Wednesday, December 15, 2010


No, I didn't see a big avalanche, fortunately (or even a small one, unfortunately).  I did however spend all weekend on an Avalanche Skills Training Level One course.  Saturday was a classroom day (nicely a short walk from home) where Felix, our guide/teacher, took us through all the theory.  Not really being at all familiar with avalanche country there was an awful lot to take in.  We had a good class of eight & there was enough discussion & questions to keep things interesting.  I'm sure I soaked in quite a bit of the theory; even so, I'm still confident that I know enough now to know that I really don't know much & picking slopes is going to be tricky.  Still, that's why one goes back-country with more experienced companions.

Felix also had a lot of great avalanche stories & videos to show us why it's not really a good idea to trigger one.  This one from back home has been floating around the interwebs for a while, but it was definitely the most impressive (despite the music).

There were also plenty of human (skier or sled/snowmobile) triggered slides, rescue & failed-rescue stories to sober us up.  Felix was a great tutor & I particularly enjoyed swapping (off-topic) mountain-biking & trekking stories of Nepal - of course, mine weren't nearly as impressive.

The practical day was up at Bow Summit (a little way up the Icefield Parkway towards Jasper); leaving town at about seven o'clock the snow started (finally) just before Lake Louise.  The Parkway is not all that high on the roads-that-must-be-plowed-immediately list, so in a car that doesn't have suspension on steroids it was a little interesting hitting various drifts.  Definitely a little different to driving in NZ.

The day was pretty warm (-5ºC) & it snowed on us all day as we traipsed around locating hidden beacons, learning how to use our probes & shovels the most effective way & listened to as many tips as possible.  Eventually we skinned a bit further up the hill out of the trees to take a look at a few slopes & try to tie in what we had learnt the previous day with real life.  Of course, the wind was blowing in an unusual direction to confuse us a bit - but we were able to make some sense of it all.  Taking our skins off, the descent wasn't much fun as there wasn't really all that much snow & all the little Christmas trees-tops were a little hard for me to avoid.  We finished the day by simulating a couple of rescue scenarios - pretty simple, but a good way to learn a few extra things.

The weekend didn't end all that well as I was often topping the car with oil - & the drive back to Lake Louise wasn't a cakewalk either.  By Monday afternoon I'd put over eight litres of oil in over a few days & most of that didn't last all that long.  Sunday night was relatively sleepless as I thought of all the damage that had probably been done (I'm just glad I had oil in the trunk when I was up the Parkway, which is slightly remote)) & recoiled at the cost of the repairs or replacing the engine or car & the subsequent obliteration of my roadtrip savings.  I got it in the garage after work on Monday & as I was making the forty-five minute walk home, I was pleased to get the call that the leak was from the oil sensor (& not my last oil & filter change).  So that repair turned out a lot cheaper than I expected & now I just have to hope that my topping up on that trip back from Bow Summit was enough to get the  (what is supposed to be a durable & hardy) engine through.

On another note, I'm in from the yard this week at work & working at a desk.  I never expected to be spending part of my working-holiday working on PMs (Preventative Maintenance) plans - but here I am with another chance to impress people with my Excel & Pivot Table (those ones are thanks to you, Neil) proficiency.

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