Sunday, January 9, 2011

AST1 Day 2 - We WALKED the TALK

When I went to bed last night, I was secretly wishing that our AST1 Day 2 out in the field would be cancelled due to weather conditions.  The forecast was for cold, snow, wind, windchill - everything you don't want for an early morning highway drive or for standing around outside for about 6 hours.  While I love snow and embrace the cold, and have played many times in those conditions and enjoyed it, I was constantly moving and it was play time. Today would not be about play or moving!

I began my very early morning with a knot in my stomach.  Thoughts to myself were just get out the door, then get out of the complex, then get onto the main road, then get to the carpool.    Once there, leave the driving to someone more capable and confident, which I did and the knot very quickly came untied and I knew I would be O.K.  

We reached the Burstall Trailhead.  I bundled up like I have never bundled up before!  We received our equipment which included a transceiver which looked identical to the second one in this link, a probe and a shovel.  We gathered in our group and met our guide Tim Auger.  Now this is a gentleman who has talked the talk and walked the talk time and time again.  He survived a fall and an avalanche and was on an expedition to Mt. Everest. What better guide could one ask for! 

Our first lesson was about transceivers.  We snowshoed out to the middle of Mudd Lake, Tim explained everything to us and then we put our newly learned knowledge to use.  We paired off, took turns hiding our transceivers and then searching.  I was impressed!
In real life, once the transceiver locates the person, then the avalanche probe is put to use.  We learned how to open the probe and the proper probing technique to search for the person.    The probes we practiced with were different lengths, mine was approximately 8 to 9 feet long.
Tim showed us how to dig a snow pit, prep the sides and then how to read and test the layers. In addition to this, three of us helped to prepare for a Rutschblock Test.  While first shovelling then using a piece of rope to saw the snow, I quickly came to realize how physically tiring all this was.
Not only did I help him with his snow pit, we all had to build our own.
He spent a few minutes with each of us at our pit and explained about the different types of snow at the different depths and we examined the snow crystals from each layer through a magnifier.
Now late into the afternoon, it was time to put everything we learned to the test.  We participated in a mock search and rescue at a mock avalanche site.  Each of us was delegated a job, mine being responsible for using the transceiver to locate the three victims (victims being buried transceivers).  I located two and once each was located then the probers did their job probing until they felt the victim and then the shovelers took over to dig up the victim.  This simulation search and rescue was quite an eye opener when you experience the level of mayhem and the speed in which you have to work, all the while staying calm and collected.  I can't even imagine what it would be like to be a part of the real thing!  Something I never ever want to experience!

After six and a half hours of being out in the cold and snow and wind at times, I was so thankful this day was not cancelled!   I came away with a wealth of knowledge and a whole new appreciation for snow and playing in my playground during the winter.  At the end of today, we were presented with our certificate!  
I would like to acknowledge Agent-X for her effort in securing the spots for this course.  Thank you to the Calgary Area Outdoor Council for covering our costs.  I tip my hat to Yumnuska Mountain Adventures especially Chris Miller and Tim Auger.


  1. Congratulations on doing the course! It sounds very useful.

  2. wow - that sounds like a tough course - good job on completing it!

  3. A very useful and interesting course, congrats.
    What about a course on the sea? In Italy of course!


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