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Thread: Advice for Outing Club before winter hike...

  1. #1
    Senior Member w7xman's Avatar
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    Advice for Outing Club before winter hike...

    The outing club at the school I teach at is going to take a handfull of students on an overnight to a AMC hut this winter. Most of these kids have done some hiking, and all of them survived a drenching October weekend on South Baldface. However, winter is another animal.

    I have the opportunity to speak to the club Tuesday, before presents season, to talk about special considerations, equiptment and advice for winter hiking in the whites.

    I have taken a WFA course, aided in rescues, and lived in and dressed for the Whites for some time, and to me, what I do has become instinct; I therefore fear I might forget something.

    Besides (and including) group dynamics of pace, layers, and hydration...my big question...

    What would you tell rookie high school students taking to the Whites for the first time in winter???
    "I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but that all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it."
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  2. #2
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    Tell them to communicate. Speak up; listen to each other; tell someone if they have a problem; pay attention to their friends, and notice if their friends are having a problem. I was just reading "Accidents in North American Mountaineering," a grim but instructive read. There were two frostbite cases in Alaska that were analyzed in the dry style typical of the American Alpine Club. The analysis stated "...something as simlpe as saying "My hands and feet are cold" would have prevented or lessened their injuries." Lots of hypothermia is lessened or caught early by alert partners noticing behavior.

  3. #3
    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
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    I'd recommend that you check the footwear for each individual student. Other parts of their winter clothing needs can be assembled from layers that are relatively easy to obtain. But in my experience with school groups in winter, it's footwear that often determines which students have a good time and which become a "situation" that needs attending. Personally, I'd want to look at the actual boots myself for a group like this, well before the trip.
    sardog1

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    I would read the thread on the online group trip that went bad.

    I would also do a pre-trip gear check so you can check out what people plan to bring and give them time to buy or rent whatever they need. Also, how about a suggested clothing and gear list? There are a number of lists on various webites. For example, on that trip that went bad in WA, no one brought showshoes for a weekend during a winter storm and they all had to be rescued.

    Since you will be giving a talk, perhaps some mention of why being prepared for the worst is important. While you may not want to scare anyone away, letting them know how serious winter can be seems prudent.
    Last edited by TomD; 12-14-2007 at 10:00 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member cushetunk's Avatar
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    Are you actually leading the trip or just giving a talk?

  6. #6
    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    One sentence - Stay together and look out for each other.

  7. #7
    Senior Member DrewKnight's Avatar
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    Two Words...

    NO COTTON

    Seems simple, but I am astounded at the number of kids I see every weekend up the mountain in sopping cotton tees, soaked cotton hoodies, blue-butt-trail-depositing jeans, etc. My guess is Mom and Dad don't know any better, and kids (...these... days... good God, I think I said that out loud...) seem to think cold is cool.

    We have a great local kid, eighth grader, a junior rocket scientist quite literally (he went to Space Camp last summer), who was recently hired as a entry level instructor. He showed up for his first day of on-snow training in a tee-shirt and a shell, pretty much what every 8th grader would wear to the bus stop on any given morning. It didn't cut it on the mountain, needless to say, but he made it through the day. Because he's a smart kid, it was one-trial-learning, and I don't think he'll make the same mistake again.

    A fairly simple packing list of inexpensive items, sent home a week ahead of time, might thwart a lot of frustration for you and a lot of discomfort for them... and if you take the extra time and get into the why of why it matters, a good percentage of them will internalize the lesson, too.

  8. #8
    Senior Member bcskier's Avatar
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    From one o.c. advisor to another

    I've been the o.c. advisor at our school for over 20 years. I've been through the AMC/ADK winter mtn. leaders school, am an EMT-I and a few other things and have been doing winter summits in the northeast for almost 40 years.

    I've never had the confidence to take high schoolers on a winter summit trip even though I've been asked by different groups more than once.

    For me, the big obstacle is the equipment. The average high school kid doesn't have the proper kind of boots, shell and inner layers not to mention crampons, etc. to make a safe winter ascent.

    I have invited and taken the occasional kid on trips with friends and since I had spares of many items of equipment was able to outfit them safely. I just don't have enough spares to outfit more than one kid at a time.

    If you stay below treeline it's probably not as risky, but be warned, unless the conditions are ideal the kids probably have no clue what they're letting themselves in for in terms of the physical demands and self-deprivation that winter trips require.

    Be on top of them all the time to hydrate and monitor their fingers and toes. Be attentive to the weather forecasts and take more equipment than you think you'll need. And be prepared for complaining, especially if you try to be redundant in the safety department and the packs are heavy because of that. Be especially prepared to get told they didn't need half the stuff you told them to carry.

    After saying all this expect headaches and nausea from some of them because they won't follow your advice to stay hydrated. Don't give them asprin when they complain, make them drink. And don't let them tell you they're not thirsty.

    The last group that wanted a winter summit got my standard lecture which for them happened to be online. If you want to see it go to this link:
    http://www.mohawkschools.org/mohawk/...cuss.php?d=492

    As it turned out that was too much of a commitment for them and the trip didn't happen. This year's group is asking for less. A trip to one of the AMC huts is also a possibility for us. We're set to discuss it next week. If you want to carry on a private discussion about all of this p.m. me.

    Phil L.

  9. #9
    Senior Member w7xman's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses so far...I'll add a few points as they have arisen.

    I will not technically be a leader on this trip, but will be a chapperone. I assisted on the last trip to Baldface in the rain, and was quite impressed with how the leaders ran it. They are both very experienced in the backcountry, and with kids in backcountry situations.

    There is a required gear list, and if the kids show up not prepared, they don't go. We check bags twice, and have them leave them in school the night before so nothing can change or be forgotten. (What we didn't check last time was the quantity of food, just that they had some, and boy were we overwhelmed when it was time to hang the bear bag as the rations from 10 worried mothers came out!!!)

    So far what I've seen is that the kids know that this is a big undertaking, and are taking it seriously. Most are asking for gear for Christmas/Hanukkah. The 4 teachers going are all as big a gear head as I, and we have been able to fill the gaps in a few points. The physed. Department is giving us snowshoes for the weekend. I still worry about feet. We will not be going above treeline, or anywhere near it!

    The idea to listen to each other is great advise, and I've seen it work in action before, and have been on rescues where it didn't. I will certainly highlight that among the other points this week. My goal is to just about scare the kids, but make them realize that with the right gear, and the right physical and mental preparation things can go smoothly in the winter.

    Thanks all for your thoughts, and keep the advise coming. I hope not to have a similar story to share as the PNW thread!
    Last edited by w7xman; 12-15-2007 at 05:19 AM.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member cushetunk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by w7xman
    I will not technically be a leader on this trip, but will be a chapperone. I assisted on the last trip to Baldface in the rain, and was quite impressed with how the leaders ran it. They are both very experienced in the backcountry, and with kids in backcountry situations.
    That's great to hear about the leaders! Leading a student trip is just not the same as leading a bunch of adults. (Actually, it is the same, and most adult trip leaders could probably improve a lot by learning the techniques for leading students.)

    I think you should be asking the trip leaders what type of presentation they want. If you're not in charge, I would suggest you give a far more interesting presentation than "Doom and Gloom if you Don't Have Double Boots."

    What about challenges and rewards of winter hiking, with lots of pictures, that are honest representations of what hikes are like? Not overly dramatic, and not overly doom and gloom.

    High school students are real aware and will pick up BS or a "don't go on the railroad tracks" lecture pretty quick. Then they'll tune out. Assuming you don't want them to tune out, I would say, be honest, be interesting, and present something that will get them psyched about being in the winter mountains and doing it right.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    I'd be reluctant to take newbies on an overnight without some winter hiking experience together and a thorough discussion of expectations, conditions, hazards etc.

    Frequent check on the condition of the hikers is important as some will not complain, at that age, for fear of being labeled a whiner. On the other hand, some brats will complain about everything ...

    The importance of staying together taking the adventure as a team should be emphasized.

    Thank God for people like w7xman who lead young people to the outdoors.

  12. #12
    Senior Member mtnpa's Avatar
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    Stan makes a good point about the team aspect. Encourage them to work together and rely on each other. Assign tasks to individuals and small groups. There's likely to be a range of experience as some will have none while others may have a fair amount. Find those who are comfortable and confident in the wilderness and try to group them with others who are less so. This is a good way to get the kids to watch out for each other. Also can help break up "cliques".

    Some kids will not drink enough!

    Few things in life are as rewarding as watching kids having the time of their life while their confidence and self-esteem grow. If you have half as much fun as the kids, you're in for a treat.

  13. #13
    Senior Member roadtripper's Avatar
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    this may be overkill depending on where you go or stay, but I'd suggest a whistle for each student.....

  14. #14
    Senior Member Mad Townie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadtripper
    this may be overkill depending on where you go or stay, but I'd suggest a whistle for each student.....
    Might be a good idea to make it a plastic one, too.

    (Experience is such a good teacher!)

    The advice about sticking together is good, too. Subgroups can work if you have a large number of participants, but it's important for them to understand that the exuberant should hold back a little, and the group's pace in this kind of situation should be determined by that of the slowest members.

    Why do I get the strong impression that you knew all this already?
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    Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary. - H. D. Thoreau

    Easy trails, nice days and comfort are good, too. - M. Townie

  15. #15
    Senior Member weatherman's Avatar
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    Just a couple more ideas beyond the great stuff said already. 1. If it's later in winter, I would make a previous winter day trip mandatory for all that want to go on the overnight, if possible. Experience in small bites is good. 2. Notwithstanding the strange fad mentioned earlier that "cold is now "cool", make sure they take off layers before starting, and put two layers more on as soon as they stop, no matter what they think they need.

    Great work.
    Weatherman
    --would rather be hiking than typing.

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