Mountain safety field trip

At the beginning of April our class travelled to Berdalen for a week to complete our practical skiing exam. We had had a basic ski course and practiced a lot before we took part in this big trip. We also travelled north because of the weather conditions. The environmental and weather conditions were totally suitable for skiing there. It was a huge area covered by snow but which is more important – deep snow. It didn’t melt easily because of the cold and freeze. It was also important in this area to be hilly and mountainous. There were both flat and steep areas but we are not beginners anymore so we chose steep slopes and downhill all the time.

On Tuesday we were travelling to Berdalen by car. The weather was quite cold and it was snowing. The fresh snow caused some changes in waxing skis. We arrived to Berdalen at 1300 and continued our way on skis. My backpack was quite heavy but I got used to carry it. We were skiing in two groups and each group has a leader which person changed all the time. We were heading to Berdalsbru hut which is 6 km from our parking car. Each leader was navigating for 15 minutes and all of us had a turn. Finally, we got the hut and spent the night there. I was itself the pomp and luxury. Then we were preparing for the next three days.

On Wednesday morning we had breakfast and everybody was skiing near the hut. We were looking for a suitable place to dig a snow hole where we could have spent the next two nights. We had to check the amount of the snow there. It was important to have 3-meter-high snow at this area. Finally, we found the right place for digging but first we had lunch. After our meal, we got a short brief about how to dig a snow hole. It sounded crazy when I heard it for the first time. However, I was so excited about this activity. In the afternoon, we made pairs in each group and started to dig. Four people were digging one snow hole. My pair was Theresa. Lilla and Linda also worked together. Each snow hole had to have two entrances in emergency case. We used shovels and a saw for digging. The saw was for cutting out blocks from the snow. We used the blocks to put them in the entrance and closed it. When we finished with the two entrances, we started to make a nice sleeping area with an arched roof above it. It was also important to make the wall smooth because of the snow melting. That was for keeping our equipment dry. We made place for our backpacks and also for cooking. Finally, one of the entrances was totally closed. The half of the main entrance was blocked, too, because of the wind. Ventilation was also important so we made an extra hole with the avalanche probe. We were digging and making our snow hole for 5 and half hours. Digging was really hard work since we had no strong male member in our group so we got tired and exhausted. However, completing the task made me really proud and happy.

On Thursday we learnt important things about avalanches. First, we tried some avalanche tests in the morning. We dug some snow holes and each person had to be hidden and covered with snow. That was for feeling under the avalanche and we called it avalanche column test. Another test was finding a backpack with avalanche probes. A backpack was hidden under the snow and four people used avalanches probes to find it. The rest of the group was digging when it was necessary. Finally, we found the backpack in six minutes. Then we were skiing to the hut and had a lunch break. It was so amazing to have our lunch in the hut in that cold weather. After lunch, we were skiing near the hut and organized some games in the snow. We made 4 groups and each group had different kind of activities to organize. We had to build different places for playing. We had two games based on balance, one game of jumping and one game for slalom race. Finally, we organized a competition between the groups. We spent 15 minutes at one station then we changed. All of us had so much fun during building and testing the game places. After playing, we were skiing back to our snow hole and made evening meal. This day was quite nice and entertaining.

On Friday morning we had breakfast, packed in and started to destroy all of the snow holes. That was for the safety of animals. Then we were skiing back to Berdalen. Some of us were more experienced and skillful in skiing so they were skiing separately. I preferred skiing with the less adventurous group based on my skills. We were practicing to navigate again on the way back home. Each person was leading for a while. The weather was wonderful since it was really warm and sunny last day. We had a short lunch break and could have enjoyed the sunshine. After having lunch, we got a last task to do. Each person had to dig an emergency shelter. We learnt to make two different types of snow holes on the basic ski course so we could have chosen which one we liked more. We had 20 minutes to make the shelter but it was not enough for me. I guess I was the only one who couldn’t have finished the snow hole. Finally, the teacher judged all of the emergency shelters. He assessed that everyone would survive a night in their own shelter, except me. This situation was quite amusing but it wouldn’t have been that funny in real emergency case. I learnt that I need to dig faster next time. Then we broke camp and continued skiing to Berdalen.

I suppose I got a lot of experiences during this week. Experiences in skiing, navigation and also organization. Digging a great snow hole was a big challenge, too. I have never thought that I will sleep in a snow hole before. To be honest, it has many advantages compared to sleeping in a tent. We didn’t have to carry the tent. We could have made it as big as we wanted. The shape of the snow hole also depended on us. It has some disadvantages, too. We needed an appropriate place and so much time to dig the snow hole. Even though we worked in groups, it was really hard work. All in all, it was a great possibility to experience the nature in winter time.