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Trip Report: Saturday Snow School Workshop – January 12th 2019

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

Trip Report: ACC Manitoba introduction to Alpine Movement and Glacier Travel by – Michael Ducharme

January 12, 2019

Participants: Uri Berman, Naomi Derksen, Jordan Fisher, Robyn Romans, Jacob Simoens, Erica Veenstra

Leaders : Pat Dillestone, Mike Ducharme

We have six budding alpinists that joined trip leaders, Pat Dillestone and Mike Ducharme to learn basic mountain skills such as rope teams, prussiking, snow travel, crevasse rescue and self arrest.

We met promptly, 9AM at Pat Dillestone’s shop and began with the usual signing of waivers, introductions and safety orientation.

The morning sessions commenced with gear discussions, equipment fittings and Pat demonstrating proper crampon technique using a Styrofoam block.

We followed with rope skills including setting up alpine ropes, tying in, prussiks, taking coils and rope management. Much hilarity ensued when Pat insisted that Mike demonstrate the benefits of tying off a fully loaded multi-day pack so it can be easily dropped after flipping someone upside down in a crevasse fall (photo available on facebook).

After the group practiced prussiking while eating lunch we headed outdoors to the summit of the day, Westview Park (Garbage Hill). Our outdoor sessions began with the forming of rope teams, glacier travel along with a simulated crevasse fall and rescue operation. Everyone responded quickly when one of the leaders stumbled in and couldn’t self rescue. A local observer didn’t seem too surprised by the scene, it appeared that this wasn’t the strangest thing he had witnessed that day.

After rescuing Mike, we proceed to take up coils for the daunting summit attempt. I am happy to report that both parties achieved their objective while practicing safe, efficient axe & boot snow technique as demonstrated by Pat. The teams worked smoothly and all parties demonstrated a good understanding of team work. We explored the summit ridge and practiced various anchors including: snow bollards, T anchors, pickets and dead men. The consensus was that the snow conditions were too poor for effective anchors though the dead man worked well on the west ridge below the Garbage Hill sign.

We later practiced the fine art of self arrest and while the slope prevented any real sliding we were able to convey the basics. This pretty much concluded the day except for the return to the safety of the Impress Printing hut.

Throughout the session we talked about assessment of conditions, terrain management and the fundamentals of balancing safety and the need for efficient movement. Participants were made aware that time management was a very important safety element and that moving quickly is part of that calculation. Participants were reminded that this workshop was a primer and that future exploration of the mountains should be done with experienced guides and leaders.

Suggestions for future workshops should include discussions around nutrition related to mountain environments, eating a little richer and heavier and the effect of not carrying enough calories for energy levels, body chilling etc.

Submitted January 14, 2019, Mike Ducharme

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