Friday, 26 January 2018

Discovery's Introduction to Winter Camping

The boys started off their trip at 8:30 in the manner in which most begin; a quick packing session at the Field House followed by a somewhat sleepy bus ride. By the time we had arrived at Manning Park, it was almost 12:30, and the dull, grey setting we were used to in Vancouver had turned into a snowy, winter wonderland. We unloaded the bus and trudged towards the cabin in which we would spend our first night. We were then taught our first field lesson in the art of avalanche companion rescues. We were trained to use the capabilities of a transceiver to track down a buried victim, then use the probe to locate said victim, and the shovel to dig the victim out from under the cover of snow. We practiced for several hours and began testing soon after.

Some of the boys decided to put off practicing, and concentrate their efforts on the building of a crude snow fort. By 17:30, darkness had fallen on our the site, and after a brief meeting, food groups began to cook their dinners, taking the occasional break to dry their clothes in front of the toasty fire we built in the hut. After a hearty meal and a long, tiring day, we had our evening meeting and got ready for bed. Although it had been a long day, excitement still loomed in the air and many found it hard to fall asleep. Eventually, one by one, we began to drift off and recharge for the big day we had planned ahead.

At 7:30 we arose and had breakfast cooking in no time at all. Every group had prepared a meal to warm themselves from the inside out, and it provided a good start to our day. Immediately after breakfast, we were briefed as a group on how to build snow shelters called quinzhees. We were shown examples of what to do, and an example of what not to do (which just so happened to be the snow shelter some of the boys had so diligently worked on the night before). Building began, and the air was filled with the crunch of snow and labour-driven groans. The work was hard, wet and somewhat tedious. After a solid 2 hours of work, most groups had a decent sized pile of snow and decided it was time for a lunch break.

Before long, we were back at it, with the occasional break from the group to do more avalanche rescue testing. After about four hours of work, the wet and cramped task of hollowing out the shelter began. This task was risky and stressful, as students had to not only hollow out the shelter in a wet, cramped space but also be sure not to hollow out too close to the wall, which would result in structural failure. After another hour of back-breaking work, one member of each food group was delegated to begin dinner, while the others put the finishing touches on their quinzhees.  That night, we ate heartily, feeling as though we had earned each mouthful of food we shovelled into our mouths. After a short meeting due to how late it was, we went to bed and unlike the night before, fell asleep immediately.

The next morning we packed up our gear and, after breakfast, were told to bring our shovels and avalanche gear to our morning meeting. To our disbelief, the teachers told us that we had to dismantle our quinzhees, as part of our Leave No Trace ethic. Half the group would work on returning their quinzhees to rubble, while the other half would participate in an avalanche group rescue scenario, and then we would switch. This took up most of our morning, and it was noon by the time we finished. We then packed our stuff onto the bus and prepared ourselves for the long bus ride home, which, like most post trip rides, was filled with a mix of singing, sleeping, and snacking. By the time we got home it was 18:00 and after a short cleanup, with boots soaked and bodies exhausted, none of us could not wait to sleep in our own beds and get a warm, dry, good night’s rest.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Whistler Ski Day

On Wednesday December 6th, the Discovery boys departed for their last adventure of 2017. Bright and early, the group met at the field house at 6:15 am. After a long and sleepy bus ride, we arrived at the base of Blackcomb mountain, and were split into different groups based on whether we were skiing or snowboarding, as well as our comfort level. Once all of our equipment and passes had been figured out, we made our way up the Whistler Village gondola. It was a memorable ride for a few of us, as a member of the group got their foot stuck in the door! 

One of the reasons we have a ski day is to be assessed for our backcountry ski trip. Out of 20, 15 of us chose to be assessed. After a few practice runs, we headed to a mogul run called "Green Acres.” One by one, we headed down the challenging terrain trying to show off our technique and control.

Once we had all been assessed, we separated to get a few runs in before lunch. The more advanced groups enjoyed some drops and steeper alpine terrain, while the intermediate groups shredded down groomers focusing on how to properly pole plant.

After lunch at the Roundhouse, we met with a member of Whistler Ski Patrol and Avalanche Forecaster named Kevin. Kevin educated us on how decisions are made on the mountain and how avalanche conditions are managed within the boundaries of the resort. It is important that we become as educated as we can before we go into the backcountry.

The rest of the afternoon we skied in our groups. It was a beautiful, fun, and memorable trip to end our time together in 2017.

by Max Chetner

Friday, 1 December 2017

Nlaka'pamux First Nation: A Cultural Experience in the Stein Valley

We met at the Field House at 6:30 sharp(ish) on the morning of Wednesday, November 8th  to pack up our group gear and head out to the Stein Valley on a relatively short four-day trip. The three hour bus ride was quiet as everyone was pretty tired. We were enjoying the serenity of the bus ride when all of a sudden the world shook and we came to a stop on the highway. One of our tires had blown and we were forced to slowly drive to the next exit and wait for repairs from Chilliwack. Surprisingly, it only took two hours for us to be on our way again, this time with good food in our bellies from a local diner.

The trip really began when we arrived at Fred’s house and met Riley and Fred himself. Both are members of the Lytton First Nations and are some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met. After our introductions, we drove to the Stein Valley Provincial Park parking lot, and with full packs headed into the Stein with Riley as our guide. It was dusk by the time we got to camp so we set up our tents quickly, and cooked in the near-dark. 

The next day was fairly relaxed by Discovery trip standards as our objective wasn’t gaining distance, but learning about First Nation’s culture. We took two and a half hours to get out of camp as our meals took longer than usual. On this trip we were encouraged to use the outback oven to bake, and cinnamon buns were the most popular item of choice. On our day hike, Riley showed us pictographs left by the First Nations anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of years ago. In our journals, we drew a pictograph that appealed to us and crafted a story around it. Our day hike was ten km long, but it felt like nothing as we left most of our gear at base camp. My favourite part of the day was when we were on the last stretch of the hike and walked a kilometre in silence, alone with our thoughts. It really got us thinking about the purpose of this cultural trip, and how lucky we are to be where we were in the Stein.

On our third day, we left the Stein Valley for Fred’s house, but before we left, we dunked in the freezing Stein river. The Stein was extremely cold and we'd seen ice flowing through it on our way in, but because we wanted to immerse ourselves in the full experience, all of us participated in the ceremonial dunk after Riley showed us how. We were all freezing, but quickly warmed up once we put our dry clothes back on. At Fred’s house we once again set up our tents, changed back into our wet clothes, and then prepared for the sweat lodge. 

The sweat lodge can take up to 4-5 hours and is comprised of four sessions. Everyone files into the lodge and sits around the stone ring. Each session is comprised of nine hot rocks added one-by-one to the centre of the ring. Once the rocks are added Fred begins the sessions and each person speaks; in between each speaker water is poured over the rocks and immediately turns to steam. Each session honours a different entity, the male, the female, and the individual. It was a once in a lifetime experience for us all. It was incredible to realize that everyone has something that worries them or gets them down in life, but being able to share so freely with each other helps to ease the struggle. It is part of our "healing journey,” as our guides and residential school survivors Fred and Riley would say.

After the sweat lodge, Fred’s wife Laha, prepared us all a fantastic dinner of home-made bannock, home-grown corn, salmon caught from the Fraser, and rice. That night, after learning all that we did about the Nlaka'pamux First Nation’s culture, we had a discussion around the fire about why it’s important to preserve other cultures. This was the longest discussion we have had on trip and yielded an incredible about of reflection and curiosity.

On our last day, we cooked and ate breakfast fast because we wanted to get a start on the day by 9:00. Then, to our surprise, Laha very generously baked us some bread with homemade jam on top as a dessert. Our first destination was to one of the protest sites that saved the Stein valley from being deforested and mined, and helped it become a provincial park. While there, we saw a pit-house site, and partook in a few minutes of silence at 11:00, as it was Remembrance Day. At around 11:45 we arrived at the Remembrance Day Pow-wow celebration in Lytton. After rushing inside to get seats for our large group, we found out that it started at 1:00 and not 12:00, as we had thought. At 3:00 we met up with the other group, chatted and exchanged stories, and then at 4:00 we hit the road for the ride home.
by Nicholas Slater          

Discovery's Introduction to Winter Camping

The boys started off their trip at 8:30 in the manner in which most begin; a quick packing session at the Field House fo...