Day 45: Self Arrest
From Chicken Springs Lake mile 750.8 to somewhere off the trail near Rock Creek mile 759.4
Day one of the Mountain Education advanced snow skills class began at 6am with self arrest training. If you find yourself plummeting down a steep snowy slope how do you stop yourself? There are 8 students including myself and two instructors. For two hours we received instruction and then had to fling ourselves down a steep slope in various positions and then use our whippets (pole with an ice axe head) to stop ourselves. We also learned and practiced glissading, which is a controlled slide down a steep slope on your butt.
Next we hiked 8.5 miles. Most of this was off trail since the trail was covered with many feet of snow. It was an exhausting day punctuated with some of the most beautiful wilderness sights I have ever seen.
Towards the end of the day we went down some steep and rugged ground that was scary for me. Some spots required kick stepping, creating each spot to step in, on a very steep slope with boulders at the bottom. Another required a glissade down about 30 feet but we had to be able to stop before slamming into a tree.
A couple of people had minor falls but nothing worse than a few scrapes and cuts. I did not fall but I did sink through up to my knee into a stream that was running under the snow.
Exhausted, we all pitched our tents and then gathered in one spot to cook our dinners and socialize.
Ned Tibbets, the lead instructor, was having back problems in the afternoon and he had us go on without him. We never made it to our destination, camping about 2 miles short of it. Since we have been off trail Ned went on to our original destination and the other instructor (who is his son) went on to that spot to find him. We will meet him there in the morning.