Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Challenging Winter Weather at Survival Camp

As a Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue member, winter certification requires spending the night out and avalanche training. Because I've already dug and spent a night in a snow cave in previous adventures, I was allowed to construct a shelter of choice.

Below you see the 9x5 tarp pitched steeply beneath a very healthy pine tree. The link for the Youtube video is posted below.
I chose to shore up the tarp and provide insulation by shoveling snow on 3.5 sides. I slept quite warm. My sleeping bag is inside this bivy sack. Plus, I had 12 hour hand warmers. I slept in one layer of fleece, wool socks and beanie.

Others built snow trenches outside, but near pine trees laden with snow. Their roofs were flat tarps. During the night, after receiving an additional two inches of snow, it began to rain.

Suddenly a loud crash rose the dead. I listened for the cause. Bear are hibernating. I hadn't seen cougar or wolf tracks all day Saturday as I inspected 8 snow caves built by boy scouts.
Another avalanche descended nearby. Yet, the landscape was rolling. What could it be.
Then, much to my consternation, a monstrous slush ball hit my shelter and slid to the foot end.
Then I knew. The trees were giving up their snow.
By daybreak, the Crisco candle had been doused, but I was warm and dry. I eased outside and into the rain, immediately donning rain suit and boots.
It was then I learned the snow trenches were bombarded and failed. All the bedding wet.
Flat roofs proved too weak to withstand this weather.
Those in the caves fared better, though the makeshift plastic bag doors had collapsed.
The boy scouts hung sleeping bags to dry inside the huge dining lodge beside the fire. But, all were smiling. 
Lesson learned: a good tarp with plenty of anchoring loops is worth its weight in gold. 
One scout leader showed me his marvelous fire pit built from the inside drum of an old washing machine.

This is Sasha, one of our K-9 dogs in training. She gets purple booties to protect her paws from the sharp snow crystals.
Food abounded in camp. I ate home made chili with Troop 181. The boys had been divided into teams of two and built their snow caves. When I arrived for inspection, each team proudly showed me the inside. Some needed to install vents, some needed to reposition vents, some needed to clear out previously installed vents that had clogged with snow. I was quite impressed with them all.
See the video at: Winter Survival Camp

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