping areas. In our case, three people had to fit into it and the longer we dug the more soaked our clothes became. Both of my pairs of gloves, my ski jacket, my pants and my fleece got really wet and I was freezing. I just wanted to finish and in the end we had to form the ceiling in a round shape and smooth the snow so that no condensation could drip down on us. We connected all three snow holes with a window so first, we could have contact to the others and second, we could use all exits if one would collapse for example. Because the last step to finish the snow hole was to close the entry/exit with snow blocks we cut off during digging. Ewen approved all our holes as safe and left us for the night after we dug just a little hole in the bottom of the exit for being able to go out and in again.
And it was surprisingly warm in our hole. It was snowing and blowing heavily outside, but inside you couldn’t recognise even a little breeze. The cold air well we built in front of the exit really made a difference and you could feel it too by letting your legs hanging down for instance. We had pasta for dinner and went to bed.
On the next morning, the exit was covered by snow and we had to dig our way out. Furthermore, my pants and my jacket were frozen and it felt uncomfortable to put them on again. But fortunately, we were able to dry our clothes in the Bossbu hut nearby, because everybody’s clothes were wet. So we spent the morning in the hut with some fire and hot tea. All of us felt better after a while, since 5h of digging the evening before happened to be really exhausting. Ewen and us discussed what to do with the rest of the day and he offered us to show how to build an igloo. We all liked that idea and after the weather turned sunny, we all started building at a flat spot with sticky snow around, which is ideal for building, just behind the hut. Some of us were cutting off the blocks out of the snow while the others were stacking them in a circle. To adjust or fix these blocks, we used a snow saw and loose snow, which we just put into the holes. Three/four people stood in the middle of the igloo to hold the blocks, which were not fixed yet, and to create the perfect tilt for the typical igloo shape. For the entrance, we again dug a hole at the bottom of the igloo to create the cold air well. We managed to work as a team quite well, because everybody was enthusiastic and knew what their task was. All of us even fit into the igloo in the end.
The next night was way more comfortable, since our clothes were dry again and we were relaxed. To be honest I also was a little bit sad to leave the snow holes the next morning, since we put so much effort in it. Moreover, the view from the holes in the morning was stunning. After I woke up, I went outside and stood there for ten minutes and just enjoyed it. The weather was so much better and it was the first time we had an overview over the whole area around. The days before it always was rather foggy and snowy.
So with a good start in the day we began our tour back and the weather stayed beautiful the whole time. The atmosphere within the group was so much loosened and everybody seemed to enjoy it so much more than on the way there. It was so much fun. After we caught up with the other group at Stavskar, we made our way back to the cars. Actually, it was planned to stay another night in an emergency shelter, which we also built at a nice spot further downhill, but after inspecting all of them together as a group, Ewen and Len decided to go home instead. That was a disappointment, because Max and me put some effort in it.