Becoming a Better Guide - Part 1

As I mentioned in my last post about the AMGA Ski Mountain Guide Course and Aspirant Exam (Day Four), plans A and B had to be tossed out of the window by constant snowfall.  First on the list of casualties were my plans to write on the blog every night I was at the rental house in Squamish.  The first three days - covered in this report - were a combination of objective skills, technical uphill, and group management skills for the downhill.

Day One:  Rescue sled lowers and Avalanche transceiver searches.  The weather as stormy as we found an unplowed cutbank on the Callaghan Road to perform two "objective skill" tests.  For one, we had 70 minutes to:
  1. manufacture a rescue sled using a gear list that represents what's available on a typical ski tour);
  2. build a solid snow anchor;
  3. package a live person into this sled and lower them from the anchor (with the aid of an assistant);
  4. build a lower anchor and transfer the victim onto the second anchor
  5. continue to lower the victim on the new anchor
  6. pass a knot through the lower system
For the second, we had 7 minutes to find three beacons buried in a field aproximately 50m x 70m, on a cut bank with different angles, buried tree stumps, and hummocks.  This was markedly different from the 40m x 40m flat field we had practiced in earlier in the week.  Our fastest times were 5:30 minutes on this field.  The examiners had us start from below.  Since the weather improved by the late afternoon, I have this one photo, courtesy of Evan. See the snowflakes in the photo?

Johnny and Drew joined me "in the hole."
Day Two:   Crevasse Rescue.  Stormy weather kept us from really going anywhere, so we purchase one-trip lift tickets, spoke with Ski Patrol, and found a nice 10 meter tall cornice to practice crevasse rescue.  Since everyone had experience in glacier travel, after a quick review and some special considerations for skiing we broke up into three teams that took turns being the victim and being the rescuer.  I won the award for the biggest cowardly lion - I freakin' hate to fall!!  But my partner, John, won the award for the biggest hero - he literally walked up to the lip and stepped off without hesitating (as opposed to my beached whale slither).

Things I learned in this:
  • My ultra-light harness sucked.  I already suspected this, but no one wants to hang in one of these.  I finally realized that a simple foot stirrup off my belay loop and a chest harness relieved a lot of the pressure on my hips.
  • After catching John's fall, I had to build an anchor and remove my skis to be the anchor.  In the process of removing my downhill ski, I was almost pulled out of reach of the t-slot I had laborously dug out.  Lesson - its not worth it to take off both skis.  One ski wrapped with a skin to anchor in the t-slot is enough.
  • Creating a grab loop at the lip of the crevasse is a huge help if you have to rappel to the victim and climb back out.  This is actually a lesson from my Alpine Exam, but would have been applicable here too if we had been required to.
"Did I mention that I'm killing this?"
Day Three:  Short Roping and Track Setting, Blackcomb and Decker.  Finally we got out on a tour - past the Blackcomb Glacier, then up Blackcomb's north slopes, where we intentionally climbed the more difficult 3rd class rocks to practice short roping before toping out.  Then it was time to ski down to the Decker Glacier and skin up Decker, where I learned that 1) heal lifters are OK, and 2) my skin track should be steeper.  Then we skied the challenging 9th Hole - before heading back down and around Disease Ridge to the ski area.

Climbing up the Decker Glacier.

By now we had also discovered what the daily routine was going to be for most days, though I hadn't realized it yet.
5am - wake up and pack for the day
6am - breakfast and review the avie and weather reports
7am - meet at Evan's to have our morning ops meeting
6pm - meet at Evan's to have our evening ops meeting, review the day, and get our assignment for tomorrow
8pm - unpack and put out the wet clothes to dry
9pm - have dinner and write up our tour plans for the next day
10 or 11pm - maybe take a shower before going to bed

More photos from Day Three can be found here.
The 9th Hole on Decker Mountain.
To be continued...